Zachary Pleat

Author ››› Zachary Pleat
  • Newspaper Editorials Slam McCain For Unprecedented Pledge To Block Any Clinton Nominee For Supreme Court

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Newspaper editorial boards are sharply criticizing Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for promising that he and his fellow Republican senators would block any and all nominees for the Supreme Court put forth by a President Hillary Clinton, noting that McCain’s promise upends the GOP’s stated reasons for refusing to even hold a vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.

  • CNN’s Corey Lewandowski Joined Trump For Campaign Events This Weekend

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Campaign reporters spotted CNN contributor and former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski joining the campaign’s motorcade and stepping off Trump’s plane as the Republican presidential nominee traveled to campaign events on Saturday, raising more questions for CNN about its decision to continue employing Lewandowski despite the obvious ethical problems in doing so.

    CNN’s decision to hire Lewandowski has been widely criticized as an ethical morass by media ethicists and journalists who have condemned the network for months. Lewandowski’s continued involvement with the Trump campaign, his likely non-disparagement agreement with Trump, and his penchant for pushing Trump talking points on air all raise serious questions about his continued employment at CNN. CNN’s employment of Lewandowski contradicts the network’s previous stance that contributors paid by a campaign “would not be permitted.”

    According to CNN, Lewandowski’s supposed severance pay ended in late September, as he was paid off “in one lump sum”; he had previously received monthly payments from the Trump campaign following his termination even while drawing a paycheck as a CNN contributor, a practice which was to continue for the rest of the year.

    In recent days, Lewandowski has been on CNN defending Trump’s bragging about committing sexual assault and attempting to discredit some of the women who have accused Trump of assaulting them. But after Trump’s arguably worst week of the campaign so far, several reporters covering the Trump campaign spotted Lewandowski traveling with Trump to campaign events in Maine and New Jersey on October 15:

    Sign Media Matterspetition and tell CNN to cut ties with Corey Lewandowski immediately.

  • Fox News Debunks Its Own Attempt To Prop Up False Trump Claim Of New Clinton Email Scandal

    Minutes After Catherine Herridge Supports Trump’s Claim Of “Collusion” In DOJ Investigation, Andrew Napolitano Explains That She And Trump Are Wrong

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano debunked Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s claim that a stolen email from a Clinton campaign staffer showed “collusion” in the Justice Department’s investigation into Clinton’s use of private email during her time as secretary of state, just minutes after Fox’s chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge supported Trump’s claim.

    After an NBC News reporter drew attention to stolen emails belonging to Clinton campaign press secretary Brian Fallon, which were released by WikiLeaks, Trump’s campaign charged that one of the emails “reveals ‘collusion’ between Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Justice Department that tainted the criminal investigation into Clinton’s private email set-up.” The email in question, dated May 19, 2015, states: "DOJ folks inform me there is a status hearing in this case this morning, so we could have a window into the judge's thinking about this proposed production schedule as quickly as today." As Politico explained about an hour before the Fox segments, Fallon’s message “predates that probe.”

    Despite the impossibility of the Trump campaign’s claim, Fox’s Herridge repeated the claim. Appearing on Your World, Herridge said, “[T]here's another hacked email that shows former Justice Department staffer Brian Fallon, who is now a senior member of the Clinton campaign team, was working with his former Justice Department colleagues about an upcoming hearing in the email investigation.” She continued, “Trump's campaign called it collusion and wants all the communications to be released from the Clinton campaign. That's obviously not realistic, but for a point of context, at the height of the email investigation, any kind of communication between the Clinton campaign operatives and the Justice Department was clearly inappropriate by either side.”

    But just six minutes after Herridge’s irresponsible and erroneous assertions about that email, Fox’s Napolitano explained that both she and Trump were wrong:

    ANDREW NAPOLITANO: You know, the email that we're talking about has to do with the Freedom of Information Act cases, and not with the criminal investigation. If Donald Trump's allegation were true, and the Justice Department had been tipping off the Clinton campaign about the criminal investigation of Mrs. Clinton, that tip itself would be a crime, but that's not what the emails that Catherine Herridge was referencing reveal. In fact, those emails were about the Freedom of Information Act cases, which are civil cases, which anyone can get access to. So I don't see the impropriety here that Trump is concerned about.

    Herridge made sure to note the date of Fallon’s email, but she neglected to inform Fox’s audience that the email was sent two months before the FBI’s investigation began -- making her concern about improper communications in support of the Trump campaign’s claim completely baseless. Herridge has a long history of getting details of the investigation into Clinton’s use of email wrong, thanks to her tendency to rely on anonymous sources that end up burning her.

  • Fox’s Kurtz Pushes Fake Clinton Quote That A Different Fox Host Already Apologized For Airing

    Multiple Outlets Already Reported Leaked “Bucket Of Losers” Quote Is Fake

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox News’ media critic Howard Kurtz attributed a fake quote to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, predicting that she would have to answer in tonight’s presidential debate for calling primary opponent Bernie Sanders’ supporters a “bucket of losers.” But and BuzzFeed have already reported that this quote -- originally posted at a fake news site -- is fabricated, and Fox host Megyn Kelly apologized on Friday for pushing the quote on her own show.

    On the October 9 edition of MediaBuzz, Kurtz said Clinton is certain to face debate questions about quotes taken from stolen emails that were recently released by WikiLeaks:

    HOWARD KURTZ (HOST): Hillary Clinton will undoubtedly face a new line of questioning at tonight's debate here in St. Louis about her highly lucrative Wall Street speeches, parts of which were made public in hacked emails obtained by WikiLeaks. While running to the left against Bernie Sanders, she had said in these speeches that she favored, quote, “open trade and open borders,” a stunning contradiction with her public position. She also called Sanders' supporters a “bucket of losers.” And despite her tough on big banks rhetoric, Clinton said this in one speech: “Wall Street insiders are what is needed to fix Wall Street.” Clinton's spokesman said the, quote, “stolen documents” could have been orchestrated by Russian officials trying to help Donald Trump, but would not say they were fake.

    But at least one of those quotes was fake. On October 7, BuzzFeed reported that the “bucket of losers” quote is from a fake transcript “published by the totally dubious site,” and that “the transcript is clearly a hoax.” BuzzFeed also showed that the fake quote was published before WikiLeaks released the stolen emails containing speech excerpts. On October 8, internet rumor debunking website called this claim that Clinton demeaned progressive voters as a “bucket of losers” false, adding that right-wing media outlets including InfoWars, Gateway Pundit, and Fox News were duped into reporting the fake quote as true. Both websites credited the progressive website Crooks and Liars for publishing video of Fox host Megyn Kelly apologizing for airing the quote. Kelly admitted at the end of her show, “That was apparently a doctored quote and not real. And we apologize for that error.”

    Kurtz should immediately do the same for airing a fake quote that his network already admitted was not real. And maybe he should read executive vice president John Moody’s January 2007 memo in response to a false Fox & Friends story about President Obama, which states in part: “For the record: seeing an item on a website does not mean it is right. Nor does it mean it is ready for air on FNC.”

  • Glenn Beck Uses Meet The Press To Rewrite His History Of Smearing Progressives As Nazis

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Glenn Beck falsely rewrote his frequent references to the Nazis as a prescient warning about the rise of the white nationalist “alt right” activists that support Donald Trump’s campaign. In fact, the former Fox News host used his media platform for years to smear progressives as Nazis and Democratic policies as fascism.

    Beck appeared on the October 2 edition of NBC’s Meet the Press to talk about feeling disenfranchised by the current election season. But early in the segment, Beck complained he had been mocked for “bringing up Nazis,” which he claimed to have done to “warn about the rise of the uber right in Europe that would bleed into America, and it’s happening.” 

    This is an easily disprovable lie. Between 2009 and 2011, Beck regularly compared progressivism to Nazism on his Fox and radio shows. He likened former Vice President Al Gore and former Obama administration official Cass Sunstein to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. He compared the auto bailouts in 2009 to “the early days of Adolf Hitler,” warned that the Troubled Asset Relef Program was “exactly what happened to the lead-up with Hitler,” and claimed the Democrats’ health care reform could lead to a Nazi-like eugenics program. He compared a Democratic proposal to expanded service programs like AmeriCorps to the SS. He suggested that Fox News and Tea Party activists were similar to Nazi Germany’s victims. And while criticizing comments President Obama made about health care reform, Beck begged his audience to “read Mein Kampf” and to “take this man for what he says,” unlike the German reaction to Hitler.

    The mockery Beck complained about was richly deserved because he was citing Hitler and Nazi Germany to attack progressives so much that, as comedian Lewis Black highlighted on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, Beck had “Nazi tourette’s.” Here is the video of Black detailing Beck's Nazi analogies:

    Beck also routinely used anti-Semitic stereotypes to attack progressives, especially George Soros -- who is Jewish. He lashed out against Jewish organizations that criticized him for his rhetoric and smears; he said the Anti-Defamation League would “destroy themselves,” and suggested the views of Jewish Funds for Justice would “lead to death camps.”

    Any interviewer remotely familiar with Beck’s past rhetoric would have recognized his lie. But this is not the first time Chuck Todd has allowed Beck to reinvent himself on Meet the Press. On July 17, Todd gave Beck a platform to present himself as an opponent to Trump, but failed to disclose Beck’s history of being a racist, reckless conspiracy theorist.

  • Near Absence Of Trump Campaign’s Latest Russia Problem From Sunday Shows Follows A Familiar Pattern

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    CNN’s Jake Tapper was the only Sunday show host on September 25 to discuss a report that American intelligence officials are probing Russian government ties to a man Trump has identified as a foreign policy adviser, Carter Page. This latest revelation is yet another missed opportunity by the Sunday political talk shows to feature investigative stories about Trump and his campaign over the past month.

    On September 23, Yahoo! News’ Michael Isikoff reported that “U.S. intelligence officials are seeking to determine whether an American businessman identified by Donald Trump as one of his foreign policy advisers has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials.” Among the problematic contacts Page has reportedly had with aides to Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, is Igor Diveykin, who “is believed by U.S. officials to have responsibility for intelligence collected by Russian agencies about the U.S. election.” The article also quoted a Trump spokesperson calling Page an “‘informal foreign adviser’” to Trump.

    In an interview with Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway on CNN’s State of the Union, Tapper cited the Yahoo! News article and questioned Conway if the campaign had talked to Page about his meetings with Russian officials. Conway denied that Page was part of the Trump campaign at this time and said that he was not authorized to talk to Russia on the campaign’s behalf.

    The other Sunday hosts -- NBC’s Chuck Todd, CBS’ John Dickerson, Fox’s Chris Wallace, and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos -- who interviewed Trump adviser Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s running mate Mike Pence, and Conway, respectively -- all failed to question their Trump surrogate guests about the report. The only other mentions of the report on the Sunday shows were from Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s surrogates, with Clinton running mate Tim Kaine alluding to the “news of this past week [that] shows us a whole series of very serious questions about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia” on CBS’ Face the Nation, and Clinton’s press secretary Brian Fallon mentioning Page on CNN’s Reliable Sources.

    The near blackout of this story from the Sunday shows is turning into a familiar pattern regarding investigative reports on Trump. Over the past month, the Sunday political talk shows have repeatedly failed to feature new reporting that reflects poorly on Trump. On September 4, just days after The Washington Post broke the story that Trump’s foundation illegally gave a political donation in 2013 and that Trump paid the IRS a penalty for it, only CBS’ Dickerson brought it up; on other shows, guests were forced to mention it. The next week, as they were all covering the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, every Sunday show completely ignored the New York Daily News’ investigation that revealed Trump unethically accepted $150,000 in government aid after the attacks and that Trump bragged that one of his buildings was now the largest in the area just hours after the 9/11 attacks. And just last week, the Sunday shows again mostly omitted new reporting on Trump, specifically the news that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was investigating Trump’s charitable foundation over concerns of impropriety and Kurt Eichenwald’s Newsweek report that detailed the “serious conflicts of interest and ethical quagmires” that would be present in the foreign policy of a President Trump due to his deep business ties to foreign countries and businesspeople.

    The report on Page also follows Trump’s repeated praise of Putin, who he has called “highly respected within his own country and beyond,” later adding that if Putin “says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him.” Journalists have slammed Trump for his remarks, noting the country has targeted and murdered journalists.

  • Meet The Iraq War Architect: Paul Wolfowitz Uses Opportunity On NBC To Re-litigate Iraq Invasion

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    NBC’s Meet the Press hosted Paul Wolfowitz, one of the discredited architects of the Iraq War, on the 15th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Wolfowitz took advantage of the platform to downplay his role in starting the conflict. He also used his appearance on the program to object to statements that President George W. Bush misled America before the war, despite a Senate intelligence report which concluded that the Bush administration made its case for war with statements not supported by the intelligence available at the time.

    Wolfowitz, who served in the Bush administration from 2001 through 2005 as Deputy Secretary of Defense, is universally recognized as one of the original architects of the Iraq invasion. He infamously predicted the war reconstruction effort could pay for itself from Iraqi oil revenue (for reference, the cost of the Iraq War is now estimated to be more than $2 trillion), and publicly accused Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein of possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) long after the intelligence community had informed the Pentagon that he did not. Later, Wolfowitz claimed that the conflict was primarily about liberating the Iraqi people rather than confronting the supposed WMD threat, while also making the assertion -- without evidence -- that without the invasion, "we would have had a growing development of Saddam's support for terrorism."

    On his September 11 appearance on Meet the Press, Wolfowitz said he rejects the title of “architect of the Iraq war,” because he “was not the commander-in-chief, or even the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, or national security advisor.”

    Wolfwowitz also whitewashed President Bush’s misleading statements leading up to the war. Wolfowitz said: “People who say after the fact that Bush lied and got us into a war, he wasn’t lying. He was saying what everyone believed” about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. Host Chuck Todd responded by asking, “Who lied? … Somebody got us into this, and somebody convinced the United States Congress that weapons of mass destruction were imminent in Iraq.”

    But instead of asking an Iraq War architect to deflect blame from the administration he served in, Todd could have referenced the Senate Intelligence Committee report that was covered by news outlets when it was released in June 2008. The report found that some statements by President Bush and senior members of the administration about Iraq, terrorist organizations, and weapons of mass destruction were “contradicted by available intelligence information,” “did not accurately convey the intelligence assessments,” and “were not substantiated by the intelligence.”

    From the June 5, 2008, United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report, titled Whether Public Statements Regarding Iraq by U.S. Government Officials Were Substantiated by Intelligence Information:

    (U) Conclusion 12: Statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State suggesting that Iraq and al-Qa'ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa'ida with weapons training, were not substantiated by the intelligence.

    Intelligence assessments, including multiple CIA reports and the November 2002 NIE [National Intelligence Estimate], dismissed the claim that Iraq and al-Qa'ida were cooperating partners. According to an undisputed INR [State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research] footnote in the NIE, there was no intelligence information that supported the claim that Iraq would provide weapons of mass destruction to al-Qa'ida. The credibility of the principal intelligence source behind the claim that Iraq had provided al-Qa'ida with biological and chemical weapons training was regularly questioned by DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency], and later by the CIA. The Committee repeats its conclusion from a prior report that "assessments were inconsistent regarding the likelihood that Saddam Hussein provided chemical and biological weapons (CBW) training to al-Qa'ida."

    (U) Conclusion 13: Statements in the major speeches analyzed, as well additional statements, regarding Iraq's contacts with al-Qa'ida were substantiated by intelligence information. However, policymakers' statements did not accurately convey the intelligence assessments of the nature of these contacts, and left the impression that the contacts led to substantive Iraqi cooperation or support of al-Qa'ida.


    (U) Conclusion 15: Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information.

    The October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate assessed that Saddam Hussein did not have nuclear weapons, and was unwilling to conduct terrorist attacks [sic] the US using conventional, chemical or biological weapons at that time, in part because he feared doing so would give the US a stronger case for war with Iraq. This judgment was echoed by both earlier and later intelligence community assessments. All of these assessments noted that gauging Saddam's intentions was quite difficult, and most suggested that he would be more likely to initiate hostilities if he felt that a US invasion was imminent.

  • CBS’ John Dickerson Is Only Sunday Host To Cover Trump Foundation’s Proven Lawbreaking

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    A Washington Post report that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump paid the IRS a $2,500 fine after his charitable foundation illegally gave a political contribution went mostly ignored by the cable and network Sunday political talk show hosts, with only CBS’ John Dickerson questioning a Trump surrogate about the story.

    The September 1 Post article reported that the Donald J. Trump Foundation had “violated tax laws” with a $25,000 political contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who at the time was deciding whether or not to take action against Trump University. The report also highlighted an error, “which had the effect of obscuring the political gift from the IRS.” According to the Post’s article, the Trump Foundation is still out of compliance because “under IRS rules, it appears that the Trump Foundation must seek to get the money back” from the group which should never have received it:

    Donald Trump paid the IRS a $2,500 penalty this year, an official at Trump's company said, after it was revealed that Trump's charitable foundation had violated tax laws by giving a political contribution to a campaign group connected to Florida's attorney general.

    The improper donation, a $25,000 gift from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, was made in 2013. At the time, Attorney General Pam Bondi was considering whether to investigate fraud allegations against Trump University. She decided not to pursue the case.

    Earlier this year, The Washington Post and a liberal watchdog group raised new questions about the three-year-old gift. The watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, filed a complaint with the IRS — noting that, as a registered nonprofit, the Trump Foundation was not allowed to make political donations.

    The Post reported another error, which had the effect of obscuring the political gift from the IRS.

    In that year's tax filings, The Post reported, the Trump Foundation did not notify the IRS of this political donation. Instead, Trump's foundation listed a donation — also for $25,000 — to a Kansas charity with a name similar to that of Bondi's political group. In fact, Trump's foundation had not given the Kansas group any money.

    The prohibited gift was, in effect, replaced with an innocent-sounding but nonexistent donation.

    With the breathless media hyping of every new detail about the Clinton Foundation, despite the lack of anything illegal occurring, one would think that the proof of lawbreaking by a charitable foundation founded and named for one of the two major party presidential nominees would attract significant attention from the media. But Face the Nation host John Dickerson was the only Sunday political talk show host to bring up the Post’s findings.

    During his interview with Trump campaign surrogate Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Dickerson cited the Post story to ask if it was an example of Trump knowing “how to use political donations to get the system to work for him” because in this situation Trump “gave the money then the investigation didn’t happen”:

    JOHN DICKERSON (HOST): I want to ask you about a report in The Washington Post this week about Donald Trump's foundation paying a fine to the IRS for a $25,000 donation it had given to a political committee supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2013. She was looking into maybe investigating Trump University, ultimately didn't. Donald Trump has said he knew better than anybody how to use the system, how to use political donations to get the system to work for him. Is that an instance of that in that situation, gave the money then the investigation didn't happen?

    ABC’s This Week guest host Martha Raddatz had a similar opportunity to question the Trump campaign about the story when speaking with campaign manager Kellyanne Conway during a 7 minute interview, but failed to bring it up. Fox News’ MediaBuzz and CNN’s Reliable Sources also both failed to even mention the news that Trump paid a fine for his foundation’s illegal act.

    On the other Sunday shows where this story was mentioned, it was up to the guests to mention it, usually in the context of the media’s double standard in reporting on the Clinton Foundation and Clinton’s emails. When Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden said “we just learned this week that Donald Trump was engaged in a pay to play” with Florida’s attorney general, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace repeatedly interrupted her, before casting the story aside.

    On NBC’s Meet the Press, MSNBC contributor Maria Teresa Kumar brought up the report, saying Trump “basically took his foundation money and actually wrote a check to a campaign. That is actually illegal, and he had to pay a fine.”

    And on CNN’s State of the Union, commentator Bakari Sellers was the only one to even allude to the story, saying, “we know that Donald Trump actually had a foundation that was pay to play, and we’re back to [Clinton] emails.”

  • The Huge Media Failure Behind The Latest Clinton Global Initiative Pseudo-Scandal

    Despite Reporting, Bahraini Crown Prince Didn’t Give $32 Million To CGI

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Numerous media outlets covering released State Department emails pushed by the conservative group Judicial Watch falsely claimed that Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain gave the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) tens of millions of dollars, which they suggested was linked to him meeting with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In fact, none of the money in question went to the Clinton Global Initiative -- the crown prince made a “Commitment to Action” to fund the scholarship program at a Clinton Global Initiative event, and the money raised from business donors in Bahrain and elsewhere went to the crown prince’s scholarship program to educate Bahraini students.