In reporting on conservative activist James O'Keefe's latest absurd adventure, major media coverage acknowledged it was a flop and something of a joke, except for the New York Times.
O'Keefe held a press conference to announce that his group Project Veritas had released an undercover video of the Clinton campaign allowing a Canadian to give a Project Veritas operative money so that she could purchase a Clinton t-shirt, which was a campaign product that could not be legally purchased by a non-American. At his event O'Keefe presented the incident as if it were a major scandal, while most of the press reported that it was at best a trivial infraction of less than $80.
Bloomberg Politics compared the offense to "jaywalking," National Journal described O'Keefe's press conference as a "vortex of political absurdity" and noted that "we had been snookered into another supposedly salacious release from O'Keefe's organization." The Los Angeles Times said the story, "billed as a blockbuster," was "hardly the stuff of a Pulitzer Prize. " The event and revelation were so underwhelming that a reporter from the Daily Beast asked O'Keefe, "Are you sure it's not a joke?"
The New York Times' Alan Rappeport, in an article headlined "James O'Keefe, Political Sleuth," was far more charitable than the rest of the media. Rappeport wrote that O'Keefe "fired an opening salvo" in 2016 coverage and "campaigns were put on notice on Tuesday."
The Times accepted O'Keefe's framing of the exchange between the Canadian woman and the Project Veritas staffer, writing, "Mr. O'Keefe made the case that the video showed a willingness by the campaign to skirt laws that forbid taking donations from foreigners by using a conduit." In fact the video shows a Clinton staffer pointing out that a foreign national is prohibited from buying the t-shirt in question.
Rappeport proceeded to parrot O'Keefe's argument by noting, "Foreign donations are a sensitive subject for the Clintons, as their family foundation has been under scrutiny for accepting money from overseas." The Times has repeatedly misinformed its readers on the nature of donations to the Clinton Foundation. To reiterate, this is in reference to a $75 transaction over a t-shirt.
The paper even sought comment from the Federal Election Commission, reporting that "at least four commissioners would have to agree that there was a violation before any penalties could be imposed."
While the Times noted that reporters attending O'Keefe's presentation snickered at the obvious absurdity of the occasion, the Times report gave O'Keefe's deceptive claims an enormous and largely uncritical platform.
Conservative activist James O'Keefe has once again overpromised and underdelivered. This time, he claims his latest sting operation found Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign breaking the law, when in reality all that happened was the purchase of a t-shirt.
O'Keefe's Project Veritas Action accused the Clinton campaign on September 1 of allowing a Canadian tourist to launder money, in the form of allowing a t-shirt to be purchased.
In the video representatives of the Clinton campaign at a campaign event point out to a woman from Montreal that that the campaign can't take contributions from anyone who isn't American. An undercover activist from Project Veritas then makes the purchase on behalf of the Canadian.
As The Washington Post's Dave Weigel points out: "There are just two catches. One: No one's ever thrown the book at an American for purchasing merchandise from a campaign, then giving it to a foreigner as a gift. Two: The person who takes the Canadian's money and gives it to the Clinton campaign is the Project Veritas Action journalist."
Weigel further notes, "Daniel Pollack, the director of communications at Project Veritas, argued that the on-camera swag exchange was part of a Clinton scandal continuum, comparable to the stories about foreign businessmen donating to Bill Clinton's foundation and expecting something from Hillary Clinton's state department."
O'Keefe held a press conference September 1 to promote the video, where journalists reportedly asked him "Is this a joke?"
O'Keefe's crew has reportedly already made multiple other attempts to sabotage the Clinton campaign.
Project Veritas last month released a video showing their operative undercover with the Clinton campaign, discussing the registration process and whether they can register people who don't support Clinton.
A Clinton campaign staffer is then shown telling the Project Veritas operative that they will register anyone who asks, regardless of their presidential preference. As Time reported, "Nothing in the video shows the Clinton campaign violating the law, or the campaign's own policy. But Veritas claims, nonetheless, that the campaign is 'skirting the law' by first asking whether potential voters are supporters before making the registration offer. This approach to training volunteers is standard operating procedure across field campaigns, according to a Republican field staffer, who requested anonymity."
Time reports that in addition to the t-shirt scheme, Project Veritas operatives approached the campaign and attempted to pass a cash donation to volunteers and interns while another told the campaign they wanted to illegally funnel donations through a third party.
These failure-laden sting attempts continue O'Keefe's pattern of using deceptively-edited videos, childish costumes, and sometimes committing crimes, in a futile campaign to attack the left. Even Fox News hosts have been embarrassed for O'Keefe, telling him to "give it a rest."
Fox News chief Roger Ailes has apparently negotiated another ceasefire in the back and forth between his network and leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Fox figures and Ailes pushed back on Trump early this week after he again asserted that Megyn Kelly was a poor journalist and promoted a tweet calling her a "bimbo."
After Ailes and Trump traded hostile press releases, on Wednesday Trump told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham that he and Ailes spoke and settled the latest dispute: "Roger Ailes is great. He's a special guy and a good friend of mine. We just spoke two minutes ago. I mean, Roger Ailes is a great guy and no, I have no problem."
As the Washington Post's Erik Wemple argues, this is evidence of Ailes working outside of the realm of a news network executive to directly confer with a political candidate: "Yet by participating in these peace-making discussions with Trump, Ailes comes off more as a player in the GOP primary game than as a news executive. His role is to drive news stories on Trump, not to hop on the phone with him to work things out."
Fox News continued to chip away at Donald Trump after he renewed his attacks on host Megyn Kelly. This latest round includes Bill O'Reilly, Fox's highest-rated host, as the network turns on the candidate they built into the current Republican presidential front-runner.
Yesterday, Fox News anchors and hosts joined in a mass attack on Trump after he attacked Kelly as a poor journalist and promoted a tweet calling her a "bimbo."
Fox figures slammed Trump on-air and on social media as network CEO and chairman Roger Ailes issued a press release demanding that Trump apologize to Kelly.
It is the latest round in an on-again, off-again feud between the candidate and the network, prompted by aggressive questioning at the recent Republican presidential debate.
As the back and forth re-ignited, New York's Gabriel Sherman reported that according to a source, Ailes asked a Trump ally "What's wrong with this guy?" and added, "I don't know what to do." A source close to Ailes also told Sherman, "Roger says Trump is unelectable. His goal here is to save the country."
Later in the day at a press conference in Iowa, Trump complained that Fox News "treats me terribly," adding, "I don't think I get good treatment from Fox." He rejected Ailes' request for an apology to Kelly, and argued that Kelly "should be apologizing to me."
On last night's O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly called on Trump to stop attacking Kelly. O'Reilly noted, "The Kelly/Trump story is relevant to me because I'm friends with both of them. They both bring things to America that are worthy and positive. Ms. Megyn has taken the high road by not responding. Donald Trump should cease, and Roger Ailes is a stand-up guy."
Greta Van Susteren read Ailes' statement on the incident in full during On The Record, as had been done on the network earlier in the day.
This morning, Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck said Trump should "stick to the issues" and "stop aiming at Fox News." In an exchange at the end of the show, anchor Gregg Jarrett joked with co-host Brian Kilmeade that he would get angry at him "like Trump."
Fox's aggressive posture towards Trump is a departure from how the first round of attacks were handled by the network.
According to an earlier report from CNN's Brian Stelter, Fox hosts wanted to publicly come to Kelly's defense but "the network wanted silence." Stelter wrote that "Ailes did not want to escalate the feud by appearing to fire back. His camp believed that Trump had to be handled delicately, given how disgruntled and unpredictable the candidate was."
On CNN's New Day, former Fox anchor Alisyn Camerota noted the irony of Fox going after Trump after building him up as a political voice. As Media Matters has documented, Trump is the presidential candidate that has benefitted from the most exposure on Fox.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reignited his on-again, off-again feud with Fox News by posting several attacks against anchor Megyn Kelly to his Twitter account. In response, Fox's anchors, hosts, and its chairman and CEO pushed back, and are now demanding an end to Trump's attacks and an apology in a new press release.
The first round of the Fox-Trump dispute came after the candidate criticized Kelly for what he characterized as hostile questions during the Fox Republican presidential debate, going so far as to accuse her of having "blood coming out of her wherever" during the event.
After that controversy, Fox head Roger Ailes issued a release stating that he and Trump "had a blunt but cordial conversation and the air has been cleared."
Trump continued to make disparaging marks about Kelly, however, claiming that Kelly was off-air during her vacation due to his initial clash with her. Fox denied the charge and called it a conspiracy theory.
On August 24, Trump once again returned to attacking Kelly, writing, "I liked The Kelly File much better without @megynkelly. Perhaps she could take another eleven day unscheduled vacation!" He added that Kelly "must have had a terrible vacation, she is really off her game," noting that she had "no clue on immigration" and criticizing her interview with Dr. Cornel West.
In response, many Fox personalities took Trump to task.
Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade called Trump's attacks "unwarranted-unacceptable;" America's Newsroom host Bill Hemmer tweeted, "Easy, Mr. Trump;" Fox senior meteorologist Janice Dean wrote that it was "unpresidential," and The Five co-host Dana Perino praised "the intelligence, class & grace" of Kelly.
Special Report host Bret Baier told Trump "this needs to stop," while Sean Hannity added, "Focus on Hillary, Putin, border, jobs, Iran China & leave @megynkelly alone." The network's senior political analyst Brit Hume asked if Trump was a "seven-year-old" for the tone of his comments.
These tweets were followed by an August 25 press release from Ailes:
"Donald Trump's surprise and unprovoked attack on Megyn Kelly during her show last night is as unacceptable as it is disturbing. Megyn Kelly represents the very best of American journalism and all of us at Fox News Channel reject the crude and irresponsible attempts to suggest otherwise," Ailes statement reads. "I could not be more proud of Megyn for her professionalism and class in the face of all of Mr. Trump's verbal assaults. Her questioning of Mr. Trump at the debate was tough but fair, and I fully support her as she continues to ask the probing and challenging questions that all presidential candidates may find difficult to answer," Ailes said. "Donald Trump rarely apologizes, although in this case, he should. We have never been deterred by politicians or anyone else attacking us for doing our job, much less allowed ourselves to be bullied by anyone and we're certainly not going to start now. All of our journalists will continue to report in the fair and balanced way that has made FOX News Channel the number one news network in the industry."
On the Fox daytime program Happening Now, anchor Jon Scott read the entire statement on-air.
Trump quickly replied:
"I totally disagree with the FOX statement. I do not think Megyn Kelly is a quality journalist. I think her questioning of me, despite all of the polls saying I won the debate, was very unfair. Hopefully in the future I will be proven wrong and she will be able to elevate her standards to a level of professionalism that a network such as FOX deserves. "
Former Fox contributor and editor of the Weekly Standard Bill Kristol had a different point of view. Appearing on Newsmax TV, Kristol said Trump's comments were "excessive" but Fox shouldn't be too "thin-skinned." He noted Trump was likely to "antagonize" Megyn Kelly fans who he would probably prefer to have on his side.
Despite the flare-ups, Fox and Trump have had a symbiotic relationship. His frequent appearances on the network, particularly on Fox & Friends, made the former reality TV star into a political figure, and since he decided to run for the presidency, Fox has featured him far more often than any other candidate.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd did him "a big favor" by featuring him in a recent column.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Trump described Dowd as a "great person" who has "written a lot about me over the years." He added that Dowd "understands that I adore women."
Dowd featured Trump in her August 8 and August 15 columns, as well as an online article detailing the candidate's thoughts on a variety of topics, from Iraq to Bill Clinton.
On August 8, Dowd described Trump as "the gleefully offensive and immensely entertaining high-chair king in the Great American Food Fight." She also wrote, "I enjoy Trump's hyperbolic, un-P.C. flights because there are too few operatic characters in the world."
In her August 15 column, an interview with Trump, she wrote, "The billionaire braggart known for saying unfiltered things is trying to be diplomatic. Sort of."
Trump also gave The Hollywood Reporter his thoughts on other media figures.
Trump said he and Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch "have been friendly," noting that "he had some very evil tweets, and now they've been nice lately."
Trump still apparently has issues with Megyn Kelly's debate question about his past sexist comments, noting, "I don't understand how [Fox News chairman and CEO] Roger [Ailes] could have allowed that first question to be asked."
He said Ailes "is certainly very impressed with my poll numbers" and that "when he looked at the ratings, what happened to the ratings at Fox, I think that makes him think about it even from a financial standpoint." Trump described his relationship with Ailes as "great," claiming he had lunch with him "three weeks ago."
Trump called Internet gossipmonger Matt Drudge a "legend" and "an amazing guy" who has "been so fair to me."
Conservatives are using the ongoing examination of Hillary Clinton's State Department emails to once again make a series of over-the-top accusations that compare her behavior to former President Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal. This is the latest in a pattern of distortions which aim to elevate the email story to the same level as the worst political scandal in American history.
The latest round of faulty Watergate comparisons appears to have been sparked by Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward, who, along with fellow Washington Post journalist Carl Bernstein, famously broke the story of the 1972 Nixon-sanctioned break-in at the Watergate hotel.
Appearing on MSNBC's Morning Joe on August 18, Woodward said the controversy over Clinton's emails, and the latest development involving Clinton handing over her private server to investigators, "reminds me of the Nixon tapes" which "Nixon thought were exclusively his." He went on to claim: "Hillary Clinton initially took that position: 'I'm not turning this over, there's gonna be no cooperation.' Now they're cooperating."
Woodward is perpetuating a falsehood here. As Clinton said in a March 10 press conference: "After I left office, the State Department asked former secretaries of state for our assistance in providing copies of work-related emails from our personal accounts. I responded right away and provided all my emails that could possibly be work-related, which totaled roughly 55,000 printed pages, even though I knew that the State Department already had the vast majority of them." This month, Clinton also gave her private server to the Justice Department, in response to concerns that it might contain information now deemed classified.
In the last few years, Woodward has developed a habit of drawing parallels between modern events and Watergate, even if the facts don't always fit. He has compared the Watergate scandal to the Internal Revenue Service after its questionable scrutiny of non-profits first came to light, and to the Obama administration's response to the terrorist attacks in Benghazi.
In fact, while discussing the bizarrely-scandalized "talking points" the administration used to discuss Benghazi in the press, Woodward launched a nearly identical line of attack to his current argument; he said that editing the Benghazi talking points could be compared to Watergate "when Nixon put out his edited transcripts to the conversations, and he personally went through them and said, 'Oh, let's not tell this, let's not show this.'" In both instances, it is not clear that Woodward was aware of the facts before using his Watergate legacy to draw inappropriate parallels.
In a segment on the August 18 Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and Fox senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano used Woodward's comments as a springboard into a baseless and factually inaccurate discussion about the emails Clinton has released to the State Department.
Napolitano compared Clinton's personal emails to Nixon's secret recording system that he set up in the White House, with Doocy noting that "with Nixon, they had the 18-minute gap" and "with Hillary Rodham Clinton, you've got what, 30,000 missing emails?"
Neither man told viewers that the supposedly "missing" emails have been described as containing "personal and private" information.
Napolitano also asserted that Clinton's emails contained "satellite photographs of a Middle Eastern country and intercepts of foreign agents," but an Associated Press report already debunked this claim, with sources close to the investigation noting that "nothing in the emails she received makes clear reference to communications intercepts, confidential intelligence methods or any other form of sensitive sourcing."
Doocy also repeated the claim that "perhaps one of her underlings stripped" classified markings from emails Clinton received, but the State Department has already said there was "no indications" of any such behavior.
Finally, Napolitano promoted a fantasy scenario about criminal charges against Clinton, speculating that she could be "indicted for conspiracy to violate the espionage laws of the United States."
He concluded that whether or not "there is enough evidence to bring criminal charges against her," the FBI would "reveal it right around the time of the New Hampshire primary about five or six months from now." He added, "You can't make this stuff up."
But clearly you can.
Later in the day, Fox contributor and former UN Ambassador John Bolton appeared on America's Newsroom and called Woodward's comparison "a very apt analogy." He added that "it may be significant" that when Clinton graduated from Yale Law School, "her first job was on the Democratic staff" investigating Nixon, where the speculation that he should have burned his tapes "may be a lesson she learned back then."
These specious Watergate parallels are part of a pattern of behavior by the conservative media.
Over the years, Media Matters has cataloged at least 16 separate "Watergates" the right has accused the Obama administration of. They include Benghazi, the IRS, Obamacare, the BP oil spill, immigration policy, and Obama's birth certificate, among others.
Watergate involved the president of the United States soliciting a break-in of a political party's headquarters, suggesting payment of up to $1 million in hush money to bribe the burglars, being ordered by the Supreme Court to produce secret recordings of the planning for the cover-up of the burglary, and the resignation of a president for the first time in U.S. history.
Unless the discussion is about events of that magnitude, it isn't Watergate.
A RedState post claimed that Hillary Clinton proves "even a homely woman can sleep her way into power." RedState's editor-in-chief Erick Erickson recently disinvited Donald Trump from the RedState Gathering event for Trump's sexist attacks on Fox's Megyn Kelly.
The attack on Clinton comes in a RedState post from one of its front page contributors, who goes by "streiff," who wrote:
If Hillary Clinton possesses any unique selling propostion beyond proving even a homely woman can sleep her way into power, it is her tenure as Barack Obama's secretary of state. That seems to be a slender enough reed when polls show the electorate could give a flying rat's patootie about experience and favor a change agent above all.
The post is featured at the top of the RedState home page:
Erickson is currently both editor-in-chief of the site and a Fox News contributor.
Trump was disinvited from the RedState Gathering after he complained about Kelly's questions to him during the Fox News Republican presidential debate, telling CNN that "You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her -- wherever."
Erickson told reporters that he had disinvited Trump because, "No legitimate candidate suggests somehow a female asking questions is doing it because she's hormonal," adding, "When you make comments about a reporter like that -- look, I've made plenty of comments about reporters in the past, male and female, but I've never once suggested one of them was angry because it was her time of the month. That's just a party foul. No candidate should do something like that, I'm embarrassed to even talk about what he's implying."
Despite Erickson's own long history of sexist attacks -- he's said that males should be "dominant" over females, claimed women should be "at home" while men bring "home the bacon," and labeled Michelle Obama a "Marxist harpy wife" -- much of the rest of the Republican presidential field was in attendance at the RedState Gathering this past weekend.
This drew the condemnation of groups like EMILY's List, which said the candidates were siding "with a man who believes women should not be in the workplace and calls women lawmakers names like 'Abortion Barbie," adding, "Donald Trump and Erick Erickson are just symptoms of a larger problem. At its core, the ideology that Republican Party policies are grounded in is a fundamental distrust of women."
Fox News voices have also taken note of Erickson's hypocrisy for feuding with Trump. Host Greta Van Susteren wrote, "You have to love the irony of Erick Erickson disinviting Trump when Erickson has said the worst things about women," while Neil Cavuto referenced Erickson's past statements during an on-air interview.
Fox News has reportedly been making moves to get back in the good graces of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump after he attacked anchor Megyn Kelly.
According to two sources who spoke to New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman, network chairman and CEO Roger Ailes reached out to Trump due to "increasing concern inside Fox News that Trump could damage the network."
He reports that after last week's Republican presidential debate, Fox was "deluged" with emails that a source says were "virtually 100-percent" against Megyn Kelly, in light of her questions to Trump during the event.
The source added, "Roger was not happy. Most of the Fox viewers were taking Trump's side."
Another source told Sherman that Trump told Fox host Sean Hannity that "he was never doing Fox again," while a Fox personality told the reporter that the networks producers have given orders to on-air talent not to bring up Trump's post-debate remark that Kelly had "blood coming out of her wherever."
Ailes apparently felt he needed to address the push back from Trump fans.
Sherman's report is just the latest in what seems to be a series of strategic back and forth exchanges between the candidate and Fox News, which has been tirelessly promoting him.
UPDATE: Roger Ailes released a statement about his call with Donald Trump. From CNNMoney:
"Donald Trump and I spoke today," Ailes said in a statement obtained by CNNMoney. "We discussed our concerns, and I again expressed my confidence in Megyn Kelly. She is a brilliant journalist and I support her 100 percent."
Ailes continued: "I assured him that we will continue to cover this campaign with fairness & balance. We had a blunt but cordial conversation and the air has been cleared."
A Fox News spokeswoman said Kelly will "acknowledge" the controversy on her 9 p.m. program.
Numerous organizations are criticizing Republican presidential candidates who attended Fox News contributor Erick Erickson's RedState Gathering this weekend, after he disinvited Donald Trump over sexist remarks despite his history of sexist and bigoted comments.
Erickson hosted his annual RedState Gathering August 6-9, billing it as "a very grassroots event." In attendance was most of the Republican presidential field, including Gov. Chris Christie, Gov. Rick Perry, Gov. Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Ted Cruz, Gov. Jeb Bush, and Gov. Scott Walker. Several current Republican members of Congress were also in attendance.
Erickson barred Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump from the event for his sexist attack on Fox host Megyn Kelly, asserting "his comment about Megyn Kelly on CNN is a bridge too far for me."
But Kelly's fellow Fox host Greta Van Susteren took note of Erickson's hypocrisy, writing, "You have to love the irony of Erick Erickson disinviting Trump when Erickson has said the worst things about women."
Erickson has said that males should be "dominant" over females, claimed women should be "at home" while men bring "home the bacon," and labeled Michelle Obama a "Marxist harpy wife."
And several organizations are now calling out the Republican presidential candidates that are continuing to court Erickson despite his long history of bigoted, sexist comments.
In a statement to Media Matters, MoveOn.org said, "Erick Erickson is an extremist, plain and simple. He's attacked working moms, the LGBTQ community, and others. His record of out-of-bounds remarks is a long one, and GOP presidential candidates' pandering to Erickson and his ilk show that they are out of touch with American voters and out of line with mainstream American values."
Planned Parenthood Action Fund noted, "GOP presidential hopefuls are currently gathering in Atlanta to stand side by side with extreme right-wing pundit Erick Erickson -- infamous for his hostility to women and incendiary remarks that include comparing pregnant women to 'female animals' and referring to a female Democratic candidate as 'Abortion Barbie'."
EMILY's List criticized the 2016 presidential field for siding "with a man who believes women should not be in the workplace and calls women lawmakers names like 'Abortion Barbie,'" adding, "Donald Trump and Erick Erickson are just symptoms of a larger problem. At its core, the ideology that Republican Party policies are grounded in is a fundamental distrust of women."