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  • Fox Business Guest Completely Dismantles Any Economic Case For Trump’s Presidency

    Robert Powell: “The Reality Is Money Doesn’t Grow On Trees”

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    During an appearance on Fox Business, former Economist editor Robert Powell dispelled claims from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign that the candidate’s tax and economic policy proposals would generate at least five consecutive years of economic growth in excess of 4 percent annually.

    Powell, who is now the global risk briefing manager for the Economist Intelligence Unit, a forecasting and advisory business operated by The Economist, was interviewed on the August 24 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co. Host Stuart Varney opened the segment by asking for a response to Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore’s guarantee earlier this week that the massive tax cuts proposed by the Republican nominee would generate sustained economic growth far outpacing anything witnessed in the United States since 1966. Along the way, Powell poked holes in the arguments in favor of the budget-busting supply-side tax cuts Trump and other Republicans have advocated for years as a silver bullet solution to economic malaise.

    Powell mocked Moore’s guarantee, noting that “the reality is money doesn’t grow on trees,” and slammed Trump’s tax plan for promising to add trillions of dollars to the debt -- far more than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s proposal might. He undermined Varney’s unsubstantiated claim that cutting taxes will kickstart economic expansion, and reminded the Fox Business audience that President Reagan actually had to raise taxes to regain revenue lost to early tax cuts. Powell noted that to make up for built-in revenue losses, the rate of economic expansion would actually have to hit 10 percent or more -- which is not a “feasible” rate of growth. Most importantly, he questioned why Varney and his Fox Business cohort are gripped with so much economic anxiety when “unemployment is 4.9 percent” and the American economy is doing “relatively well” and is “a star performer” when compared with other developed countries around the world. From Varney & Co.:

    Powell mentioned during the interview that The Economist does not believe either Trump’s or Clinton’s plan can meet Moore’s arbitrary growth threshold, stating that “we’re perfectly reasonable, and we don’t think Hillary Clinton will deliver 4 percent growth either.” But Powell did argue that Trump’s position on taxes and economic policy is “less responsible” than his Democratic opponent’s.

    Trump’s inherent lack of responsibility is why the Economist Intelligence Unit’s global risk forecast for September 2016 ranks Trump being elected president as a threat to the global economy that is as big as “the rising threat of jihadi terrorism” and “a clash of arms in the South China Sea,” the site of a territorial dispute between China and other neighboring countries, including U.S.-allied Taiwan:

    One of the things that went unsaid during the interview was how absurd it was for Varney to accept Trump’s 4 percent growth target in the first place. According to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the United States has not witnessed five consecutive years of growth in excess of 4 percent in five decades. When failed Republican candidate Jeb Bush first promoted the target in June 2015, experts slammed it as “impossible” and “nonsense.” Since then, arbitrary targets of 4 or 5 percent growth have been adopted by other GOP hopefuls, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and now Trump. For its part, Fox News has consistently fixated on setting arbitrary growth targets for the American economy in excess of 3 percent, which it claims is proof of a failed economic recovery under President Obama.

  • Sean Hannity Has Given Donald Trump $31 Million In Free Publicity

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS, CARLOS MAZA & BEN DIMIERO

    Fox News host Sean Hannity, who has been informally advising Donald Trump’s presidential campaign while serving as its primary media cheerleader, has effectively turned his nightly prime-time show into Trump’s second campaign headquarters. According to a Media Matters analysis, Hannity’s program has given Trump what amounts to more than $31 million in free advertising in the form of dozens of fawning interviews with the candidate since Trump declared his candidacy in June 2015.

    Hannity has devoted just over 22 hours of airtime to broadcasting interviews with Trump since the launch of Trump’s campaign. That airtime is worth more than $31 million according to advertising value calculated by media monitoring service iQ Media. That coverage includes 51 original interviews and over a dozen re-airings of previously aired interviews. This year alone, Hannity has aired thirteen and a half hours of Trump interviews, four and a half hours of which have come since Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropped out of the Republican primary in early May, effectively ending the race.

    IQ Media uses Nielsen data to determine the viewership of a given program and price data for advertising from Sqad to come up with an equivalent advertising rate.

    These numbers only count the amount of time Hannity spent airing interviews featuring Donald Trump -- they do not include the countless time Hannity spends carrying the Trump campaign's water without the candidate present, including similarly fawning interviews with Trump family members, surrogates, and supporters.

    Hannity has repeatedly faced criticism for his obsequious Trump coverage, including from conservatives who have mocked Hannity for his “slavish” Trump cheerleading and accused him of hosting a “nightly infomercial” for Trump’s campaign.

    According to a previous Media Matters study, Hannity devoted far more airtime to interviews with Trump than with any of his 16 Republican presidential primary opponents. Just before dropping out of the race, Cruz complained that Rupert Murdoch and former network head Roger Ailes had “turned Fox News into the Donald Trump network.”

    New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg recently reported that, in addition to serving as “Trump’s biggest media booster,” Hannity has “for months peppered Mr. Trump, his family members and advisers with suggestions on strategy and messaging.” Hannity defended himself by telling the Times that he’s “never claimed to be a journalist” and that he is “not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States.”

    Hannity’s efforts to promote Trump's candidacy aren't ending anytime soon -- he’s slated to host the second half of a two-hour Trump town hall tonight.

    Methodology

    Media Matters used iQ Media to ascertain the monetary value of Donald Trump's appearances on Hannity from May 1, 2015-August 23, 2015. The study includes all original appearances in Hannity’s usual 10 p.m. EST time slot -- repeat and reaired appearances were counted if they aired on a new day between 6 a.m. and midnight (overnight reairings of Hannity were not included). Trump interviews during early morning post-debate Hannity specials were counted. Interviews with Hannity guest hosts and guest interviewers were included if they aired on the program.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko.

  • NRA’s Ted Nugent Makes “Vote For Donald Trump” Pitch: Hillary Clinton Is A “Lying Hypocrite Bitch”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent urged his supporters to vote for GOP nominee Donald Trump in a racially charged rant that labeled Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton a “lying hypocrite bitch.”

    In a August 24 post on his Facebook page, Nugent claimed that gun-related homicides “are largely the result of recidivistic, gangster, ‘black lives don’t matter’ punks killing other recidivistic gangster, ‘black lives don’t matter’ punks.”

    “Not you. Not me. Leave us the hell alone!” Nugent added.

    In fact, according to an analysis of a Centers for Disease Control study, “more than 80 percent of gun homicides are non-gang related.”

    Nugent then downplayed the danger to the public posed by assault weapons, ignoring their ubiquitous involvement in public mass shootings, before calling Clinton a “Scammaster lying hypocrite bitch.” He concluded his post by writing, “Vote for Donald Trump and make America Great Again”:

    This year Nugent has called for Clinton, along with President Obama, to be hanged for treason and also shared a fake video of Clinton being shot to death, writing, “I got your guncontrol right here bitch!”

    Both the NRA and Nugent have endorsed Trump for president. 

  • Jorge Ramos Urges Fellow Journalists Not To “Stay Silent On Donald Trump”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Jorge Ramos, one of Hispanic media’s most prominent journalists, is asking the media not to “stay silent on Donald Trump” and to avoid “hid[ing] in the principle of neutrality.”

    Ramos has had a tenuous relationship with the Republican presidential nominee, which has highlighted Trump’s problem with Hispanic media.  In June 2015, Trump responded to an interview request from Ramos by publishing the anchor’s personal contact information on social media. Following that, Ramos was ejected from a Trump event after challenging the candidate, and more recently, Trump sent the anchor a “personal” letter with a bumper sticker and a donation request. Ramos and other Univision journalists have expressed their concern regarding Trump’s confrontational relationship with the media, pointing out how it’s similar in style to dictatorial regimes in Latin America.

    In an August 23 piece in Time magazine, the Univision and Fusion anchor notes that, “when it comes to racism, discrimination, corruption, public lies, dictatorships and the violation of human rights,” media have to “take a stand” and realize that “providing both points of view is not enough.” Ramos criticized Trump for questioning “judge Gonzalo Curiel’s capacity to rule in a case” “simply because of his Hispanic ethnicity” and for his statements on “the silence of a Muslim-American woman” who had lost her son in Iraq,  and notes that “Judgement day is coming” for journalists “who stay silent on Donald Trump.” From the August 23 article:

    It doesn’t matter who you are—a journalist, a politician or a voter—we’ll all be judged by how we responded to Donald Trump. Like it or not, this election is a plebiscite on the most divisive, polarizing and disrupting figure in American politics in decades. And neutrality is not an option.

    [...]

    Trump has forced journalists to revisit rules of objectivity and fairness. Just providing both points of view is not enough in the current presidential campaign. If a candidate is making racist and sexist remarks, we cannot hide in the principle of neutrality. That’s a false equivalence.

    Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite were right; sometimes you have to take a stand. They did it against the dangerous persecutions of Senator Joe McCarthy and in denouncing the pernicious official spin during the worst years of the Vietnam War.

    Donald Trump’s candidacy has created the same moral dilemma and sense of urgency. So, yes, when it comes to racism, discrimination, corruption, public lies, dictatorships and the violation of human rights, we have to take a stand.

    [...]

    There have been two crucial moments in which even Trump supporters couldn’t defend their own candidate: when he questioned judge Gonzalo Curiel’s capacity to rule in a case in which he was involved simply because of his Hispanic ethnicity and when he criticized the silence of a Muslim-American woman, Ghazala Khan, who had lost her son, a U.S. soldier, in the Iraq war. Those moments proved to be too much even for the most loyal party members.

    [...]

    Even Trump’s jokes aren’t funny. He suggested that “Second Amendment people” do something about Hillary Clinton (which he later insisted was an attempt to motivate them to the polls, not assassinate her). He claimed his multiple comments accusing President Barack Obama of founding ISIS were “sarcastic.”

    Trump, really, is no laughing matter. But he could be the next president. That’s how democracy works.

    Judgment day is coming. Will you have peace of mind come November 9th?

  • NY Times Editorial Board Calls Out Texas Attorney General’s “Legal Assaults” On Transgender Equality

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    The New York Times' editorial board criticized Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s recent “bigot[ed]” attacks on transgender people that are based on the “specious” right-wing myth that nondiscrimination protections for transgender people threaten others’ safety.

    On August 23, Paxton filed a lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services seeking to overturn a section of the Affordable Care Act that bars discrimination against transgender people in health insurance and by health providers accepting federal funds. In May, Paxton led another lawsuit challenging the education and justice departments’ joint guidance directing all public schools to provide transgender students with access to sex-segregated facilities, such as restrooms and locker rooms, that are consistent with a student’s gender identity.

    In an August 24 editorial, the Times’ editorial board slammed Paxton for his continued attacks on transgender equality. The board noted that Paxton’s team actively “encouraged” a school district to adopt an anti-transgender policy -- even though “there was no controversy surrounding transgender students” in the district-- because the state’s lawyers knew a case there would be assigned to a favorable judge. The board called out Paxton’s lawsuits for being “based on bigotry” and the “specious claim that” transgender protections “pose a threat to the safety of others,” a debunked talking point peddled by anti-LGBT extremists and right-wing media outlets and figures that the Times’ editorial board has repeatedly called out.

    From the editorial:

    Just days after the federal Department of Education in May issued sensible antidiscrimination guidelines for accommodating transgender students, Texas’ attorney general, Ken Paxton, set out to challenge them.

    His team reached out to tiny school districts in North Texas to persuade them to adopt policies that would require transgender students to use bathrooms according to the gender on their birth certificates — which would put them at odds with the Education Department’s new transgender guidelines. Those guidelines direct educators to investigate harassment of transgender students promptly; to use pronouns and names consistent with a student’s gender identity; and to allow transgender students to use restrooms based on their gender identity.

    [...]

    Zeroing in on North Texas, the attorney general’s office encouraged the Harrold Independent School District to adopt an anti-transgender bathroom policy. The choice of district was no accident. Though there was no controversy surrounding transgender students in Harrold, the state’s lawyers knew that any case challenging the federal policy brought there would be assigned to Judge Reed O’Connor of the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

    [...]

    Judge O’Connor on Sunday issued a preliminary injunction that prohibits the Education Department from enforcing its guidelines nationwide. In a 38-page order, he barred the federal government from taking enforcement action against discriminatory policies or practices.

    The ruling, which the Justice Department is expected to appeal, may lead educators around the country to question whether they need to follow the Education Department’s transgender guidelines as the new school year starts. They would be wrong not to; the rules provide a common-sense approach that makes harassment and stigmatization of transgender students less likely.

    Meanwhile, Mr. Paxton is determined to block another important protection for transgender people. On Tuesday, his office filed a new lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services over a regulatory change that sought to expand access to medical care for transgender Americans. This case, too, has been assigned to Judge O’Connor.

    These legal assaults on equal protection for transgender Americans are based on bigotry and the specious claim that they pose a threat to the safety of others. The toll exacted on this vulnerable population is heavy and will remain so as these cases and other litigation involving transgender laws move through the courts.

  • As One Murdoch Company Struggles With Sexual Harassment Allegations, Another Murdoch Publication Debates Marital Rape

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The sexism in Rupert Murdoch’s world continues: Even as the media mogul’s Fox News Channel is facing a torrent of sexual harassment charges, mostly directed at former CEO Roger Ailes, a website Murdoch owns posted a debate over the existence of marital rape.

    Murdoch owns News Corp, which launched Heat Street in February, a digital media site catered toward “center-right and conservative audiences.” On August 14, Heat Street posted a debate about marital rape between its own Louise Mensch, a former Conservative member of Parliament in the U.K., and Vox Day, a white nationalist blogger and WorldNetDaily columnist.

    Vox Day, otherwise known as Theodore Robert Beale, has previously rejected the notion that America is a “melting pot” and advocated for returning to a “traditional white Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture” through ethnic cleansing.

    In the debate, Heat Street head Mensch took the position that marital rape can exist in certain situations, when a spouse has clearly said “no.” Vox Day claimed that the only way to “withdraw [sexual] consent from marriage is to divorce.” Drawing some pushback from Mensch, Day argued that giving permanent consent in marriage is the same as signing up for the military, arguing, “You don’t get to withdraw your consent and say, ‘You know what, sergeant? I don’t feel like going out running today. I’m withdrawing my consent.’” From the debate, posted on August 14 (emphasis original):

    Vox Day: Yeah, I think it’s quite obvious that it’s not even possible for there to be anything that we describe as rape within marriage. I find it remarkable that someone would try and claim that it is beyond debate when this new concept of marital rape is not only very, very new but is in fact not even applicable to most of the human race. It’s very clear, for example, in India it’s part of the written law that it’s not possible for, even if force is involved, there cannot be rape between a man and a woman. In China the law is the same.

    LM: Mm-hmm (affirmative) but there’s a difference between saying what the law is and saying what is morally right. You would agree that just because somebody says something is a law doesn’t make it so. Let’s just start with that basic principle.

    Vox: There’s huge difference between morality and legality. I’d be the first to agree with that. The fact of the matter is that the concept of marital rape hangs on consent and because marriage is and has always granted consent, the act of marriage is a granting of consent, therefore it’s not possible for the consent to be withdrawn and then for rape to happen. In fact, the concept of marital rape is created by the cultural Marxists in an attempt to destroy the family and to destroy the institution of marriage.

    LM: I’m going to say that that’s patent nonsense. If you consent to something once it doesn’t mean that you’ve given a blanket consent to it forever. We agree on the definition of rape – that rape is when one party forces sex on the other without their consent?

    Vox: Yes.

    LM: Good. We go that far. Your argument then hinges on the statement that to get married is to give an all time consent forever to sex with your spouse?

    Vox: Exactly. It’s no different than when you join the army. You only have to join the army once. You don’t get the choice to consent to obey orders every single time an order is given. In certain arrangements, and marriage is one of them, the agreement is a lasting one and that’s why it’s something that should not be entered into lightly.

    […]

    Vox: The only way that you can withdraw consent from marriage is to divorce.

    LM: Who says?

    Vox: That that was even settled under the English common law that if you were to say no at any time that was effectively equivalent to a demand for a divorce.

    […]

    Vox: Where is the line drawn?

    LM: It’s simple. It’s quite simple. The line is drawn very, very simply. If the woman says no and means no and I’m going to infer the wrath of eleventy billion feminists by saying there is a problem and all women know it with the no means no standard because quite often you can laugh, you can giggle, you can say, “No, come on” and you don’t mean no and it’s quite obvious from your tone and demeanor. I’m postulating where a woman has clearly said no, clearly meant it, she feels ill, has just had a huge fight with the man, and any number of such very obvious situations. The woman has said at that moment, even though they regularly have sex as a couple, she does not want to have sex and he forces himself upon her. That is clearly rape and it doesn’t take away from the fact that she has an obligation in general to have sex with him and he with her. When you extrapolate that from every single time he feels like it, I see no justification in your argument so far for that leap.

    Vox: Because there has to be a reliable standard. You’re going to have to draw a line at some point between it’s never okay and it’s always okay. There is no line and in fact the way that we know that marital rape is bad law is because virtually no one is ever prosecuted under it. It’s interesting.  

    The debate came as 21st Century Fox’s Fox News Channel, another Murdoch-owned company, is facing sexual harassment claims. Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed a "sexual harassment/retaliation" lawsuit against former CEO Ailes, who has a long history of sexist behavior, in July. Since then, 20 women have reportedly come forward to allege sexual harassment by Ailes.

    On August 22, former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros also filed a lawsuit against Fox News and Ailes. Tantaros’ complaint alleges that her “tenure at Fox News devolved into a nightmare of sexual harassment by Ailes, Fox News’s then-President, and others, followed by retaliation by Ailes and others despite multiple ongoing complaints by Tantaros.”

  • The New York Times And Trump’s Loopy Note From His Doctor

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Donald Trump

    With Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his media surrogates making unfounded allegations about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s mental and physical well-being and demanding she release more medical records, The New York Times recently addressed the issue of candidate health. In a story headlined "Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Ages 68 and 70, Share Few Health Details," the newspaper claimed that both Trump and Clinton “have been more secretive and selective than many recent presidential nominees in providing up-to-date details about their personal health.”

    The Times article quickly conceded that Trump has been less forthcoming than Clinton. But it’s wildly misguided to suggest Trump and Clinton have treated the issue of medical disclosures in a remotely similar fashion. Yes, each candidate has released a letter from his or her personal doctor evaluating the candidate’s current health. But it’s fantasy to pretend that the two doctors’ letters are comparable.

    And that’s where the Times examination really stumbled, by trying to take seriously the dubious letter from Trump’s doctor that was released last December -- a letter that has been widely derided as a joke. “It purports to be a medical letter, but it is one of the most ridiculous documents ever to emerge in any political campaign,” Kurt Eichenwald recently wrote for Newsweek.

    So committed was the paper to the narrative that both Clinton and Trump were hiding their medical past, the Times ignored the real story: Trump has released no verifiable information about his medical history. None. Because to date, Trump’s only medical release is his very weird doctor’s letter, which remains a completely useless document.

    The brief, vague letter was released 11 days after Trump vowed in December to make public a “full medical report” about his physical health and fitness to serve as president. He bragged that the medical report would “show perfection.”

    To date, there’s been no medical report, just the weird, uninformative letter penned by Dr. Harold N. Bornstein.

    Accentuated by typos -- including a very odd “To Whom My Concern” salutation -- and featuring a website URL that doesn’t work, Trump’s four-paragraph medical letter was filled with strange terms like “astonishingly excellent,” which convey no medical meaning.  

    Dr. Jennifer Gunter dissected the Trump letter for The Huffington Post, noting that doctors "just don't typically write vague, quasi-medical things in letters. ... I would never write anything this terrible for a jury duty excuse or a back to work note. ... It’s medically illiterate.”

    At one point, Trump’s doctor boasted that the Republican nominee’s “physical strength and stamina are extraordinary.” But the doctor never explained how he measured Trump’s stamina and strength. Bornstein also claimed Trump had lost “at least fifteen pounds” in the previous year, but he never listed the candidate’s current weight.

    Another gaping hole, as noted by Eichenwald:

    The letter from the Trump campaign mentions nothing about family history, as any normal letter assessing someone’s medical condition would. (Clinton’s does.) Family history is critical in understanding possible diseases that may emerge, particularly those with a genetic link. Trump’s father, Fred Trump, died from complications of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

    Meanwhile, Bornstein in the letter says he’s been treating Trump for decades. But note that the physician is a gastroenterologist, a doctor who treats digestive tract problems. If Trump is in such “astonishingly excellent” health, why has he been going to see a gastroenterologist for nearly half his life? (Clinton’s letter of medical evaluation was written by Lisa Bardack, director of internal medicine in the Mount Sinai Health System at CareMount Medical.)

    None of it makes any sense, which is why the Trump letter has been widely derided as a joke. Yet this week the Times opted to treat the letter as legitimate in an effort to portray Trump and Clinton as equally secretive.

    The truth is, Clinton has released about as much medical information as President Obama did when he ran for president in 2008. By contrast, Trump has released only a baffling, useless document from his gastroenterologist. “The letter provides essentially no medical information,” wrote Gunter.

    The Times is right that there is a candidate in this race who’s being “more secretive and selective” about releasing medical information. But it’s not Clinton.

  • After John McCain Told A Few Jokes, Politico Declared The Return Of The “Straight Talk Express”

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    John McCain

    Politico’s report on Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) re-election fight could not have been more flattering to the candidate if his press staff had authored it.

    Based on attending a single day of events with McCain, Politico published an August 23 story headlined “The return of ‘Straight Talk’ McCain” that claimed that, at least for that day, he was again “the loose, accessible, happy warrior of Straight Talk Express yesteryear” and was “at ease on the trail” while “running what might be his last campaign in vintage plainspoken style.”

    The fawning article relayed anecdotes from reporter Burgess Everett’s travel to a series of McCain campaign events that day. Readers learn that McCain told several jokes over the course of the day, that he was “relaxed enough to kid around about ethnic jokes” during one event and told a light joke at Everett’s expense at another. Everett also reported that McCain criticized Congress and President Obama, and that when asked about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, the “straight-talker” first dodged the question before eventually saying,“I believe we should do everything we can as Republicans to steer Mr. Trump in the right direction.”

    Somehow the article never mentioned that McCain has endorsed Trump. And despite the paeans to the “plainspoken” McCain, it never found space to bring up how the senator hemmed and hawed his way through a stammering nonanswer after being asked earlier this month if he is comfortable with his choice for president of the United States controlling the nuclear arsenal:

    The Straight Talk Express is back! Congrats to the senator’s campaign press operation.

    Thanks to an intensive, decades-long effort to cultivate the press, McCain has received an unearned reputation from reporters as a maverick and a straight-talker, as detailed in Media Matters’ 2008 book, Free Ride: John McCain and the Media. Yet after his words and actions make clear that he is a Republican like any other, the press regularly finds ways to declare that the “old” McCain is “back.”

     
  • In The Name Of Optics, Beltway Press Renews Its War On The Clinton Foundation

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    This Sunday’s New York Times front page delivered a curious pair of campaign bookends when the newspaper presented what it framed as problematic reports for both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

    In the Trump dispatch, the Times detailed how the businesses run by the self-described billionaire are mired in at least $650 million of debt, and stressed “how much of Mr. Trump’s business remains shrouded in mystery.” For a candidate running on his supposed commerce wizardry, the report was highly damaging.

    As for that day’s Clinton campaign woes? According to the Times’ front page, the troubles come in the form of the Clinton family’s global charity: “Foundation Ties Bedevil Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Campaign.”

    The newspaper was never able to explain how the issue was bedeviling or sidelining her campaign, considering her White House run boasts some of the largest summertime presidential leads in decades, but the Times was sure that “the funding of the sprawling philanthropy has become an Achilles’ heel for her campaign.” 

    Republicans have echoed the spin in recent days, and dialed it up to 11. Trump called for a special prosecutor to investigate the foundation’s supposed criminal ways, and Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani suggested the charity be indicted as a “racketeering enterprise.” 

    Is it possible a charity could emerge as bad news, or represent bad optics, for a presidential candidate? Certainly. For instance, if a politician is connected to a foundation that’s been caught ripping people off, siphoning off contributions, or misleading donors about the work being done. But none of that applies to the uniquely transparent Clinton Foundation. (See here for helpful context that’s usually overlooked in Beltway press coverage.)

    The charity represents a thriving philanthropic operation that assists people around the world, while brandishing esteemed charitable credentials. It’s a charity that’s helped more than nine million people get lower-cost HIV/AIDS medicine, and a foundation that also tries to improve global health and fights against economic inequalitychildhood obesity, and climate change.

    And it’s a charity that boasts an “A” rating (the frequent conservative refrain that the foundation spends 85 percent of its budget on "overhead" represents a lazy smear).

    That’s what the Times dubs Clinton’s “Achilles' heel”? It’s almost like someone posed a collective challenge to the press: Try to turn landmark charitable giving into a bad-news story for the Clintons. (Boy, have they tried.)

    How did we get to this absurd place -- to this absurd disconnect -- where the press depicts a wildly successful and transparent charity as some sort of ominous web of political deceit supposedly drenched in shadowy payments? And why do optics trump humanitarianism when it comes to the Clinton endeavors? 

    This truly does feel like a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation. Keep in mind, when the Clintons left the White House in January 2001, they could have chosen virtually any path they wanted. But they didn’t start a hedge fund, they don’t speculate on real estate, and they’re not charging $800 an hour as D.C. lawyers or lobbyists. They founded a charity. (And yes, they give speeches.)

    The Clintons in recent days have taken steps to address what would be clear conflicts of interests with the foundation if she were elected president. The Clinton family announced the foundation would stop accepting money from foreign donors. Also, after the election the charity will seek out partners to absorb much of the foundation’s work, leaving it dramatically smaller in size and scope.

    Still, the media’s latest hand-wringing foundation pile-on (i.e. shut it down!) represents a textbook example of the press joining forces with Republicans to push talking points about the Clintons and dubious ‘scandals.’ Eventually after much chasing and little success, the press usually retreats and presents the supposedly scandalous affair as bad optics, or complains that it raises troubling questions.

    In the last two years, the Times and Washington Post have published more than 200 articles about the Clinton Foundation, according to Nexis. I’m guessing if there were any blockbuster revelations to be found, we’d know about them by now.

    Like the endlessly monotonous email pursuit, the press long ago lost sight of what the actual Clinton Foundation wrongdoing was supposed to be. Last year, the overexcited headlines insisted foundation donors had influenced Clinton while she served as secretary of state, to the point where she altered U.S. policy to please fat cat supporters.

    But that’s never been proven to be true. Not even close.  (Time has conceded, “The suggestion of outside influence over U.S. decision-making is based on little evidence.”)

    Those allegations of heavy-handed influence peddling and favor-granting have faded and now, at least this week, the supposed foundation ‘scandal’ revolves around how meetings at the State Department were scheduled by Clinton aides. Talk about a major downgrade.

    Like clockwork, the press is treating as very big, and troubling, news the Associated Press report from Tuesday, which claims that of the non-government workers and foreign representatives Clinton met with or phoned with as secretary of state, 85 of them were Clinton donors. The implication being that if you gave to the foundation you were then granted special access to the State Department.

    Even if the contact between donors produced no wrongdoing (and there’s no suggestion it did), “it’s the number” of meetings that is causing Clinton “some heartburn,” according to CBS News.

    But why? Clinton ran the State Department for approximately 1,400 days and during that time she met or phoned 85 people who have donated to the Clinton Foundation. Why is that supposed to be scandalous? The AP also omitted key context, such as how many of those donors gave to the foundation years before anyone knew Clinton would become secretary of state? And how many of those donors were also granted meetings with previous Republican administration secretaries of state?

    We don’t know. Instead, we’re left with breathless reporting about how meetings were scheduled at the State Department. That’s the controversy. Talk about the ultimate process story.

    Yet incredibly, it’s the Clintons’ charity success that still warrants long-running, and often microscopic, coverage. It’s the Clinton Foundation that raises ‘troubling questions,’ not the fact that Donald Trump lies about his charitable giving.

    Note: If Hillary Clinton bragged about giving tens of millions of dollars to charities but only actually gave $10,000 of her own money, the way Trump apparently did, the outraged D.C. press corps would denounce her for days and all but demand she drop out of the race.

    But the foreign funding!, cries the press. The possible conflicts of interest! It’s all so uniquely Clinton-esque we’re told.

    But is it? As David Corn noted in Mother Jones last year:

    Anyone who wanted to gain favor with the Bush clan while George W. Bush was president could have anonymously donated an unlimited amount of money to his father’s foundation, and now that Jeb Bush is in the hunt, anyone looking to fashion a relationship with the Bushes can contribute millions to either of these Bush foundations and keep that connection a secret.

    So yes, the Bush family foundations can receive millions from foreign donors. And the Bush family foundations don’t reveal who the donors are. But it’s the Clinton Foundation that’s criticized in the press for disclosing all of its donors.

    Trying make sense of that pretzel logic. You can’t. It’s simply the press demanding there be a separate, higher, and often hysterical standard for the Clintons.

  • Muhammad Yunus Is A Decades-Long Clinton Friend And A Nobel Prize Winner. Donations Aren't Why She Met With Him.

    The "Scandal" Requires Reducing International Business And Non-Profit Leaders To "Clinton Foundation Donors"

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The Associated Press is reporting that “more than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money - either personally or through companies or groups - to the Clinton Foundation” and scandalizing the information as “an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.” That report is currently rocketing through the media.

    This level of media hysteria would make sense if favors were being granted to individuals because they were donors. But that speculation falls apart when the story gets down to specific cases, because many Clinton Foundation donors are internationally prominent figures in the business or non-profit worlds – the very sort of people one would expect to be meeting with a secretary of state in any administration.

    According to the AP’s review of State Department calendars released to the organization so far, covering roughly half of Clinton’s tenure at State, “[a]t least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs.”

    So who are these Clinton Foundation donors that the AP  notes met with Clinton? Famed Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus is one, and eleven paragraphs of the AP story detail meetings and interactions between the internationally known figure and Clinton and her staff over assistance he sought that was first reported last October.

    Yes, Yunus-controlled organizations have donated between $125,000 and $300,000 to the Clinton Foundation, mostly as annual fees to attend Clinton Global Initiative meetings. But it’s completely absurd to suggest that “Clinton Foundation donor” is a major part of Yunus’ identity, or the reason why he might command attention from the secretary of state.

    As the AP notes, Yunus “won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for pioneering low-interest ‘microcredit’ for poor business owners.” He is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He is incredibly well-credentialed and almost universally celebrated. According to the Financial Times, beginning in 2007, tensions began between Yunus and Bangladesh’s government when Yunus “suggested he might establish his own political party to clean up Bangladesh’s public life.” Yunus was ultimately forced out of his managing director position at Grameen Bank in 2011 just months after the prime minister publicly denigrated microlenders as “bloodsuckers of the poor.” During that period, Clinton repeatedly received requests for help from Yunus, spoke with him on the phone, and after he was ousted met with him and publicly urged the government to halt their efforts to “seize control of Grameen Bank's effort to find new leaders.”

    And this wasn’t Clinton’s first encounter with Yunus - the Clintons have ties to the economist that go back decades before the foundation even existed. They brought Yunus to Arkansas in 1983 to learn more about how microfinance could be used in the state, and Bill Clinton talked about his work during his 1992 presidential campaign.

    Politico’s Blake Hounshell pointed out the oddity of portraying Yunus as a “Clinton crony” rather than a victim deserving of Clinton’s aid:

    In addition to Yunus, here are the other people who met with Clinton detailed in the report:

    • S. Daniel Abraham, the “billionaire behind the Slim-Fast diet and founder of the Center for Middle East Peace.”
    • Stephen Schwarzman, chairman of the Blackstone Group, one of the largest private equity companies in the world, with a massive charitable giving arm to match.
    • Nancy Mahon “of the MAC AIDS, the charitable arm of MAC Cosmetics, which is owned by Estee Lauder,” whom the AP suggests met with Clinton to discuss “a State Department partnership to raise money to finance AIDS education and prevention.”
    • Estee Lauder CEO Fabrizio Freda, whose “company made a commitment to CGI in 2013 with four other organizations to help survivors of sexual slavery in Cambodia.”

    All are Clinton Foundation donors or work for organizations that have donated to the Clinton Foundation. But they are also exactly the sort of people you would expect to meet with any secretary of state. The suggestion of malfeasance only makes sense if you ignore any reason Clinton could have to meet with these individuals other than their status as donors to an international charity.