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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has an extensive history of attacking the media, and his campaign and supporters have joined in the fight throughout the election. The nominee, his surrogates, and his supporters have called media outlets and reporters across the spectrum “dishonest,” “neurotic,” “dumb,” and a “waste of time,” and until recently, the campaign had a media blacklist of outlets that weren’t allowed into campaign events.
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Trump Falsely Claimed He Weathered “One Of The Most Brutal Economic Downturns In Our Country’s History” During One Of America’s Wealthiest Decades
MSNBC contributor and conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt parroted Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s false claim that he weathered “an economic depression” in the 1990s, with Hewitt blaming a so-called “Clinton-triggered recession” that did not actually happen for Trump’s disastrous business failures throughout that decade.
During an October 3 speech in Pueblo, Colorado in which the GOP nominee attempted to deflect criticism in the wake of a devastating New York Times investigation into a decades-long period where he may not have paid income taxes, Trump blamed his business struggles in the 1990s on “one of the most brutal economic downturns in our country’s history” that he claimed was “almost as bad as the Great Depression of 1929.” Immediately following Trump’s speech, frequent Trump apologist Hugh Hewitt gave cover to Trump’s dubious claim, saying that President Bill Clinton’s policies and a supposed “Clinton-triggered recession of those years” were to blame for Trump’s business collapse, where he reported losses of over $900 million in 1995:
Unfortunately for Trump and contrary to Hewitt’s claim, there was no recession during the Clinton administration, much less an economic contraction as severe as the Great Depression of 1929 or the profound economic and financial crisis of 2007 through 2009, which was inherited by President Obama.
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the institution responsible for delineating and analyzing American economic cycles, there was a mild recession from July 1990 to March 1991 during the George H.W. Bush administration, and another from March 2001 to November 2001 during the first term of George W. Bush. Neither recession occurred during the period of time covered by the Times' report on Trump’s nearly billion dollar loss, or during Bill Clinton’s presidency, which was marked by steady economic growth and job creation. As you can see in these data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the 1990s resembled the exact opposite of the economic tumult Trump had described (recessions are noted in gray):
The 1990s weren’t the only time when Trump’s real estate empire has been bedeviled by losses in the midst of an overall economic expansion. According to the latest reporting from Forbes magazine, which has been tracking Trump’s wealth for nearly four decades, the GOP nominee has lost almost $800 million over the past year mostly thanks to the declining value of his real estate while the rest of the economy performed admirably with a robust increase in median household incomes and historic reductions in poverty.
Hewitt: "This Was The Mainstream Policy" Of The Republican Party On Immigration
From the August 31 edition of MSNBC's The Place for Politics:
STEVE KORNACKI (HOST): Do you think [Trump] provided clarity tonight, and do you think that that clarity that he provided, will it attract new voters who weren't already with him?
HUGH HEWITT: He provided clarity from the beginning of the day to the end, I think, Steve. It was his very best day of his presidential campaign. Bill Kristol earlier with Lawrence O'Donnell was making, I think, the key takeaway. When you start with the morning, bad news for Hillary Clinton all over the place. Her negatives are down in The Washington Post poll. Obamacare is falling apart. 30 new concealed emails on Benghazi.
Donald Trump goes down to Mexico, has a very perfectly normal diplomatic engagement with the president of Mexico, has a great press conference afterwards, takes questions, which Secretary Clinton won't take from the press in any setting, and then comes back and gives a very, very sophisticated speech that I think mirrors -- I did 170 interviews with active Republican presidential candidates. That was the mainstream policy what he articulated today. We do points one through ten first, and then we'll talk about the other people. I think it is a softening. I think it was sophisticated and very powerful.
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By tripling down on his comments that President Obama was the “founder of ISIS,” Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump proved futile reporters’ repeated attempts to clarify that he “meant” something different.
Trump told supporters during an August 10 campaign stop, “‘In many respects, you know, [ISIS] honor[s] President Obama ... He’s the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder. He founded ISIS.” On August 11, Trump repeated the line on CNBC’s Squawk Box.
Some media figures, including conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, attempted to clean up Trump’s comments and explain what he really “meant,” claiming that Trump’s comments were “not literal,” but just a poorly worded criticism of President Obama’s terror policies.
Hewitt hosted Trump on August 11 and tried desperately to help Trump walk back his comments, guiding him by saying, “I know what you meant. You meant that he created the vacuum [for ISIS], he lost the peace.”
But Trump immediately refuted Hewitt’s assertion, responding, “No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS. I do.”
Hewitt tried again, saying, “[B]y using the term founder, they’re hitting with you on this again. Mistake?”
Trump again denied that he meant something different than what he said: “No, it’s no mistake. Everyone’s liking it. I think they’re liking it.”
This exchange perfectly exemplifies why the media figures who repeatedly try to rehab Trump’s statements consistently miss the mark. Some in the media have explained why attempts at Trump cleanups are unwarranted altogether. As Business Insider’s Josh Barro wrote:
It doesn't really matter what Trump meant. It matters what he said — a reckless comment that might or might not be outrageous, depending on your interpretation. This has happened over and over during the campaign, and it would happen, with much higher stakes, during his presidency.
What the president says matters. Presidents' comments can move markets, create policy, inflame foreign tensions, and even start wars. It is therefore important that presidents be careful.
Yet media figures’ attempts to clarify what Trump really means also surfaced on August 9, when several conservative commentators tried to interpret Trump’s remark that “Second Amendment people” could do something to prevent Hillary Clinton picking Supreme Court nominees.
Those attempting to rewrite Trump’s intent -- be it for his comments about ISIS, the Second Amendment, or for the inevitable next round of outrageous comments -- are coming dangerously close to mirroring the role of a Trump surrogate.
Right-wing media pushed the idea that the supposed Russian hack and release of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails also means that Russians hacked Hillary Clinton’s server and stole information. Eventually, Paul Manafort, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign chair, repeated the claim to deflect attention from Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.
Prominent voices in conservative media are holding on to the hope that delegates will block Donald Trump as the GOP’s presidential nominee at the Republican National Convention (RNC). Some have made the case that a close reading of the RNC rules shows delegates are not officially bound to vote for Trump, while others are openly calling for him to be set aside in favor of an alternative conservative nominee.
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Right-wing media condemned former Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) for referring to Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX) as “Lucifer in the flesh” and the most "miserable son of a bitch” he has ever worked with.
NY Times: Boehner Described Ted Cruz As “Lucifer In The Flesh,” The Most "Miserable Son Of A Bitch” He Ever Worked With. The New York Times reported on April 28 that Boehner “described Senator Ted Cruz as ‘Lucifer in the flesh’ … and said that he would not vote for” Cruz if he became the Republican presidential nominee:
Former House Speaker John A. Boehner described Senator Ted Cruz as “Lucifer in the flesh” during a forum at Stanford University on Wednesday and said that he would not vote for the Texas Republican if he is the party’s presidential nominee.
Mr. Boehner’s harshest assessment was saved for Mr. Cruz, who he has not forgiven for spearheading the 2013 government shutdown.
“I have Democrat friends and Republican friends,” Mr. Boehner told David Kennedy, an emeritus history professor, at the event. “I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.” [The New York Times, 4/28/16]
National Review Editors: Boehner’s Comments Are “A Witless Cheap Shot” And “Petty Grudge-Holding.” National Review’s editorial board wrote on April 28 that Boehner’s characterization of Cruz was a “witless cheap shot.” The editors said the comments were “petty grudge-holding” and speculated that these “knee-jerk responses … though cathartic, would ultimately set back our common goals”:
We get it. John Boehner doesn’t like Ted Cruz. In a witless cheap shot, Boehner called him “Lucifer in the flesh” at an event at Stanford University. Boehner’s attitude is widespread among Republican insiders who are foolishly allowing personal ill will to cloud their reasoned judgment about who, among the candidates left in the GOP race, is the best representative of conservative principles and policies, and about who would be the best candidate in the upcoming general election.
[P]rominent conservatives who might not be counted among Cruz’s friends — Lindsey Graham and Jeb Bush come to mind — have urged the party to rally around Cruz as the only reliable conservative left in the race.
They’re right to do so, and not to give in to the petty grudge-holding of John Boehner. In 2013, when Cruz was engineering his ill-fated government shutdown, his Republican critics, including us, warned against interpreting tactical disagreements as evidence of disagreements about objectives. We encouraged conservatives not to indulge in knee-jerk responses that, though cathartic, would ultimately set back our common goals. That argument works in both directions. Whatever his personal feelings, Boehner agrees with Cruz on most questions of principle and policy, and it’s a shame he can’t act accordingly. [National Review, 4/28/16]
Sean Hannity: “John Boehner, Shut Up … You Failed The Republican Party.” On the April 28 edition of Fox News’ Hannity, host Sean Hannity told Boehner to “shut up,” calling his performance as speaker “weak, timid, feckless, visionless.” Hannity asserted that Boehner “failed the Republican Party,” concluding, “We don’t need lectures from you”:
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): All right, I’ve got to tell you something. I can't say this strongly enough. John Boehner, shut up. You know what? You gave us $4 trillion in debt. You were weak, timid, feckless, visionless. And I’ve got to be honest, you want to know why Cruz and Trump are doing so well? Look in the mirror, because you are afraid of your own shadow that you might get blamed for a government shutdown, so you wouldn't defund Obamacare, you wouldn’t use the power of the purse, you wouldn’t defund executive amnesty, which was -- which Republicans ran on in 2014. You failed the Republican Party. We don't need lectures from you against presidential candidates that are resonating with the American people, thank you very much. [Fox News, Hannity, 4/28/16]
Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter: Boehner “Today Just Demonstrated His Utter Contempt For” The People On The Right. During the April 28 edition of NRA News’ Cam & Company, conservative Townhall columnist Kurt Schlichter said Boehner’s remarks “proved” that he was “a giant waste of air.” Schlichter concluded, “The people on the right are angry … at people like John Boehner, who today just demonstrated his utter contempt for them”:
CAM EDWARDS (HOST): How about that? “Lucifer in the flesh.” So, I saw that description today, and for whatever reason, Kurt, the phrase “Goldwater’s baby” came to mind --
KURT SCHLICHTER: Its eyes! Its eyes! What did you do to its eyes!
EDWARDS: I want somebody to use that as an insult this year, I just want to hear somebody call someone else “Goldwater’s baby.”
SCHLICHTER: Oh my gosh. You know, with Boehner, sometimes it's like, you know, we all knew it, and then it happens. This guy literally says he would vote for Hillary Clinton before one of the nominees by the other Republicans. This was our speaker. We were all saying you know, this guy is a giant waste of air, and then he comes out and just completely proves it.
SCHLICHTER: The people on the right are angry. They’re angry at people like John Boehner, who today just demonstrated his utter contempt for them. And they always knew it, and there were people saying, "No, no, no, he really doesn’t feel that way." And well I said, “You know, I kind of think he does.” And now he’s kind of proved it. I think people are justifiably angry. They’re not going to -- to quote Roger Daltrey, "won't be fooled again!" [NRA News, Cam & Company, 4/28/16]
Fox’s Laura Ingraham: “I Don’t Like That Comment By John Boehner. At All.” On the April 29 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group’s The Laura Ingraham Show, host Laura Ingraham decried Boehner’s comments as “not helpful.” Ingraham called Boehner and “establishment” Republicans “devils,” saying, “I have the idea it’s devilish to run on one thing and then govern on something quite different”:
LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): This John Boehner comment about Cruz as “Lucifer in the flesh"? Not helpful. I said yesterday when I saw that this had been said that, I mean, John Boehner should just button it. It's not helpful. Now, you see, I have the idea it's devilish to run on one thing and then govern on something quite different. I think that's very deceiving, as the devil is deceiving. Ted Cruz actually said he was going to run on some basic principles, and for the most part it seems like Ted Cruz actually, you know, tried to fulfill his Senate duties with those principles in mind. Now that's “Lucifer in the flesh”? What? It seems like the revolt against the establishment is making it pretty clear who people think the devils are. The devils are the people who say they’re going to oppose Obama only to fund his entire budget. The devils are the people who say they’re pro-life only to fund Planned Parenthood. The devils are the people who spend most of the good part of an entire year pushing Obama's Trade Promotion Authority. The devils are the people who say they’re going to get rid of Obamacare only to allow Obamacare to be funded. Those are the devils. The devils are the people who call the people the loud people, or make fun of them and say “it’s too hard,” like John Boehner did. So I don't like that comment by John Boehner. At All. [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show, 4/29/16]
Conservative Radio Host Hugh Hewitt: “‘Despicable’ Is My Term For [Boehner’s] Attack On [Cruz].”
— Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) April 29, 2016
Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell: “Boehner Doesn’t Have The Guts To Apologize. He Is A World-Class Coward.”
Boehner doesn't have the guts to apologize. He is a world-class coward.
— Brent Bozell (@BrentBozell) April 29, 2016
The Blaze’s Dana Loesch: “John Boehner Gets Along With Every Beltway Elitist -- But Not The Average American. This Is Why He’s Out To Pasture.”
John Boehner gets along with every beltway elitist — but not the average American. This is why he’s out to pasture.
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) April 29, 2016
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) dropped out of the 2016 Republican presidential election after losing his home state of Florida in the state's March 15 primary. The media had touted Rubio's candidacy throughout the race, despite his poor performance in debates and GOP primaries. Here's a look back at the media's promotion of the Marco Rubio presidential candidacy.
Right-wing media figures are blaming MoveOn.org for violence that occurred following Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump's canceled rally in Chicago on March 11, likening the group to the Ku Klux Klan and accusing them of "creating this havoc and ... putting innocent people's lives in jeopardy." In fact, several media figures have slammed Trump for condoning "violence in rally after rally," and at the Chicago event MoveOn.org only helped provide logistical support for the protests, including printing signs and recruiting attendees.
In 2005, conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt decried the fact that President George W. Bush's Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers didn't get an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor, and argued when "conservative pundits and activists" stopped her nomination, they weakened the ability of Republicans to argue against future Democratic nominees.
Hewitt's suggestion that even Miers, Bush's White House counsel, who activists considered insufficiently conservative and unqualified, should have gotten a vote raises questions about his current obstructionist position against any Obama nominee. (Miers was withdrawn by Bush before hearings were held.)
The day after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Hewitt published a column at Washington Examiner calling for Republicans in the Senate to refuse to hold a hearing or vote on any potential nominee named by Obama. Hewitt justified his stance with the claim that "Lame duck presidents don't get to make successful nominations for lifetime appointments in an election year. Not in 2016. Not for the past 80 years." Since the 2016 election has not occurred, Obama is not a lame duck. Furthermore, PolitiFact has rated this talking point "fundamentally misleading" because it falsely implies there is a tradition of not nominating or confirming nominees during an election year.
In any case, Hewitt's tone in 2005 was very different. In an op-ed for The New York Times, Hewitt wrote that Republicans' recent electoral successes "were attributable in large measure to the central demand made by Republican candidates, and heard and embraced by voters, that President Bush's nominees deserved an up-or-down decision on the floor of the Senate."
"Now, with the withdrawal of Harriet Miers under an instant, fierce and sometimes false assault from conservative pundits and activists, it will be difficult for Republican candidates to continue to make this winning argument: that Democrats have deeply damaged the integrity of the advice and consent process," Hewitt lamented.
According to Hewitt, "Voting for or against Ms. Miers would have forced Senate Democrats to articulate a coherent standard for future nominees. Now, the Democrats have free rein."
In blaming conservative media for the failure of Miers' nomination, Hewittt singled out the National Review's The Corner blog, which he wrote "unleashed every argument they could find" against Miers.
From the October 28, 2005, edition of The New York Times:
OVER the last two elections, the Republican Party regained control of the United States Senate by electing new senators in Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas. These victories were attributable in large measure to the central demand made by Republican candidates, and heard and embraced by voters, that President Bush's nominees deserved an up-or-down decision on the floor of the Senate. Now, with the withdrawal of Harriet Miers under an instant, fierce and sometimes false assault from conservative pundits and activists, it will be difficult for Republican candidates to continue to make this winning argument: that Democrats have deeply damaged the integrity of the advice and consent process.
The right's embrace in the Miers nomination of tactics previously exclusive to the left -- exaggeration, invective, anonymous sources, an unbroken stream of new charges, television advertisements paid for by secret sources -- will make it immeasurably harder to denounce and deflect such assaults when the Democrats make them the next time around. Given the overemphasis on admittedly ambiguous speeches Miers made more than a decade ago, conservative activists will find it difficult to take on liberals in their parallel efforts to destroy some future Robert Bork.