There's a brewing conservative media war over whether to impeach President Obama.
Largely relegated to the fringe for years, the prospect of impeachment has been invigorated thanks to conservative media figures like Fox News contributors Sarah Palin and Allen West, who have spent recent weeks loudly demanding Obama's removal from office. But not everyone in conservative media is on board, with several prominent figures arguing that impeachment is ill-fated, politically toxic, and could severely damage Republicans' chances in the upcoming 2014 midterm elections.
Last week, Fox News polled on the question, finding that while a strong majority of Americans (61 percent) oppose impeachment, 56 percent of Republicans are in favor of it.
Over the weekend, impeachment got another boost thanks to Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the incoming House Majority Whip, appearing on Fox News Sunday and refusing "to take impeaching President Barack Obama off the table if Obama takes executive action to limit deportations." On Saturday, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) announced on Breitbart News Saturday that if the president uses more executive actions on illegal immigration, "we need to bring impeachment hearings immediately before the House of Representatives."
In June, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) introduced a plan to sue the president over the delayed implementation of the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act. While Boehner has repeatedly dismissed impeachment talk, reporters like the New Republic's Brian Beutler have speculated that the lawsuit was designed to "serve as a relief valve for the building pressure to draw up articles of impeachment."
If Boehner's lawsuit was designed to cool impeachment fever, it's not working. Several conservative media figures have lashed out over his "political stunt" and continue to bang the impeachment drum. As November approaches, the fight over impeachment among conservative media is getting increasingly acrimonious with each side convinced the other is hurting the country.
Media Matters looks at where various conservative commentators currently stand on impeachment.
If you're a conservative who wants to impeach President Obama, time is running out. You need to give Allen West money, and quickly. It's an "emergency."
In a series of emails sent to subscribers in recent weeks, Fox News contributor and former Republican congressman Allen West has implored people to donate to his PAC, the Allen West Guardian Fund, in order to hasten Obama's impeachment. And West isn't alone -- numerous conservative media figures and political groups are looking to cash in on Obama's supposedly impending impeachment through donations, books, and various impeachment merchandise.
Right-wing media have been pushing for Obama's impeachment for more than five years over a wide range of issues, but impeachment chatter got a boost earlier this July when Sarah Palin penned an opinion piece for Breitbart.com. She called for Obama's removal from office, arguing that the president's "unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the battered wife say, 'no mas.'" She reiterated her call on Fox's Hannity, telling viewers it was time to "get going" on impeachment.
While numerous members of the conservative noise machine are agitating for impeachment, not everyone is on board. Fox News contributor Erick Erickson, for one, thinks "impeachment would be crazy" at the moment.
But regardless of whether impeachment is good politics for conservatives, it's starting to look like good business.
The conservatives behind some of the worst political smear campaigns have started a super PAC.
Takeover Super PAC is backed by a team that includes Joseph Farah, founder of the fringe conspiracy site WND; Jerome Corsi, a leading member of the Swift Boat and birther campaigns; and Floyd Brown, producer of the racist Willie Horton ads.
The group says it will "win elections and take our country back from the liberals and socialists" and exhorts potential donors, "If you're tired to [sic] putting your money to work for turncoats and traitors, join us." Takeover claims liberals want to eliminate the right to privacy, the Second Amendment, religion, want to "permanently enslave the American people" with Obamacare and entitlements, and ultimately desire "a tyrannical dictatorship."
In a fundraising email announcing the PAC, Farah stated that he's "not giving my money to the RNC any longer. I'm not giving a dime to Karl Rove's Tea Party-hating PAC, and I'm not supporting spineless Republicans who lead us down the same liberal roads. I'm giving my money to Takeover Super PAC." Farah and other conservatives have been feuding with Rove, a fight that intensified when the former Bush adviser launched an effort to protect Republicans against tea party challengers.
The section of Takeover's website for supported candidates is currently empty. Several navigation buttons on its website, such as links to its Facebook (which links to "facebook.com/takoversuperpac [sic]"), Twitter (which links to "twitter.com/takoversuperpac [sic]"), and YouTube pages do not work -- and a page devoted to the "Takeover Store" is also blank.
Takeover's advisory board indicates the group will be heavily intertwined with professional consultants.
The super PAC's executive director and treasurer is "Internet marketing and communications entrepreneur" Thomas Freiling. He previously headed Patriot Super PAC, which paid him $78,239 during the 2012 election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission data via OpenSecrets.org. Freiling's consulting firm Fairfax Technologies also received $18,044. Patriot Super PAC paid $374,976 to Internet communications consulting firm Grassroots Action Inc. Grassroots is headed by Steve Elliott, who also sits on Takeover's advisory board. Patriot Super PAC raised $922,266 during the 2012 cycle, and spent $163,418 on independent expenditures.
Board member Floyd Brown is president of Excellentia Inc., a conservative marketing firm. Another board member, Richard Viguerie, pioneered the use of direct mail fundraising.
The toxic background of the group's board members may actually end up hurting any supported candidates. Here's a closer look at three of the group's advisors.
Sensing that the moment was ripe, World Net Daily (WND) columnist Larry Klayman sent out the call for revolution. "MILLIONS TO OCCUPY WASHINGTON D.C.," Klayman announced, declaring to the world that his Tea Party-powered "second American Revolution" would gather near the White House in Lafayette Square on November 19 and sweep President Obama from office. "In conjunction with the masses gathered in Lafayette Park, we encourage millions to occupy parks, sidewalks, public areas, etc., consistent with the law."
In the short time since the Supreme Court invalidated provisions of the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA), conservatives who have opposed marriage equality for years have been painting themselves as the unfairly persecuted victims of the ruling.
Having always had difficulty explaining how extending equal rights to gay couples somehow infringes upon their own personal freedoms -- "you're being intolerant of our right to think gays are an abomination" isn't a particularly compelling argument -- right-wing media figures are now concocting elaborate scenarios in which their future rights will be infringed as a result of the DOMA ruling.
Fox News' Todd Starnes got the ball rolling yesterday, writing on Twitter that it "won't be long before they outlaw the Bible as hate speech," and asking: "How long before federal agents haul pastors out of the pulpit?" Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham wondered aloud whether Catholics in America will be "persona non grata."
According to Farah, the justices who struck down DOMA made "no real effort at making a constitutional case" against the legislation, instead relying on the argument "that anyone who opposes same-sex marriage does so for no other reason than bigotry against homosexuals."
As advocates prepare for oral arguments in the challenge to California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the right-wing media, typified by The Wall Street Journal, is wrongly pushing the idea that ruling in favor of same-sex couples would lead to the problems they claim resulted from the Court's Roe v. Wade decision, which struck down laws banning abortions.
Perry v. Hollingsworth, which will be argued on March 26, is a challenge to a California constitutional provision that excludes same-sex couples from marriage. Windsor v. U.S., to be argued March 27, challenges a federal statute, Section 3 of DOMA, which denies married same-sex couples and their families protections and benefits provided to different-sex married couples under federal law.
Some in the right-wing media have taken this opportunity to push a parade of falsehoods about marriage equality. For example, after Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) announced his support for marriage equality, which he attributed to having an out gay son, WND editor Joseph Farah wrote "I guess we should all be grateful Rob Portman's son didn't choose to become a polygamist or a serial killer." Fox News contributor Cal Thomas promoted the same myth that marriage equality leads to polygamy.
However, with support for marriage equality rapidly on the rise, this faulty logic is not likely to persuade a majority of Americans or of the justices. The right-wing media have pivoted to another scare tactic: if the Court strikes down democratically-enacted laws, then the country will have a political and cultural backlash similar to the one they say the Court unleashed in Roe v. Wade, which struck down abortion bans 40 years ago.
Radio host Rush Limbaugh attempted to draw this comparison between Roe and the gay marriage cases. On the March 25 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh claimed that the reason "abortion so roils our culture is that it hasn't been democratically decided. The Supreme Court, nine people in black robes just decided one day that abortion is in the Constitution, and that has led to constant acrimony."
Former federal Judge Michael McConnell invoked a similar argument when he wrote in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal:
We learned from Roe v. Wade that the Supreme Court endangers its own legitimacy and exacerbates social conflict when it seeks to resolve moral-legal questions on which the country is deeply divided without a strong basis in the text of the Constitution. The court sometimes intervenes when the legislatures of the 50 states are approaching a consensus. When it jumps into a live political controversy, the justices look like they are acting like legislators.
A March 25 Wall Street Journal editorial states that "the two cases before the High Court are less about the institution of marriage than the sanctity of democratic institutions and the proper role of the courts." It warns against the Justices interrupting "the give-and-take on contentious moral and social issues the Constitution is designed to encourage." It compares this possibility to abortion:
The Supreme Court does not have a good record legislating cultural change. A ruling on behalf of same-sex marriage could enshrine Hollingsworth and Windsor with Roe v. Wade, the 1973 abortion decision that imposed a judicial diktat even as laws in many states were liberalizing. Instead of finding a rough consensus inside the political mainstream, abortion became an all-or-nothing combat that still rages.
This characterization of abortion laws 40 years ago is flatly inaccurate. As Linda Greenhouse, a veteran Supreme Court writer and lecturer at Yale Law School, and Yale Law Professor Reva Siegel wrote,
Before Roe, despite broad popular support, liberalization of abortion law had all but come to a halt in the face of concerted opposition by a Catholic-led minority. It was, in other words, decidedly not the case that abortion reform was on an inevitable march forward if only the Supreme Court had stayed its hand.
After Roe: The entanglement of abortion in party realignment explains how, over time, Republicans and Democrats came to switch position on the abortion issue, leaders before base, and assume their current polarized positions on abortion, an evolution that took nearly twenty years after the Court handed down Roe. Our paper argues that when you line up the evidence, political realignment better explains the timing and shape of political polarization around abortion than does a court-centered story of backlash.
To the question of whether one can avoid conflict over such issues by avoiding courts, the answer from an accurate pre-history of Roe v. Wade is: no. The abortion conflict escalated before the Supreme Court ruled.
And because a strong majority of Americans believes that Roe should not be overturned, Roe might not be a particularly persuasive cautionary tale.
With Sen. John Kerry's confirmation hearing as secretary of state scheduled for January 24, media reports will likely invoke the coordinated 2004 campaign to "Swift Boat" Kerry. While the smears from the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT) have long-since fallen apart under scrutiny, Jerome Corsi, one of the masterminds behind the campaign, is revisiting his old attacks.
A look at Corsi's "reporting" during the 2008 campaign and Obama's presidency confirms what quickly became clear during his efforts to hamstring Kerry's presidential run: he has utterly no credibility and his alleged reporting should not be taken seriously by media outlets.
Prior to the 2004 election, with the backing of major Republican donors, Vietnam veteran John O'Neill co-founded SBVT in an attempt to derail Kerry's presidential bid by casting doubt on his military service. The group launched a series of dishonest ads in August of that year, accompanied by Unfit for Command, a book co-authored by O'Neill and Corsi. In its review of Unfit for Command in October 2004, The New York Times explained that while the book was filled with "discredited," "faulty" and "totally unconvincing" claims, if Kerry's presidential bid were to fail, the tome would "go down as a chief reason."
When the book was released, co-author Corsi was practically unknown in political circles. He was a regular poster at conservative message board Free Republic and worked at a financial marketing group. After Media Matters highlighted a series of offensive comments he had made at Free Republic -- including calling Muslims "ragheads" and "boy buggers" and labeling Hillary Clinton a "fat hog" -- Unfit for Command co-author John O'Neill repeatedly tried to distance himself from Corsi to tamp down the controversy. While O'Neill tried to claim Corsi merely helped edit Unfit for Command, Corsi was listed as co-author on the book jacket and promotional materials for the book touted his involvement in co-writing it.
Shortly before the 2004 election, Corsi was hired by conservative publication WorldNetDaily, which has served as his main outlet. During the 2008 campaign and Obama's presidency, Corsi has used his WND platform to promote a staggering number of outlandish conspiracies about the president, including that Obama has a fake birth certificate and stolen Social Security number; that Obama is both secretly gay and secretly Muslim; and that Obama and his family have lied about the true identity of his father, who may be either communist writer Frank Marshall Davis or "some Indonesian."
In this report:
- "Where's The Birth Certificate?": Corsi Is Leading Birther Conspiracy Theorist
- "Where's The Real Birth Certificate?": Corsi Led Charge To Declare Obama's Long-Form Fake
- "I've Always Thought The Father Was Indonesian": Corsi's Quest To Find Obama's "Real" Father
- Corsi: Obama Is Possibly Gay, Definitely A Muslim
- A Superhighway To The Education Camps
The strange story of Joseph Farah and the conservative Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast has taken a bizarre turn, with the WorldNetDaily birther conspirator returning to the breakfast's list of distinguished guests and its organizer reportedly repudiating her repeated statements to Media Matters that she never intended to give Farah a leading role.
Rev. Merrie Turner, the top organizer for the January 21 event, told Media Matters on January 9 that Farah had been incorrectly listed as a program guest and she would seek to remove him.
"He was not invited to be involved," she said at that time in a phone interview. "He had permission to write an article about it and it's gone much further than that. That was the initial intent, I never met him before and I didn't know anything about his efforts."
Asked then if she would seek to keep Farah, who as CEO of WorldNetDaily has been the driving force behind conspiracies about President Obama's birth certificate, from being among the event's official speakers, Turner said, "Absolutely, this is not going to by any means be an event for anything being said negative about the president, that will not be allowed."
Turner also told Media Matters, "The fact that [Farah] actually ended up on some of the literature so far was not run by me, it was, it came through [keynote speaker] Mr. [Jonathan] Cahn, who is his friend. He is not on the speakers bureau... it was an error." Turner also claimed that she had never met Farah.
Since the Media Matters story ran, Turner has made no effort to contact Media Matters with any complaint about the report or any requests for corrections or clarifications about her comments.
On January 16, however, WorldNetDaily posted an article that questioned the story, claiming Turner was disavowing the comments she made to Media Matters.
WorldNetDaily founder and birther conspiracy theorist Joseph Farah will not be among the speakers at a right-wing Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast according to the event's organizer, who criticized his work and said he had been incorrectly listed as a featured guest. It's surprising that Farah is considered too toxic to speak at the event -- which his publication had promoted -- considering the history of its organizer and other reported attendees.
Rev. Merrie Turner, the conservative pastor who is hosting the event and says she has done so since 1993, told Media Matters, "It is against my beliefs to be openly targeting someone like the president of our country, we have enough enemies outside the country."
Turner said Farah's name had been wrongly listed among the speakers headlining the January 21 event and would be removed: "It was incorrectly picked up by our staff, I am going to be correcting that." Farah's website had also reported that he was a "distinguished guest" who was "scheduled to appear at the breakfast to lead prayers for the nation."
Farah is the founder and CEO of WorldNetDaily, the conservative website that has been the driving force behind conspiracies about President Obama's birth certificate and a wide range of other outlandish and incendiary theories.
Prayer breakfast materials still list Rep. Michelle Bachmann and televangelist Pat Robertson as "Special Guests & Speakers" for the event. But Farah's name has been removed since Media Matters contacted the organization. His name still appears in a press release announcing the event, and a flyer linked to on the prayer breakfast site also features Farah's name and picture.
Asked if she was aware of Farah's past anti-Obama work, Turner said, "I was not, honestly."
"He was not invited to be involved. He had permission to write an article about it and it's gone much further than that. That was the initial intent, I never met him before and I didn't know anything about his efforts," Rev. Turner added.
Farah and Bachmann's office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Asked if she will seek to keep Farah from being among the official speakers, Turner said, "Absolutely, this is not going to by any means be an event for anything being said negative about the president, that will not be allowed."
Despite Turner's suggestion that Farah didn't fit the theme of the event due to his history of anti-Obama commentary, both Turner and other scheduled speakers have their own history of outrageous remarks.
A large group of conservative activists and media figures -- including CNN's Erick Erickson and WND.com founder Joseph Farah - have published an open letter to House and Senate Republicans threatening them not to compromise in any way with the "leftist agenda" of the Obama White House and congressional Democrats, as reported by Ari Melber of The Nation. Aside from raising the specter of primary challenges for apostates, the signatories insist that the election actually showed that America is clamoring for conservatism.
According to the letter: "In the House, the nation elected in 2012 one of the largest Republican majorities in the past 100 years. You have a mandate to fight for conservative principles that is arguably much broader than the one that narrowly reelected President Barack Obama claims to have for his leftist agenda."
"Arguably." Indeed, one could argue that the reelection of the House Republican majority supersedes both the reelection of the Democratic president and the expansion of the Democratic Senate majority. There are just a few things you have to disregard: logical sense, the hard reality of the tax situation, and the available polling that shows public confidence in Democrats and the White House regarding the so-called "fiscal cliff."
Taking National Rifle Association conspiracy theories to the next level, WorldNetDaily founder Joseph Farah is suggesting that President Obama might be spurring gun sales so that he can later confiscate those weapons after the occurrence of "civil strife" or "armed rebellion." According to Farah, Obama will do this because his "real goal -- the objective he has in common with all true leftists and socialists -- is to create chaos."
I have always believed Obama's real goal - the objective he has in common with all true leftists and socialists - is to create chaos. As a former leftist, I understand the paradigm. It's classic Cloward-Pivens [sic] strategy. Obama seeks "to heighten the contradictions of capitalism," as they say. He does a lot of crazy things to further that objective - to prove, if you will, that America is incapable of self-government, that smart people like him and Michelle are needed to guide our every move.
Maybe he wants to create civil strife. Maybe he wants to foment armed rebellion. Maybe he realizes that would provide him cover to take sweeping and repressive actions that effectively subvert the Constitution.
In Farah's disillusioned reality, Obama is planning to end private firearm ownership while acting as the driving force behind gun sales. As Farah puts it, "There's a lot of irony here to digest."
In the wake of President Obama's re-election, right-wing media outlets and figures compared the president to a dictator, called for a revolution, and baselessly suggested impeachment.
In his latest column, WND editor Joseph Farah takes the right-wing media's misreading of President Obama's declaration of executive privilege with regard to some documents concerning the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious sought by congressional Republicans to its "logical" conclusion: President Obama has declared himself, "quite possibly, an accessory to murder." From the piece:
Now understand what this means. Obama cannot claim executive privilege for any member of his administration. He can only do so for himself and his inner circle of advisers, and should never do so unless it's a matter of national security.
What Obama did, in apparent desperation, was to expose his own personal complicity in this scandal, making him, quite possibly, an accessory to murder.
Can you imagine how big this scandal is and how far it reaches for the administration to take such a gamble?
Farah's point appears to be that by claiming executive privilege for these documents, Obama has acknowledged personal involvement in the authorization of Fast and Furious, and thus, since guns trafficked to Mexico through that program were used to kill people, he could be an "accessory" to those murders.
This doesn't make any sense.
First of all, the documents in question don't deal with the authorization of Operation Fast and Furious, but rather the administration's response to congressional inquiries in response to that operation. Even if Obama was directly involved in that response, it would in no way indicate his "personal complicity in" the operation.
But the administration has not claimed executive privilege on the basis of the president's personal involvement. Which brings us to another problem with Farah's column: his statement that "Obama cannot claim executive privilege for any member of his administration" is simply not true.
As Ohio State University law professor Peter Shane wrote at CNN.com this morning, the Obama administration has claimed deliberative privilege with regard to the documents in question, which "aims to protect documents generated anywhere in the executive branch that embody only the executive's internal deliberations, not final policy decisions."
For conservatives, it never gets old. It's 2012 and Obama's dedicated media foes are still writing about his possible foreign birthplace.
But now, in a confusing twist, conservatives are demanding the mainstream press pay great attention to the latest Kenya-related blip-of-a-revelation, that a 21-year-old publishing pamphlet not meant for public distribution erroneously claimed that Obama had been born in Kenya. (The author of the pamphlet insists it was a simple mistake.) One Breitbart blogger is now insisting that the press take this story very, very seriously and follow it up with detailed reports. And if journalists don't, well, that's just proof that the liberal media is covering for Obama.
Please note that up until very recently, conservatives were making the exact opposite claim. You'll recall that birtherism, according to some right-wing pundits, was a liberal media conspiracy and the only reason the story lived on was because the Obama-loving press wouldn't stop writing about it in hopes of making the president's opponents look like "right-wing nutjob kooks." (Hint: They didn't need any help.)
The claim, of course, was pure fiction. Last year, it was Fox News that went all-in on the birther story and gave Donald Trump a national platform to embarrass himself with his birth certificate expedition.
Nonetheless, right-wing commentators were in heated agreement: Talk of Obama's birthplace was a deliberate "distraction" cooked up by the press and the White House to keep people's minds off the real issues of the day.
If so, then Breitbart.com is now part of that vast left-wing conspiracy, as the site has morphed into a clearinghouse this week with scores of blog posts about burning questions that surround Obama's birthplace. Or at least the burning question that surrounds a 1991 pamphlet that mentioned his birthplace.
Team Breitbart is making all the strenuous claim that by raising questions about Obama being listed as "Born in Kenya" on an old publishing pamphlet, and blogging about the topic incessantly, they're not wallowing in birtherism. But it's a distinction without a difference, really. Either you purposefully feed this conspiratorial jibberish or you don't.
This week there has been lots of feeding going on and naturally it's been loudly promoted by professional birthers, such as Joseph Farah, who heralded the Breitbart pamphlet story as a "breakthrough." (Although Farah was upset the Breitbart crew was "still reticent about publishing this blockbuster for fear of being labeled 'birthers.'") Breitbart.com contributor Pam Geller also held up the pamphlet story as validation of her previous birther nonsense.
Last year, Karl Rove and Bill O'Reilly, two birther non-believers, were lamenting the story's astonishing staying power when Rove noted, "Every moment that conservatives talk about this, they marginalize and diminish themselves in the minds of independent voters."
Rove and others please take note, it wasn't the liberal media or the Obama White House that forced the entire right-wing blogosphere to, once again, wallow in questions about Obama's birthplace this week. That dubious distinction came from within the heart of the conservative movement, Breitbart.com.
UPDATED: According to a Breitbart post today, the press is now ignoring, or covering up, the site's birther scoop. So, last year the press protected Obama by hyping the birther story. Now the press is protecting Obama by not hyping the birther story.
Declaring that he "has had enough" of "national news programs" that mislead American voters, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly said he will now aim to tell viewers "every time I see craziness in the national media during the campaign." However, the examples of "craziness" O'Reilly cited, including the myth that "Obama was not born in America," have all been promoted on Fox News -- something he did not mention.