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  • Sean Hannity Devotes Full Hour On Fox To Discredited Book Full Of Clinton Smears

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Fox News host and Trump supporter Sean Hannity devoted the full hour of his Fox News show to hyping claims presented in the discredited book Crisis of Character written by former Secret Service agent Gary Byrne.

    Hannity interviewed Byrne on the first half of the June 27 edition of Fox’s Hannity, providing the author with an uncritical platform allowing him to peddle his discredited claims and attacks against Hillary Clinton. During the second half of the show, Hannity devoted a panel discussion to Byrnes' comments and attacks on Clinton. In what Fox News described as an “expose” with the “blacklisted” Byrne, claims such as cocaine use in the White House, fits of rage by former First Lady Hillary Clinton, and the disposal of towels covered in “bodily fluids” were pushed by Hannity and repeated by Byrne.

    At no point did Hannity question Byrnes’ dubious claims or bring up the numerous contradictions that he’s made over the years in regards to these claims, including while under sworn testimony.

    On June 20, Buzzfeed reported that while Byrne claims in his book to have disposed of towels covered in “translucent and white, half gooey” substance that would be easily recognizable to “any boy lucky enough to live past his high school years,” a 1998 deposition given by Byrne directly contradicts those claims:

    Byrne testified that he saw Nelvis cleaning up the Oval Office study, holding towels, when the steward said, “I’m tired of having to clean up this crap, or this something, you know, to that effect.” Byrne went on to say that he drew his “own conclusion that there was…some kind of possible physical contact between them and the president” and got the impression that Nelvis felt it was not right. Nelvis, he further recalled, said “something about lipstick,” and he “assumed that, that it was on these towels,” though the steward didn’t say it. Byrne told the investigators that he did not personally see lipstick or other stains on the towels.

    As for their disposal, Byrne said that he advised Nelvis “to get rid of it; in other words, to throw it out” so that the people who did the laundry wouldn’t see it. After that, he said of Nelvis, “I just remember him kind of walking away, and that was it. I don’t know what he did with them. That was the end of the thing.”

    Furthermore, the Association of Former Agents of the U.S. Secret Service has denounced Byrne and his assertions as false, and accused him of having a political agenda focused on smearing Clinton. Politico reported:

    People familiar with West Wing security laugh at the idea that Byrne or any uniformed officer ever would have walked in on Bill Clinton anywhere, whether in a meeting or, as a New York Post article over the weekend claims, in the middle of a make-out session in the Map Room with the late daughter of former Vice President Walter Mondale. The Secret Service presidential detail would have stopped him.

    […]

    And if Byrne or any uniformed officer had been posted near a room the president entered, he would have been moved at least 15 yards away, to the outer edges of the security bubble — not quite what Byrne describes in his book: “I stood guard, pistol at my hip, outside the Oval Office, the last barrier before anyone saw Bill Clinton,” according to the Post, which has been teasing excerpts of the book.

    “Operationally, one who has the working knowledge of how things are done there would realize that certain of those statements do not coincide with the operational plan,” said Jan Gilhooly, AFAUSSS president and a 29-year Secret Service veteran.

    When contacted by Buzzfeed about the contradictions in his book, Byrnes’ publicist said that he would explain himself on his book tour. Fortunately for Byrne, Sean Hannity did not ask him to explain any of these issues.

  • ABC's World News Tonight Fails To Pushback Against An Anti-Choice Activist's Myth Following SCOTUS HB2 Ruling

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    ABC’s Mary Bruce allowed an anti-choice activist to push the false claim that Texas’ abortion restrictions were about protecting women’s health during a segment on the Supreme Court’s ruling that Texas’ anti-choice law HB 2 was unconstitutional.

    During the segment, anti-choice activist Kristian Hawks falsely claimed the Supreme Court’s ruling jeopardizes women’s health and that women seeking abortion procedures at health clinics will now have to wonder if they’ll “be coming out alive.” ABC’s report failed to report that Hawkin’s allegation were not based in fact, but rather right-wing misinformation frequently pushed to undermind clinics that provide abortions. From the June 27 edition of ABC World News Tonight with David Muir:

     

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We begin tonight with the most sweeping decision on abortion in a generation. Today, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that imposed strict requirements on clinics and doctors, finding those limits placed an undue burden on the constitutional right to abortion. And on the steps of the Supreme Court, you see it there, activists squared off. Jubilation from the pro-choice side, but despair from anti-abortion forces, because this ruling could affect so much of the country. At least two dozen states have passed laws similar to those struck down today. ABC's Mary Bruce is in Washington with the dramatic decision and its resounding consequences.

    MARY BRUCE: At the Supreme Court today, chants of victory from abortion rights advocates. The crowd cheering as interns raced out, carrying the most consequential abortion decision in a quarter of a century. Many of these people have been here since before dawn, making sure they were here to witness this historic decision. The court striking down a Texas law that required abortion providers have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, and that clinics meet standards for surgical centers. Requirements that have already forced more than half of Texas abortion clinics to close, and threatened half of those still open. In a 5-3 decision, Justice Kennedy, the swing vote, joined the court's four liberals to rule that the restrictions went too far, and placed "an undue burden" on the constitutional right to an abortion. Disappointed, the law's supporters say women's health will now be at risk.

    KRISTAN HAWKINS: This means every time a woman walks into an abortion facility in our nation, she's going to have to wonder, will I be coming out alive?

    BRUCE: The implications stretch far beyond Texas. About two dozen states have similar laws.​

    KATE SHAW: Many states have restrictions like Texas's, and I think that those are quite likely unconstitutional after today's ruling.

    BRUCE: And the decision could call into question many other restrictions, such as a required waiting period, counseling, and ultrasounds before abortions.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: And Mary joins us from the Supreme Court right now. Mary, you know, the future of the Supreme Court, right at the heart of the presidential campaign. You've got that vacancy left by the death of Justice Scalia, and perhaps more to come.

    BRUCE: Yes, this decision underscores what's at stake in this election. Clinton tweeting today, "This fight isn't over. The next president has to protect women's rights." And Donald Trump has been noticeably absent from commenting on today's ruling. George?

    STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, uncharacteristic silence. Mary, thanks very much you.

    Laws such as HB 2 are frequently referred to as “TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws,” and seek to restrict access to abortion by requiring clinics to adhere to unnecessary medical standards. TRAP laws are promoted under the guise of public health, despite the fact that abortion is one of the safest surgeries performed in the United States and that many abortions are done with medication instead of surgery. 

  • Select Committee Democrats Identify Fox News As Vector For Benghazi Misinformation

    Benghazi Democrats Highlight Seven Instances Of Misinformation On Fox’s Airwaves

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The Democratic members of the Benghazi House Select Committee have released a report that implicitly highlights Fox News as a key vector for perpetuating misinformation about the September 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Libya.

    Fox has been obsessed with using the Benghazi attacks as a political weapon to damage first President Obama and then former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. After the network pushed for the creation of the select committee, several of its personalities acknowledged its fundamentally political nature following House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) boast that the committee had achieved its goal of damaging Clinton's poll numbers.

    The network’s evening lineup ran nearly 1,100 segments on the attacks and their aftermath during the first 20 months following the attacks, with much of the coverage rife with misinformation about debunked conspiracy theories. Those programs also provided a ready platform for Republican members of Congress to parrot Benghazi misinformation, hosting GOP members 30 times more frequently than they did Democrats.

    Here are seven times the Democratic report highlights false statements pushed in interviews on Fox News’ airwaves:

    Rep. Trey Gowdy’s Claim That The Military’s Posture On Night Of Attacks Was Unclear

    The report highlights Select Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy’s (R-SC) false suggestion during a Fox News interview that the deployment of military forces on the night of the attacks had not previously been examined (italics original, citations removed):

    On May 17, 2016, Chairman Gowdy conceded during an interview on Fox News that the military could not have gotten to Benghazi in time to save the lives of the four Americans killed that night. However, he claimed that he did not know the reasons behind the military’s global positioning decisions prior to the attacks. He stated:

    Whether or not they could have gotten there in time, I don’t think there is any issue with respect to that—they couldn’t. The next question is, why could you not? Why were you not positioned to do it?

    In fact, this specific question was investigated extensively in 2013 and 2014 by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.

    For example:  

    • On February 7, 2013, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing entitled: “Attack on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya.”  

    • On March 15, 2013, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing entitled: “The Posture of the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command.”  

    • On Sept. 19, 2013, the House Armed Services Committee received a transcribed briefing entitled: “DOD’s Posture for September 11, 2013” (Part IV, Force Posture).  

    • On Oct. 10, 2013, the House Armed Services Committee received a transcribed briefing entitled: “DOD’s Force Posture in Anticipation of September 11, 2012” (Part V, General Dempsey).

    These hearings and briefings highlighted the challenges facing the Department of Defense in responding to crises and operating in Africa given the geography, size, and political environment on the continent. As a result, the report issued by Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee concluded:

    The U.S. military’s response to the Benghazi attack was severely degraded because of the location and readiness posture of U.S. forces, and because of the lack of clarity about how the terrorist action was unfolding.

    Rep. Louie Gohmert’s False Claim That Help Was Deliberately Withheld

    The report highlights Rep. Louie Gohmert’s (R-TX) false claim during a Fox News interview that help was deliberately withheld during the attacks (italics original, citations removed):

    Similarly, Rep. Louie Gohmert told Fox News in September 2014:

    They let those people die at Benghazi, they could have gotten planes there sooner, they could have gotten people there sooner, and anybody that knows anything will disregard what some of these high intelligence people have said and will get straight to the truth.

    In his interview with the Select Committee, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta emphatically rejected these Republican accusations that Secretary Clinton or anyone else ordered him to stand down on the night of the attacks:

    Q: Did the Secretary of State ever tell you to stand down or slow the Department of Defense response?

    A: Not at all. You know, that’s a—that’s a big word, “stand down.” And let me tell you, not only did I never hear that word mentioned, but if somebody had said that, I think, you know, it would not have interfered with my orders to proceed.

    Secretary Panetta explained that no one ever ordered military forces to stand down that night:

    Q: And I just want to be clear. To your knowledge, there was no stand-down—I mean, to your knowledge, any stand-down orders given with regard to this operation on that night?

    A: No. Never, never. It would have been against everything that the military stands for. You know, the military, their whole focus is on being able to protect particularly their own. That’s what they do. To even imply that somehow the military, or someone would have said, maybe we shouldn’t go, it’s too risky, it’s crazy. It’s just not the way our military operates.

    Maj. Eric Stahl’s Claim He Could Have Gotten Plane To Benghazi Faster

    The report quotes a vice admiral rejecting the claim now-retired Air Force Reserve Maj. Eric Stahl made during a Fox News appearance that he could have gotten the military transport plane to Benghazi faster (italics original, citations removed):

    On June 11, 2014, Eric Stahl, a now-retired Air Force Reserve Major, appeared on Fox News and alleged that he could have piloted the C-17 plane from Germany to Benghazi in 4.5 hours. He stated:

    A hurried-up timeline probably would take us [an] hour-and-a-half to get off the ground and three hours and fifteen minutes to get down there. So we could’ve gone down there and gotten them [the survivors] easily.”

    [...]

    Vice Admiral Charles Leidig, the Deputy to the Commander for Military Operations at AFRICOM, rejected the C-17 pilot’s allegation:

    I’m going to try to answer this as clearly as I can. I don’t know where the major was or what he was doing that night, all right? But to get a C-17 ready, with the medical capability and the configuration required to medevac the type of injuries that we had, we had the most senior people in the military around the globe working on it. For the major to suggest that he could somehow do it better than three significant staffs is incredulous to me. You often find that officers operating at the tactical level have little understanding of the larger requirements to deploy an aircraft. So again, I find his claims to be largely without credibility.

    Donald Trump’s False Claim That Clinton Ignored Hundreds Of Personal Requests For Additional Security

    The report details presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s false claim during a Fox News interview that then-Ambassador Christopher Stevens had sought additional security “500 or 600 times” (italics original, citations removed):

    Nevertheless, since the hearing, Republicans have used the talking point of “600 requests” ignored by Secretary Clinton to lodge unsubstantiated political attacks against her, including as part of the presidential campaign. For example, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump stated on Fox News: “Look at Benghazi, our ambassador. He wired her 500 or 600 times asking for help.”

    The Washington Post Fact Checker addressed Trump’s claim, calling it “a whopper” because no requests for additional security went to Secretary Clinton.

    Rep. Trey Gowdy’s Promotion Of The Unsubstantiated Document “Separat[ion]” Story

    The report says  Gowdy used a Fox News interview to promote the report that Raymond Maxwell, the former deputy assistant secretary of state for Maghreb affairs, had claimed that top Clinton aides Cheryl Mills and Jacob Sullivan had been “part of an operation to ‘separate’ damaging documents” about Benghazi before they were turned over for review (italics original, citations removed):

    On October 17, 2014, Chairman Gowdy was interviewed on Fox News by Greta Van Susteren, who asked if he believed Mr. Maxwell’s allegation that “documents were tossed out.” In response, the Chairman stated:

    What you would do is what I’m going to do Greta, and that is, give Mr. Maxwell an opportunity to say what he perceived to happen and he’s going to have to give us the names of the other people who were involved and then we’re going to give them an opportunity to say whether or not they have a different perspective. It’s going to be an investigation. And if there is a dispute as to what happened then we’ll let your audience decide who has more credibility.

    By the time Chairman Gowdy made this statement, however, his staff had already interviewed Mr. Maxwell without including, inviting, or even notifying Democratic Members or staff. Mr. Maxwell apparently identified for Republican staff a second witness that he claimed was present during this document review at the State Department. Mr. Maxwell identified this person as someone who could corroborate his allegations and someone he believes is credible.

    Then, on October 16—one day before Chairman Gowdy appeared on Fox News—his staff interviewed this second witness, again without including Democrats. However, this second witness did not substantiate Mr. Maxwell’s claims. To the contrary, he did not recall ever having been in the document review session Mr. Maxwell described, he said he was never instructed to flag information in documents that might be unfavorable to the Department, and he reported that he never engaged in or was aware of any destruction of documents.

    The report goes on to say that in testimony before the committee Maxwell said he was now unsure of the person who could substantiate his claim, was unable to remember if it was a man or woman, and had no evidence that documents were scrubbed. It also includes denials from the deputy office director in the Office of Maghreb Affairs, Mills, and Sullivan.

    Sen. Rand Paul’s False Claim That Ambassador Susan Rice “Deliberately Misled The Public"

    The report includes testimony from Ambassador Susan Rice regarding whether she had, as Sen. Rand Paul claimed during a Fox News interview, “deliberately misled the public” in an interview shortly after the attacks:

    Q: Similarly, on June 5, Ambassador, June 5, 2013, Senator and Presidential candidate Rand Paul appeared on FOX News and stated that you had, I quote, “directly and deliberately misled the public over Benghazi,” end of quote. Did you directly and deliberately mislead the public over Benghazi?

    A: I did not directly or deliberately mislead the public on Benghazi.

    Q: Were you aware of or involved in perpetuating any kind of an intentionally false or misleading narrative about the Benghazi attacks?

    A: No.

    Q: Some have argued that it was false because you should have known by that time that there had not been a protest. How would you respond to those critics?

    A: First of all, I did not know at the time that there had not been a protest. I was going off the best current assessment of the intelligence community. And the intelligence community subsequently made clear that they changed their assessment to conclude that there was not a protest or a demonstration several days after my appearance on the Sunday shows.

    Rep. Trey Gowdy’s False Claim That The State Department Hadn’t Provided Any Documents To The Committee

    The report states of Gowdy’s claim on Fox News that the State Department had yet to deliver “a single, solitary scrap of paper” that the committee had requested (italics original, citations removed):

    The following day, on May 15, 2015, Chairman Gowdy appeared on Fox News to argue that the State Department was intentionally obstructing the Select Committee’s investigation:

    It is a conscious decision not to cooperate with a legitimate congressional inquiry… I don’t want the drama. I want the documents. They’ve had half a year and I have not gotten a single, solitary scrap of paper.

    On May 21, 2015, PolitiFact rated Chairman Gowdy’s claim “Mostly False” after noting that the Select Committee’s own interim report in 2015 stated that the State Department provided 850 pages of documents months earlier:

    The House Benghazi Committee’s own report notes that in response to a November 2014 request for emails from Clinton and her top aides, the State Department has produced 850 pages of Clinton’s emails.

    PolitiFact also noted that the State Department “argues that Clinton’s emails were top priority, that many of the staffers’ emails have been provided in previous document requests, and that their response time is limited by department resources.”

    For more information, visit Benghazihoax.com

  • The Dean Of Yale’s Law School Just Schooled The Washington Post On Exxon And The First Amendment

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    Yale Law School Dean Robert Post took to The Washington Post to completely dismantle the bogus claim that the attorneys general investigating ExxonMobil for fraud are trampling the company’s First Amendment rights. And in doing so, he pointed to one of several opinion writers who have misinformed the Post’s readers by advancing this “free speech” defense of Exxon's alleged deception on climate change. 

    Writing in The Washington Post on June 24, Robert Post criticized “ExxonMobil and its supporters” in the media for deceptively “[r]aising the revered flag of the First Amendment” to condemn attorneys general who are investigating Exxon. The attorneys general are looking into whether the oil company committed fraud by deliberating withholding truthful information about climate change from shareholders and the public in order to protect its profits. As Post explained, Exxon and its allies are “eliding the essential difference between fraud and public debate,” and if Exxon has indeed committed fraud, “its speech would not merit First Amendment protection.” He added: “Fraud is especially egregious because it is committed when a seller does not himself believe the hokum he foists on an unwitting public.”

    One of the conservative media figures that Post called out for distorting the Exxon investigations was The Washington Post’s own George Will, who penned an April 22 column peddling the false claim that the attorneys general pursuing Exxon are seeking to “criminalize skepticism” about climate change. And that wasn’t the only basic fact that Will butchered, as the Climate Denier Roundup explained at the time:

    George Will used his column in the Washington Post to offer a lesson on how this campaign [against Exxon] is part of a larger progressive strategy to shut down debate. But apparently it’s Will that needs a history lesson, as he uses as evidence a story about a 2013 IRS investigation accusing the agency of targeting conservatives. But that investigation “found no evidence” that the IRS actions were politically motivated.

    Unfortunately, Will is not the only voice on the Post’s opinion pages who has misrepresented the facts to defend Exxon.

    As the Climate Denier Roundup noted, the same day that Will’s column ran, the Post also published an op-ed by two officials at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a think tank that peddled climate science denial while receiving funding from Exxon. The CEI op-ed repeated the falsehood that the attorneys general are seeking to “run roughshod” over Exxon’s First Amendment protections and prosecute “dissent.” It also engaged in carefully crafted legalese about CEI’s relationship with Exxon, as the Climate Denier Roundup observed:

    Worth noting CEI’s careful phrasing about its relationship with Exxon, which CEI says “publicly ended its support for us after 2005.” With Donors Trust and others making it possible to anonymize giving, the key word is “publicly.”

    Flashback to November 2015, and the story at the Post is much the same. Like Will, the Post’s Robert Samuelson claimed in a November 8 column that investigations of Exxon are an “assault” on free speech, and that the “advocates of a probe into ExxonMobil are essentially proposing that the company be punished for expressing its opinions.” Samuelson also repeated Exxon’s bogus talking point that a 1989 Exxon document proves that groundbreaking reports about Exxon by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times "'cherry-pick[ed]' their evidence."

    Then there’s the Post editorial board itself, which prematurely concluded in a November 15 editorial that Exxon “didn’t commit a crime.” Perhaps the Post will reconsider after hearing from Robert Post on that matter. 

    From Robert Post’s June 24 op-ed in The Washington Post:

    If large oil companies have deliberately misinformed investors about their knowledge of global warming, they may have committed serious commercial fraud.

    [...]

    ExxonMobil and its supporters are now eliding the essential difference between fraud and public debate. Raising the revered flag of the First Amendment, they loudly object to investigations recently announced by attorneys general of several states into whether ExxonMobil has publicly misrepresented what it knew about global warming.

    The National Review has accused the attorneys general of “trampling the First Amendment.” Post columnist George F. Will has written that the investigations illustrate the “authoritarianism” implicit in progressivism, which seeks “to criminalize debate about science.” And Hans A. von Spakovsky, speaking for the Heritage Foundation, compared the attorneys general to the Spanish Inquisition.

    Despite their vitriol, these denunciations are wide of the mark. If your pharmacist sells you patent medicine on the basis of his “scientific theory” that it will cure your cancer, the government does not act like the Spanish Inquisition when it holds the pharmacist accountable for fraud.

    The obvious point, which remarkably bears repeating, is that there are circumstances when scientific theories must remain open and subject to challenge, and there are circumstances when the government must act to protect the integrity of the market, even if it requires determining the truth or falsity of those theories. Public debate must be protected, but fraud must also be suppressed. Fraud is especially egregious because it is committed when a seller does not himself believe the hokum he foists on an unwitting public.

    [...]

    If ExxonMobil has committed fraud, its speech would not merit First Amendment protection. But the company nevertheless invokes the First Amendment to suppress a subpoena designed to produce the information necessary to determine whether ExxonMobil has committed fraud. It thus seeks to foreclose the very process by which our legal system acquires the evidence necessary to determine whether fraud has been committed. In effect, the company seeks to use the First Amendment to prevent any informed lawsuit for fraud.

  • Wash. Post Slams Paul Ryan’s “Flimsy” Health Care Reform Plan

    Editorial Board Concludes Ryan’s “Better Way” Could Lead To “Much Higher Costs” For Many, Allow States “With The Skimpiest Regulations” To “Set The National Standard”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Washington Post blasted Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) outline for replacing Obamacare, which could cut health care for millions of Americans and might lead to more rapidly rising insurance costs for an inferior product.

    Ryan released a health care reform plan on June 22 under the “Better Way” brand that he hopes will become a fixture for Republican policy making in the next Congress. The plan seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- commonly referred to as Obamacare -- and replace it with a series of tax credits for Americans to purchase private insurance. The Post picked apart Ryan’s health care agenda in a June 26 editorial, saying the plan would be “hard on the poor, old and sick” and adding that “those in late middle age could face much higher costs.” The editorial board also derided the plan, which offers no cost projections or estimates for the number of Americans who could lose their ACA-compliant insurance, for being yet another vague proposal from a Republican Party that “has no excuse for blank spaces” after so many years of fruitless opposition to the health care law.

    The Post noted that “the rate of uninsured Americans has plummeted to a historic low” since Obamacare was enacted, and Ryan’s plan does not appear capable of maintaining the same low rate. Instead, the plan would create tax credits that increase as Americans age, but it would also let insurers “raise premiums with age much more than the ACA currently allows.” Since “the proposal gives no sense that the two will come close to matching up,” it is possible that the tax credits proposed in the Ryan plan could be much smaller than the actual cost of insurance, making the reform agenda costlier for millions of middle-aged Americans currently benefitting from Obamacare. From The Washington Post (emphasis added):

    House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) seemed to promise better when he announced that he would roll out an ambitious policy agenda this summer. Instead, last week he released an Obamacare alternative that is less detailed in a variety of crucial ways than previous conservative health reform proposals. The outlines that the speaker did provide suggest that it would be hard on the poor, old and sick.

    Mr. Ryan’s plan would replace Obamacare with a tax credit available to people buying insurance plans in markets regulated by the states, not the federal government.

    [...]

    The proposal hints that the credit would be sufficient to cover the cost of plans that existed before the ACA. This is not reassuring: Pre-ACA, individual-market insurance plans were often thin, with limited benefits, extensive cost-sharing and other elements designed to deter anyone who might actually need care. Without strong coverage requirements, insurers would have limited incentive to offer plans that appealed to people who may be — or may become — sick. States would be hampered in responding to these issues: The proposal would allow insurers to sell plans across state lines, so the state with the skimpiest regulations would likely set the national standard.

    People with money to put into health savings accounts (which the proposal would expand), could cover gaps in thin insurance coverage with tax-advantaged out-of-pocket spending — but this would not be a realistic option for low-income people. As for the old, the plan would scale up the tax credits with age, but it would also permit insurers to raise premiums with age much more than the ACA currently allows. The proposal gives no sense that the two will come close to matching up; as in other conservative plans, those in late middle age could face much higher costs. For the sick, meanwhile, Mr. Ryan’s plan would offer an ultimate backstop by funding high-risk insurance pools. But health-care experts caution that this approach would cost a massive amount of federal money — a fact that has caused Republican lawmakers to balk at policies like it when fleshed out.

    This harsh treatment of Ryan’s health care reform agenda mirrors the tone of criticism he drew from various quarters for each of his recent attempts to rebrand misleading Republican economic talking points as a “Better Way” forward. Ryan’s “Better Way” anti-poverty reform agenda, which was based almost entirely on right-wing media myths rather than professional economic research, was slammed by critics as being “doomed to fail” and “based on faulty assumptions.” His health care reform agenda seems to be drawn from the same right-wing media perspective, which considers the full repeal of the ACA to be of paramount importance despite the law’s continued success and the failure of every right-wing prediction of its demise to come to fruition.

  • Media Experts Rip CNN For “Profoundly Disturbing” Lewandowski Hiring

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Veteran journalists and media ethicists are slamming CNN for hiring former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski as a paid contributor, saying his hostile treatment of the press and the lack of clarity over whether he signed a nondisparagement agreement with the campaign make his hiring a “new high of immorality.”

    Lewandowksi, who was fired by Trump on June 20, has long had a troubling relationship with reporters, including being investigated by police in March after grabbing the arm of reporter Michelle Fields, threatening to pull credentials of CNN’s own Noah Gray, and being accused of making “unwanted romantic advances” and “sexually suggestive and at times vulgar comments to -- and about -- female journalists.”

    CNN has already been widely criticized for hiring Lewandowski. In interviews with Media Matters, several media observers and veteran journalists added their voices to the chorussaying the move raises ethical issues and harms CNN’s credibility.

    “CNN’s decision to hire Lewandowski is problematic in a number of ways,” said Tom Fiedler, dean of the College of Communication at Boston University and former editor of The Miami Herald. “First, and perhaps most important, is his failure to respond to the question about signing a nondisparagement agreement, which can only be interpreted as meaning that he did sign one.”

    Lewandowski was asked in his first interview as an official CNN contributor whether he signed such an agreement, and he dodged the question.

    “Unless and until he can counter that interpretation, he must be perceived as being totally compromised in his commentary -- put bluntly, a Trump shill,” Fiedler added. “But even putting that issue aside, the fact that CNN would give a prominent platform (not to mention a paycheck) to an individual whose personal and professional behavior includes bullying and misogyny at best and assault at worst, baffles me. Can his insights into the presidential campaign and into the candidates be so valuable as to enable CNN to overlook this well-documented record?” 

    Former CNN White House correspondent Frank Sesno, who is currently director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University, said hiring Lewandowski is different from other former political operatives joining a network.

    “In this case, CNN has hired an outspoken adversary of journalism,” Sesno said. “Someone who has challenged its role, attacked reporters and represented a candidate who was openly hostile to journalism and the First Amendment itself.”

    Paul Levinson, a professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University and author of the book New New Mediasaid hiring Lewandowski “is a new high of immorality in the relationship between our media and our political system.”

    He later added, “It would be one thing if he had just been fired for whatever reason, things happen. As we know, and CNN covering all of the details, Corey Lewandowski was investigated" for the incident with Fields. "The police got into it, it was a serious issue and that combined with the fact that Lewandowski’s relationship with the Trump campaign even now isn’t clear.”

    For Tim McGuire, former Arizona State University media professor and past president of American Society of News Editors, CNN’s hiring of Lewandowski is “profoundly disturbing. The terms of that agreement are crucial. If it truly is a nondisparagement agreement this hire is totally wrong.”

    Clark Hoyt, former New York Times public editor and one-time Washington Bureau chief for Knight Ridder, said he was “surprised that any news organization with aspirations to credibility would hire Cory Lewandowski in any capacity.”

    Hoyt also said, “His well-documented hostility to journalists and the role of a free press aside, he comes to his new role as a paid political commentator bound by some kind of contract with Donald Trump. Whether it contains a nondisparagement clause or not, it bars Lewandowski from disclosing exactly the kind of information that a news network should be trying to get to help inform voters. CNN ought to put up a disclaimer every time he appears on camera.”

  • For Clinton, All News Is Bad News: Brexit Edition

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Deciding that a national referendum staged thousands of miles away offers deep insight into America’s pending presidential election -- and that Hillary Clinton’s campaign in particular may be damaged by a vote in Europe -- several pundits in recent have days have stressed the Bad News angle for the Democrat.

    Reading all kinds of American implications into the United Kingdom’s vote to exit the European Union, known as “Brexit,” commentators seemed to be straining in order to stick to their preferred all-news-is-bad-news pattern when covering Clinton.

    Meet The Press host Chuck Todd insisted that in the wake of Brexit, Clinton “has to learn a lesson here” because she represents “the establishment.” Or “the status quo,” as The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza suggested during the same segment.

    On ABC’s This Week, Greta Van Susteren agreed that the “status quo really needs to be worried” and that Brexit “hurts Secretary Hillary Clinton, because she is going to be pinned with status quo.”

    And because Clinton’s such a supposedly stagnant candidate with so little vision, the vote in the U.K. set off “panic” inside “Democratic circles,” according to Time.

    But does that framing of the Brexit vote reflect reality? Clinton’s the first woman to ever win a major party’s presidential nomination in American history and her party’s newly drafted platform is the most aggressively progressive in decades, yet the press depicts her as “status quo” and out of touch with voters urging change. 

    The New York Times seemed to take the lead over the weekend in ringing the Brexit alarm bells for Clinton. On Sunday’s front page, the Times insisted the U.K. outcome casts a “shadow” over Clinton’s White House run, which seems odd since Clinton played no role in the British vote. But the Times was certain the referendum represented the type of outcome she “fears” in November.

    Additionally:

    According to their friends and advisers, Mrs. Clinton and former President Bill Clinton have worried for months that she was out of sync with the mood of the electorate, and that her politically safe messages — like “I’m a progressive who gets results” — were far less compelling to frustrated voters than the “political revolution” of Senator Bernie Sanders or Mr. Trump’s grievance-driven promise to “Make America Great Again.”

    Fact: Clinton just defeated Sanders by approximately 3.7 million votes in the Democratic primary, and she leads Trump by 12 points in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. But the Times hypes anonymous concerns her "safe" message isn’t resonating? (What would the polls look like today if Clinton’s message was resonating?) More importantly, since when is the candidate who tallies the most votes depicted as being out of touch with voters?

    In a strange attempt to prove its point, the Times noted, “Mr. Sanders and Mr. Trump won a combined 25 million votes during the primary season, compared with 16 million for Mrs. Clinton.”

    Clinton won more votes than either Sanders or Trump this year. But because combined they tallied more than her that means a referendum in Europe is bad news for her; that she’s “out of step.” That seems illogical.

    More Times oddities:

    In swing states like Ohio, many Democrats and Republicans yearn for an economic comeback and are not confident that Mrs. Clinton understands their frustrations or has the ideas and wherewithal to deliver the sort of change that could satisfy them.

    Democrats in Ohio aren’t sure Clinton “understands” their concerns, even though three months ago Democrats in Ohio selected Clinton as the winner of the state’s primary contest by almost 14 points.

    Meanwhile, since when are national votes in foreign countries even considered to be precursors for American elections? Or is the press only leaning on that angle now because pundits think it represents bad news for the Democrat?

    If that’s the rubric, journalists ought to be consistent. If votes in foreign countries, and specifically countries that resemble the U.S. population, are deemed to be bellwether events for U.S. presidential elections, shouldn’t the press treat other recent votes as being preludes to U.S. election results?

    For instance, what was the lesson Clinton was supposed to have learned from Canada last October when voters there overwhelmingly elected a liberal prime minster? Or did that referendum not matter since the results were in sync with Clinton’s campaign message of inclusion and progress?

    If for some reason Clinton had made Brexit a central issue in her American campaign, or if overseas referendums served as well-established indicators for U.S. election results, pundits might be safe in drawing sweeping conclusions about the Democrat’s chances in the wake of the U.K. vote.

    Instead, lots of the commentary looks and sounds like a kneejerk attempt to assume big news is bad news for Clinton’s White House hopes.

  • Dick Morris Says He Sends The Trump Campaign “A Lot Of Memos And A Lot Of Ideas”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Discredited political pundit Dick Morris claims he’s sending Donald Trump’s campaign “a lot of memos and a lot of ideas.”

    Morris previously worked as a Fox News contributor and as a columnist for The Hill. He is now chief political correspondent for the National Enquirer. Morris is an ethically challenged pundit with a long history of making erroneous political forecasts, which has drawn him widespread ridicule.

    Morris is backing the presumptive Republican nominee and spoke to the conservative Daily Caller about whether he's interested in joining the Trump campaign in an official capacity:

    Earlier this month, reports suggested Morris was actually on the verge of officially joining Trump’s campaign. Morris knows Trump well. His father served as a real estate attorney for both Trump and Trump’s father Fred, and Morris has interacted with Trump socially at Trump’s Palm Beach club Mar-a-Lago and elsewhere.

    “Donald came to dinner at our house frequently when I was growing up,” Morris said, explaining just how far back his relationship goes with The Donald. (Morris says he has not, however, talked to Trump in at least a year.)

    While Morris says he sends “several” memos to Trump campaign staffers “each day,” the 69-year-old claims he has no interest in joining the campaign in any official capacity.

    “When you say join, I’d say join is a different word,” he explained. “I’m not and I never have been looking for a full-time job, 9-5, advising the campaign. Yes, I am interested and I do send them a lot of memos and a lot of ideas and in fact wrote a book for them filled with advice as to what they should do. In a sense, this book is very much of a public communication to the Trump campaign of what they need to do in order to win.”

    The Trump campaign told TheDC in an email that it welcomes Morris’s contributions.

    “To my knowledge, he has no association with the campaign,” campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said. “We appreciate his support and contributions, which are presumably made in an unofficial capacity.”

     
  • CNN And Fox News’ Sunday Media Criticism Shows Note Ethical Issues With CNN’s Lewandowski Hire

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Media figures on CNN’s Reliable Sources and Fox News’ MediaBuzz criticized CNN’s decision to hire Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Hosts and guests on the two media criticism programs highlighted the various “ethical” and “controversial” issues surrounding Lewandowski’s hiring, including Lewandowski’s history of aggressively handling the press and the ambiguity surrounding his possible non-disparagement agreements with Trump.

    On June 23, CNN hired Lewandowski as a salaried political commentator days after he had been fired as Trump’s campaign manager. CNN employees and other reporters immediately raised concerns over the various potential ethical problems associated with Lewandowski’s hiring.

    There are still several unknowns about Lewandowski's new position: whether he signed a non-disparagement agreement with Trump, which would preclude Lewandowski from criticizing his former boss; whether Lewandowski’s history of aggressive behavior toward journalists was taken into account during the hiring process; and whether an ongoing defamation suit against Trump and Lewandowski is a conflict of interest for CNN.

    CNN’s Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s media criticism program Reliable Sources, said on June 26 that Lewandowski is “the most controversial addition to CNN in several years,” noting that his “hostile” behavior toward reporters and the uncertainty regarding any non-disparagement agreements raise “ethical questions.”

    Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik shamed CNN on Reliable Sources for hiring a “weasel to tell you about” “what’s going on inside the Trump campaign,” and told CNN to “give your money back.”

    Fox News’ media critic Howard Kurtz also slammed CNN on his program MediaBuzz, calling the decision a “sad move” that doesn’t help “CNN’s credibility in covering Donald Trump.” Kurtz specifically noted Lewandowski’s non-disclosure agreement and “rough relations with some reporters.”

    CNN’s own staff have heavily criticized Lewandowski for his “inexcusable” and “unprofessional” behavior. Media Matters has noted, though, that Lewandowski’s hire is at odds with how the network has responded to previous attacks on employees: in February, Trump ally Roger Stone was banned from the network after he wrote a series of offensive, incendiary tweets attacking CNN media figures.

  • A Year After Marriage Equality, It's Time For Media To Stop Giving Anti-LGBT Liars A Pass

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    In the year since the Supreme Court struck down state-level same-sex marriage bans, anti-gay extremists have continued to peddle misinformation about LGBT equality in the media. After more than 12 years of pushing lies and wildly inaccurate predictions about the consequences of marriage equality, it’s time for the media to stop letting anti-gay activists comment on LGBT rights without disclosing their proven track record of dishonest extremism.

    It’s been a year since the Supreme Court’s June 26, 2015, Obergefell v. Hodges decision which found state-level same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional. In the decade leading up to the decision, anti-LGBT extremists and hate group leaders peddled specious talking points about the consequences of “redefining traditional marriage.” In media appearances, these figures predicted that allowing same-sex couples to marry would cause a “slippery slope” to legalized bestiality, incest, and pedophilia; pushed the myth that gay men are more likely to engage in pedophilia than straight men; and hyped claims that pastors and churches were in danger of being forced to perform same-sex marriages.

    Several of these groups were so deceptive that in 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), designated them anti-LGBT “hate groups” for “propagating known falsehoods” and pushing “demonizing propaganda.” One of these groups was the Family Research Council (FRC), whose officials have accused gay people of trying to "recruit" children into homosexuality and endorsed a Uganda law that would have imposed the death penalty for engaging in gay sex.

    For years, major cable news networks have hosted FRC representatives to comment on LGBT equality without identifying FRC as a hate group. Despite the efforts of progressive Christians to stop outlets from letting FRC representatives conflate their extremism with mainstream Christianity, the group continues to have a significant media presence. Since last June’s Obergefell decision, mainstream media outlets have continued to call on FRC to discuss LGBT rights, including:

    • The New York Times, NPR, and USA Today all cited FRC’s commentary on the Obergefell marriage equality decision without noting the group’s history of hate.
    • ABC's This Week invited FRC's Ken Blackwell -- who previously blamed same-sex marriage for a mass murder -- to discuss the court's decision.  
    • NPR featured FRC’s Senior Fellow for Policy Studies Peter Sprigg -- who spent 10 years as a "professional actor" before joining FRC -- to debate same-sex parenting.
    • FRC’s President Tony Perkins appeared on MSNBC to discuss meeting with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump assemble an “Evangelical executive advisory board,” featuring anti-LGBT extremists.

    In the past year, the media have given other anti-LGBT hate groups similar passes. In September, mainstream news outlets like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Reuters failed to identify Liberty Counsel, the anti-LGBT hate group representing Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, instead calling it merely a “Christian” or “conservative” organization. In April, major news outlets largely failed to identify the American Family Association (AFA) -- the group organizing a boycott of Target over its transgender-inclusive restroom policy -- as an anti-LGBT hate group.

    The few instances when mainstream media like The Associated Press and CBS News’ Bob Schieffer did properly identify hate group leaders, anti-gay conservatives were predictably outraged. Right-wing anger at journalists who expose anti-LGBT extremism illustrates why it’s so vital to disclose when sources or commentators represent hate groups. The public has a right to know that the same groups with a track record of fearmongering about children’s safety to oppose marriage equality are now those peddling the anti-LGBT movement’s new favorite myth that LGBT nondiscrimination protections endanger the safety of women and children in bathrooms.

    A year after Obergefell, it’s time for the media to stop letting the same extremists use media appearances to float new lies and recycle mythical talking points to oppose LGBT equality. Outlets seeking to provide balanced coverage of LGBT rights ought to find commentators who don’t have a decade-long track record of spreading hateful lies about LGBT people.