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  • Media Freak Out At FBI Letter, Disregard Facts And Run With GOP's False Description Of Clinton Email Review

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) 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, triggering a media firestorm. But Comey’s letter says no such thing, and according to CBS News, it’s “premature” and “going too far” to say the investigation has been “reopened.”

    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 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.”

    In other words, all the FBI has announced is that they have found new emails that “appear” related to their investigation and may contain classified information and they are looking at them, but as of yet they don’t even know if the emails are significant.

    Rep. Chaffetz, who serves as the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, announced “case reopened” around the time Comey’s letter became public:

    Chaffetz’s spin doesn’t come as a surprise. In an interview with The Washington Post this week, he announced plans to launch years of investigations in the event Clinton is elected president, telling the paper in an interview, “Even before we get to Day One, we’ve got two years’ worth of material already lined up. She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain’t good.”

    Chaffetz’s spin has triggered an avalanche of breathless coverage. Many news outlets quickly reported that the FBI had “reopened” their investigation, including Politico, Fox News, NPR, USA Today, among others. All three cable news networks have covered the story non-stop since it broke, often adopting the “re-opening” framing and suggesting the news is a major election bombshell. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump himself subsequently echoed that language, adding that Clinton’s actions were “worse than Watergate.”

    But despite the coverage that echoed Rep. Chaffetz’s characterization of Comey’s letter, CBS Justice/Homeland Security correspondent Jeff Pegues reported that sources told him that it was both “premature” and “going too far” to declare that the investigation had been reopened. (While Pegues delivered his report, CBS on-screen text declared “Clinton Investigation Reopened.”

    On MSNBC Live, NBC Justice Department correspondent Pete Williams reported that Comey’s July announcement that there would be no charges in the case effectively concluded the case but there are remaining “evidentiary matters” to be resolved before it can be considered fully closed.

    But Williams noted that if the review is pertaining to the amount of classified emails sent, it would not change the earlier determination that a chargeable offense had not occurred. Williams also reported that “senior officials” have told him that it doesn’t appear that the Clintons, the Clinton campaign or the State Department had failed to hand over emails to the FBI and that the agency had found them some other way.

  • Right-Wing Media Fail Occam’s Razor Test In Continued Push To Scandalize McAuliffe PAC Donation

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    After initially failing to scandalize a Wall Street Journal story about political donations made by Clinton ally and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) political action committee (PAC) to the wife of an FBI official, conservative media are trying to revive the story. Now they’re trying to hype flawed, speculative allegations of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s alleged role in the fundraising for McAuliffe’s PAC in hopes of undermining the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s emails.

    In an October 23 article titled “Clinton Ally Aided Campaign of FBI Official’s Wife,” the Journal reported, “The political organization of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, an influential Democrat with longstanding ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton, gave nearly $500,000 to the election campaign of the wife of an official at the Federal Bureau of Investigation who later helped oversee the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s email use.” The piece implied that the McAuliffe PAC’s donation may have influenced FBI official Andrew McCabe, who is married to the donation’s recipient, Jill McCabe, in his later investigation of Clinton’s email use.

    Not only did journalists deride the piece’s flimsy, “embarrassing” claim, but the Journal’s own reporting also failed to support the idea that there was any impropriety by McAuliffe or McCabe. Indeed, other media outlets noted that “there’s literally nothing” to the story, both because “the timing is complicated if you’re trying to prove a Clinton email connection” and because “McAuliffe’s support of Jill McCabe was part of a much broader effort at the time to try to win back a Democratic majority in the state Senate.”

    That didn’t stop right-wing media figures from hyping the “appearance of impropriety” and claiming that McAuliffe “acted as a bag man to pay off people sniffing around Hillary’s emails.”

    After briefly piercing into the mainstream media current, the toothless story seemed to fade away, until the Daily Mail reported on October 28 that “Clinton headlined a major fundraiser” for McAuliffe’s PAC “before the group steered nearly $500,000 to” Jill McCabe. The paper suggested that Clinton’s involvement in the fundraiser again “raise[s] questions about the impartiality of the FBI's investigation.”

    But just as the initial Journal story fell apart under scrutiny of the timeline -- Andrew McCabe didn’t become involved in the FBI investigation until several months after McAuliffe’s donation to Jill McCabe -- so too does the Daily Mail’s bizarre and complicated suggestion that Clinton headlined a fundraiser because she was able to foresee that resulting donations would months later go to the wife of a man who would later be promoted twice to play a lead role in an investigation that did not yet exist.

    After organizing a timeline of the fundraiser, donation, and investigation -- and lightly suggesting the optics don’t look good (a common media technique employed when investigating many of Clinton's nonscandals) -- Slate’s Ben Mathis-Lilley wrote:

    What hasn't been proven is that Hillary Clinton did anything improper. Clinton would have had to be a pretty advanced political chessmaster to do a June 2015 fundraiser with the knowledge that, in October 2015, it would benefit the wife of an FBI official who would be promoted to an oversight position into her email investigation the next February. And McAuliffe would have to be an even savvier operator to have recruited Jill McCabe to run for office in March 2015 in the hopes that, sometime down the line, her husband would get promoted to the point of overseeing an investigation that didn't yet exist. There's also no evidence Andrew McCabe actually influenced the email investigation in a way that benefited Clinton. For all we know, he could've been pushing for her prosecution only to be overruled by Comey.

    Indeed, perhaps a much simpler explanation for Clinton’s fundraising appearance and the McAuliffe PAC’s donation is that a leading Democrat raised money for the Virginia state party and the governor's PAC to try to swing the legislature to benefit the Democratic governor -- who is also an old friend -- during one of the few major off-year elections in the country.

    Yet, even though almost nothing about the story has changed, right-wing media are now hyping the Daily Mail’s “exclusive” to suggest impropriety by Clinton and McAuliffe and a compromised FBI investigation. Fox News’ Tucker Carlson said the situation was “sleazy,” and the pro-Trump Breitbart News suggested the donations are “unusual” and raise questions, despite the continued lack of evidence of any wrongdoing.

  • NY Times Executive Editor: CNN And Fox Campaign Coverage Is “Bad For Democracy And Those Institutions”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet condemned U.S. cable news -- particularly CNN and Fox News -- for their “ridiculous” presidential campaign coverage in an interview with the Financial Times, accusing the networks of, as the paper described it, “blurring the line between entertainment and news and pandering to partisan viewers.”

    In the interview, Baquet criticized CNN’s hiring of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, saying, “I’m sorry, that is outrageous. I cannot fathom that,” and calling Lewandowski “a political shill.” CNN created an ethical nightmare for the network when it hired Lewandowski, who still advises the Trump campaign, probably cannot legally disparage his former boss, and was paid simultaneously by CNN and the Trump campaign for months. CNN has also paid surrogates to go on air and defend Trump’s many false and offensive statements at almost any length.

    Baquet was “most critical of Fox News” in his interview, the Financial Times reported, noting that the network “‘at its heart is not a journalistic institution.’” Baquet described Fox’s coverage as “‘some weird mix of a little bit of journalism, a little bit of entertainment, a little bit of pandering to a particular audience.’” Fox served as a safe space for Trump for weeks before the first presidential debate as he managed to almost entirely avoid being interviewed on other networks, and during the Republican primaries, Fox gave Trump more than double the airtime of any other Republican candidate. In addition, Fox prime-time host Sean Hannity endorsed Trump following the primaries, has given Trump more than $31 million in free publicity, serves as an informal adviser to Trump, and has defended his softball coverage of Trump by asserting that he’s “not a journalist.”

    Baquet concluded that the two networks’ conduct is “in the long run, bad for democracy and those institutions,” noting that Trump is “a product of that world.” From the October 28 Financial Times interview:

    US cable news networks have played a “ridiculous” role in the presidential campaign by blurring the line between entertainment and news and pandering to partisan viewers, Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times, has said.

    Mr Baquet said CNN had been wrong to hire Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager for Donald Trump, as a commentator and was in danger of damaging both itself and democracy. “I’m sorry, that is outrageous. I cannot fathom that,” he said of Mr Lewandowski’s onscreen role, describing him as “a political shill”.

    Mr Baquet, in an interview in London to mark the New York Times’ digital expansion internationally, was most critical of Fox News, the rightwing news network owned by 21st Century Fox, and its former chairman Roger Ailes. Mr Ailes resigned in July following accusations that he sexually harassed female staff, which he denies.

    “Fox News at its heart is not a journalistic institution. Megyn Kelly [a Fox presenter] is a great journalist, Chris Wallace is a great journalist, but it is some weird mix of a little bit of journalism, a little bit of entertainment, a little bit of pandering to a particular audience … I don’t think Roger Ailes will go down as one of the great journalists of his time.”

    Mr Baquet described the conduct of Fox News and CNN as “in the long run, bad for democracy and those institutions … This mix of entertainment and news, and news masquerading as entertainment, is kind of funny except that we now have a guy who is a product of that world nominated as Republican presidential candidate.” 

  • Megyn Kelly Is Hardly A “Feminist Icon”


    Media outlets praised Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly after her contentious interview with former Speaker of the House and current Fox contributor Newt Gingrich over allegations of sexual assault against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, declaring her a “feminist icon” and “a consistent voice for women’s issues.” But Kelly has hardly been consistent on “women’s issues.” She has a history of promoting falsehoods about Planned Parenthood, denigrating efforts to expand reproductive rights, disregarding the gender pay gap, and criticizing efforts to combat sexual assault on college campuses.

  • Fox Boosts Trump’s “Rigged Voting” Claims With Right-Wing Zombie Myth Of Vote Flipping

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Fox News figures are hyping unverified stories of electronic voting machines allegedly switching voters’ votes for president amid cries from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump of “large scale voter fraud.” In fact, “just about every voting technology expert” says voting machines are not rigged to flip votes, and instead “human error” and aging machines often lead to incorrect vote choices, which can be fixed. Conservatives hyped alleged vote flipping during the 2012 election as well.

  • Three Ways Fox Is Attempting To Delegitimize Clinton’s Lead In The Polls

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Fox News has attempted to delegitimize Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s lead in the polls for months, claiming that the polls are skewed due to oversampling, that the size of rallies Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds is more indicative of his support than polls, and that there are “secret” Trump supporters who are too embarrassed to tell pollsters whom they support. However, other media outlets have explained that concerns about oversampling are “laughably incorrect,” and that claims that crowds are more accurate than polling are some of “the most idiotic claims out there.”