The House of Representatives

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  • How Incoming White House Staffer Julia Hahn Attacked Paul Ryan At Breitbart

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN & NINA MAST

    President Donald Trump is planning to hire Julia Hahn, a Breitbart.com staff writer, to serve in his administration, primarily under former Breitbart CEO and current White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon. Hahn, who has repeatedly criticized House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) while at Breitbart, is coming into the job as tensions are reportedly starting to cool between Ryan and Bannon.

  • STUDY: Major Wisconsin Newspapers Failed To Contextualize The Impact Of ACA Repeal

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Republicans are pushing forward with a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) leading the charge. The top Wisconsin newspapers have largely failed to convey the impact of repeal on Wisconsin residents on a variety of crucial metrics, with little to no mention of the impact on women and minority communities and insufficient contextualization of the potentially devastating changes to Medicare and Medicaid. 

  • Breitbart Admits Role As Trump Enforcer, Showing Why It Should Be Denied Congressional Press Credentials

    Breitbart Editor Says Republicans Should Fear The Website If They Cross Trump

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a Politico article detailing how President-elect Donald Trump’s “horde of enforcers” -- Breitbart.com listed prominently among them -- are scaring Republican lawmakers away from criticizing him, a Breitbart editor said Republicans are right to fear the right-wing website, which was previously run by Trump senior counselor Stephen Bannon. This admission from Breitbart that the outlet plans to support Trump, rather than objectively cover his incoming administration, further demonstrates that the website is not editorially independent enough to warrant permanent Capitol Hill press credentials.

    Breitbart applied for permanent Capitol Hill press credentials in November. Media Matters has objected to the request, urging members of the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery in an open letter to reject the request based on Breitbart’s disqualifying inability to demonstrate editorial independence from the Trump team as required by the committee's rules. Breitbart fails this standard in several ways, as several former members of the committee have acknowledged. In a December 21 Politico report headlined “Trump posse browbeats Hill Republicans,” Breitbart further demonstrates why the site must be disqualified from obtaining a permanent press pass by admitting that it will go after Trump’s Republican critics.

    From the Politico article (emphasis added):

    In early December, Rep. Bill Flores made what seemed like an obvious observation to a roomful of conservatives at a conference in Washington. Some of Donald Trump’s proposals, the Texas Republican cautioned, “are not going to line up very well with our conservative policies," though he quickly added that there was plenty the incoming president and GOP Congress could accomplish together. Little did Flores realize the hell that would soon rain down from Trump's throng of enforcers.

    Breitbart seized on Flores' remarks a few days later, calling them proof that House Republicans planned to “isolate and block President Donald Trump’s populist campaign promises.”

    [...]

    It’s little wonder that Capitol Hill Republicans have papered over their not-insignificant policy differences with Trump, shying away from any statement about the president-elect that might possibly be construed as critical. They’re terrified of arousing the ire of their tempestuous new leader — or being labeled a turncoat by his army of followers.

    It's a novel form of party message discipline that stems from Trump but doesn't necessarily require the president-elect to speak or tweet himself. Plenty of others are willing to do it for him. Since the election, numerous congressional Republicans have refused to publicly weigh in on any Trump proposal at odds with Republican orthodoxy, from his border wall to his massive infrastructure package. The most common reason, stated repeatedly but always privately: They're afraid of being attacked by Breitbart or other big-name Trump supporters. "Nobody wants to go first," said Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), who received nasty phone calls, letters and tweets after he penned an August op-ed in The New York Times, calling on Trump to release his tax returns. "People are naturally reticent to be the first out of the block for fear of Sean Hannity, for fear of Breitbart, for fear of local folks."

    An editor at Breitbart, formerly run by senior Trump adviser Steve Bannon, said that fear is well-founded.

    “If any politician in either party veers from what the voters clearly voted for in a landslide election … we stand at the ready to call them out on it and hold them accountable,” the person said.

  • House Benghazi Committee Shuts Down After Spending $7.8 Million Taxpayers Dollars In A Media Fueled Witch Hunt 

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    After two and a half years, the House Benghazi Committee has ended their right-wing media endorsed attempt to blame Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration for the deaths of four Americans during the 2012 attack on a temporary diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya.

    The House Select Committee on Benghazi was created in May 2014 “to form a 12-member committee to investigate the Obama administration’s handling of the 2012 attacks” after Fox News’ unrelenting coverage of the attack for two years despite a review by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and an independent report by the State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB) found no wrongdoing by the administration.

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton became the focal point of conservative media smears when the committee revealed that Clinton had been using a private email server during her time at the State Department. Right-wing media relentlessly attacked Clinton on the private server, repeatedly claiming released emails revealed Benghazi “smoking gun[s].” They didn’t.. Adding to the political nature of the committee was admissions by Republicans that the purpose of the investigation was to damage the likely Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton.

    After more than two years and $7.8 million dollars, the House Benghazi Committee shutdown. USA Today reported that while the House Benghazi Committee “accused the government of incompetence at various levels … the [final] report did not single out wrongdoing by then secretary of state Hillary Clinton.” And while Republicans on the committee called the investigation and the report a “‘final, definitive accounting’” of the attack, Democrats “contended all along that the committee was a political effort to taint Clinton”:

    WASHINGTON — The special congressional investigation into the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi is officially over now that the panel filed its final report the day before the House adjourned for the year.

    The Select Committee on Benghazi initially released its findings in June but remained in place for months afterward trying to declassify supporting documents like emails and interview transcripts for public release.

    The final report, not including dissenting views from committee Democrats, clocks in at more than 322,000 words. It was added to the official House record without fanfare on Dec. 7 by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., the panel’s chairman.

    The panel, which spent more than $7.8 million over two and a half years, disbanded at the end of the 114th Congress, before a new Congress begins in January.

    [...]

    Democrats contended all along that the committee was a political effort to taint Clinton, an allegation that got some traction when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told Fox News that because of the committee, "her numbers are dropping."

    The panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, said Monday that the final report was a “desperate rehash.”

    “Republicans voted on this partisan report five months ago, but delayed filing it and completing the committee until after the election,” Cummings said. “Republicans promised a process that was fair and bipartisan, but the American people got exactly the opposite.”

  • Breitbart’s Climate Science Misinformation Embraced By GOP-Led House Science Committee

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    On December 1, the House Science Committee -- chaired by climate science-denying “bully” Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) -- tweeted out a Breitbart.com article promoting false claims about climate science and castigating “climate alarmists”:

    The Breitbart article was written by James Delingpole, who has previously disparaged climate scientists at NASA, NOAA, and other respected institutions as “talentless low-lives who cannot be trusted." In the article, Delingpole claimed: “Global land temperatures have plummeted by one degree Celsius since the middle of this year – the biggest and steepest fall on record. But the news has been greeted with an eerie silence by the world’s alarmist community.”

    As purported evidence, Delingpole cited an article by David Rose in the British tabloid Daily Mail. But Rose’s article is based on egregious cherry-picking, as climate blogger Tamino explains:

    [Rose] wants you to think that the worldwide heating we’ve seen for decades now has somehow, magically, come to an end … that it has shown some kind of “pause.” To give that impression, he had to search far and wide for one set of data from which he can cherry-pick one span of time in which he can focus on one recent event, so he can blame this year’s record-breaking heat on something other than mankind and our greenhouse-gas emissions. Thanks to the many many organizations that publish climate data, there are lots and lots and lots of data sets to choose from … so it’s no surprise he found one.

    [...]

    It’s global average temperature, not for Earth’s surface where we live, but for the lower layer of the atmosphere … not for the whole world, but for the land areas only … and it’s not all the data, it leaves out the part David Rose doesn’t want you to see.

    [...]

    Data like this, in fact almost all data, are a combination of trend — the long-term pattern that actually has some persistence — and fluctuation — the short-term ups and downs that are only temporary. And there are fluctuations. Plenty. They go up and down and down and up, but never really get anywhere.

    It’s abundantly obvious, resoundingly unambiguous, completely clear, and pretty simple, that when it comes to climate what matters is the trend, not the fluctuations. For climate deniers, what’s abundantly obvious, resoundingly unambiguous, and completely clear is what they want to avoid. Because it’s so simple, they have to bend over backwards to distract you from it. Like David Rose did.

    Breitbart has a long track record of blatant climate science misinformation, and is even considered a go-to outlet for academics who are bought off by the fossil fuel industry. So the decision by the Republican-led House Science Committee to approvingly cite Breitbart on climate change is ill-advised, to put it mildly. Indeed, it prompted a quick response from Democratic committee member Mark Takano (D-CA), who tweeted: “If Republicans on the House Science Committee are getting their science news from Breitbart, that would explain a great deal.”

    Republican committee chairman Lamar Smith, a climate science denier who has taken over $770,000 in career campaign contributions from the oil and gas and electric utility industries, has a track record of harassing and falsely attacking climate scientists -- just like Breitbart does. So it should come as no surprise that Smith has written his fair share of op-eds for Breitbart.

  • Media Outlets Oversell -- Then Walk Back -- Headlines On FBI’s Clinton Email Announcement

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER

    Media outlets were quick to follow the lead of Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who claimed that a letter from FBI Director James Comey indicated that the FBI had “reopened” its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. However, as the facts started to trickle in, outlets scrambled to walk back their headlines to more accurately portray the information.

    This afternoon, Comey released a letter to congressional leaders stating, “In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” and “I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation.” Comey noted that he was not sure how long the review will take and the FBI “cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant.”

    Media outlets were quick to blast out the story mostly running with Chaffetz’s framing, that a new investigation surrounding Clinton was being conducted -- with several having to walk back their headlines as it became clear that the story was significantly less dramatic.

    The Washington Post’s report was initially headlined “FBI to conduct new investigation of emails from Clinton’s private server.” 

    The article was subsequently updated with the new headline “FBI to take new ‘investigative steps’ on Clinton emails.” 

    The Post wasn’t the only media organization fooled. Politico’s initial tweet stated “#BREAKING: FBI reopens @HillaryClinton email server investigation.”

    But the current headline on the Politico article states “FBI reviewing new evidence in Clinton email probe.” 

    CNN.com also sent some mixed signals, with the front page reading “FBI reopens Clinton email probe,” the breaking news banner reading “The FBI is reopening the investigation into Clinton’s personal email server,” and the article headlined “FBI reviewing new emails in classified information probe.” 

    As Politico’s Hadas Gold noted, because Rep. Chaffetz claimed that the FBI was reopening the case, there was mass confusion in the reporting after the fact, leading outlets to run with headlines that didn’t reflect reality. 

  • Journalists Criticize Outlets Who Ignored FBI Letter And Ran With Republican Congressman’s Spin

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    After some media outlets ran with a misleading story that the FBI planned to examine new evidence associated with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s email server, numerous reporters and media figures criticized the initial coverage for using Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s (R-UT) spin rather than the actual letter from FBI Director James Comey, which said only that new emails “pertinent”  to the investigation had been discovered and will be assessed. 

  • Breitbart News Claims Paul Ryan Wants To Elect Clinton And Shares Her “Globalist Worldview”

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Breitbart News accused House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) of conducting a “months-long campaign” to elect Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The attack echoes Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric and escalates the website’s war on Ryan, which had been pushed by Breitbart chief executive and current Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon.

    The October 21 Breitbart News article, written by Julia Hahn, is headlined “He’s With Her: Inside Paul Ryan’s Months-Long Campaign To Elect Hillary Clinton President.” Hahn wrote, "Both Ryan and Clinton share a progressive, globalist worldview, which is at odds with Trump’s ‘America first’ approach,” adding that Clinton and Ryan “see themselves as representatives not only for American citizens, but also for foreign nationals and foreign interests.” She later states that “Both Clinton and Ryan view being American as an intellectual ‘idea’ rather than a national identity, and both support the donor-class’s agenda of open borders.”

    The article ramps up Breitbart’s years-long campaign against Ryan, which was pushed by Bannon. The website in particular boosted the unsuccessful campaign of Ryan’s opponent in the Republican primary earlier this year, calling Ryan a “double agent,” claiming he supports an “open borders agenda,” accusing him of running “misleading television ads,” and describing him as a “saboteur” who is “betray[ing] America.”

    Breitbart staffers have also said that Bannon directed them to “destroy” Ryan, telling them in December 2015 that the “long game” was for Ryan to be “gone” by spring of the following year. One Breitbart staffer told The Hill that Bannon “thinks Paul Ryan is part of a conspiracy with [billionaires] George Soros and Paul Singer, in which elitists want to bring one world government.”

    Bannon’s conflict with Ryan has continued through Trump’s campaign (Bannon has taken a leave of absence from Breitbart to help lead the campaign). Ryan recently irritated Trump by disinviting him from a campaign event after a video of Trump bragging about assaulting women was released, and then Ryan announced he would no longer defend Trump and would focus on preserving the Republican majority in the House. In response, Trump has called Ryan a “very weak and ineffective leader” who is giving him “zero support.” The Breitbart article also is similar to Trump’s expressed doubt that Ryan wants him to win. After ABC News asked Trump whether he thought Ryan was rooting for him to win, he responded, “Well, maybe not, because maybe he wants to run in four years or maybe he doesn’t know how to win.”

    Breitbart’s article may also be a preview of what’s to come. According to The Hill’s Jonathan Swan, Bannon is “only going to escalate” the conflict with Ryan, who may seek reelection to the speakership in January, regardless of the 2016 election results.

  • Wash Post: Breitbart News, InfoWars Are "Ready To Claim" The GOP's Future

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Though the presidential election is barreling toward its end, the “axis of furious conservative activists and hard-right media that spawned Trump’s nationalist and conspiratorial campaign is determined to complete its hostile takeover of the GOP, win or lose,” writes The Washington Post’s Robert Costa. According to Costa, conservative media figures like Breitbart News’ Stephen Bannon, InfoWars’ Alex Jones, and Fox News’ Sean Hannity have spawned a “grievance movement” seeking “to claim the [GOP’s] future as its own,” whose likely “first post-election target” will be House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).

    Trump and far-right media have been in lockstep throughout his presidential campaign: Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, is Trump’s campaign chairman; Jones, a 9/11 truther who leads the conspiracy website InfoWars, feeds Trump conspiracy theories for campaign speeches; and Hannity, the far-right prime-time pundit on Fox, has gone to all lengths possible to defend and praise Trump. Trump’s engagement with hard-right, conspiratorial media figures has elevated and mainstreamed them, offering them a platform that has long been out of reach.

    On October 20, Costa reported in the Post that “the fringes of the GOP [are] now managing the Republican nominee” and that the party’s “Donald Trump-driven divisions will not cease on election night.” Costa wrote that the conservative media network -- which has seen “high-minded journals and Fox News … supplanted by a galaxy of websites such as Infowars” -- “stands ready to claim the party’s future as its own,” setting the stage for an intra-party showdown “that will haunt Republicans for months and years to come.” From the October 20 Washington Post article: 

    The axis of furious conservative activists and hard-right media that spawned Trump’s nationalist and conspiratorial campaign is determined to complete its hostile takeover of the GOP, win or lose.

    [...]

    The first post-election target for the grievance movement is likely to be House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who has drawn Trump’s wrath for not supporting him more fully. Trump’s backers, both inside the House Republican caucus and out, are already talking about a takedown.

    Fox News host and Trump ally Sean Hannity said in an interview after the debate that Ryan was a “saboteur” and “needed to be called out and replaced.” Hannity said he would actively urge hard-line conservatives to launch bids against Ryan.

    [...]

    At the fore of this conglomeration is Stephen K. Bannon, the former head of Breitbart who has become Trump’s most influential confidant. Bannon encouraged the candidate’s claims of voter fraud and references to a deeply corrupt global conspiracy of international banks and corporate-friendly politicians.

    Bannon has been a prominent backer of political assaults against Ryan and other Republican leaders over the past decade from the party’s fringes — boosting primary challengers against Ryan and others, and warning against compromise on hot-button issues such as immigration. But with the fringes of the GOP now managing the Republican nominee, a retreat is far from likely.

    Bannon’s friends say that he has become emboldened during his time with Trump, and that they expect him to work with his network of allies, super PACs and websites to battle Ryan and the Republican establishment throughout 2017 as that wing of the party tries to rebuild the GOP brand.

    [...]

    It is not just Breitbart that stands ready to claim the party’s future as its own. The conservative media, once dominated by high-minded journals and Fox News, has been supplanted by a galaxy of websites such as Infowars, which is led by Alex Jones, who calls the 9/11 terrorists attacks an inside job.

    Articles on those outlets have found their way into Trump’s speeches and been spread widely across platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, often building into a frenzy that leaves traditional GOP messengers unable to shape the consensus within their own party.