CNN host Newt Gingrich declared that Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' congressional testimony was worse than Richard Nixon's alleged crimes during the Watergate scandal, another round in the right-wing media's campaign to find their own Watergate scandal with which to smear the Obama administration.
During Sebelius' ongoing testimony before the House Energy and Commerce committee about HHS' role in producing the Healthcare.gov, CNN Crossfire host and former GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich commented via Twitter that Sebelius' "dishonesty" in her testimony "exceeds anything president [sic] Nixon was accused of."
Nixon, of course, was nearly impeached for his administration's involvement in and attempted cover-up of the wiretapping of Democratic party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. The Supreme Court had to order Nixon to hand over tape recordings implicating himself in the cover-up, and he subsequently resigned from the presidency.
Perhaps conservative media should consult this helpful Media Matters flowchart in the future: Is It Watergate?
UPDATE: CNN Newsroom host Wolf Blitzer confronted Gingrich regarding his Nixon comparison, explaining, "I just want to know if you want to revise making a comparison to Nixon." When pressed by Blitzer on whether Gingrich believes Sebelius committed any crimes -- like Nixon allegedly did -- Gingrich said, "We don't know yet." Later, when Blitzer called Gingrich's comparison "overblown," Gingrich jokingly offered to "modify" his tweet, to say that Sebelius's testimony "equals anything" of which Nixon had been accused, admitting that "'exceeds' may have been too strong."
BLITZER: On the point comparing it to Nixon, comparing what she did -- what this secretary did to Nixon, that is, I mean just between you and me, that's a little overblown.
GINGRICH: Well, what do you say about an administration which, you just pointed out, the actual number may be 16 million Americans losing their policies. Now, this affects life and death. It affects --
BLITZER: You're talking about the president. Here, you said -- and I'll read it again just to be precise and then you can tell me if you want to revise it. 'Sebelius dishonesty in testimony this morning exceeds anything President Nixon was accused of.'
GINGRICH: Ok, I will -- I will modify it: 'Equals anything.' How is that. Exceeds may have been too strong. I think to go under oath and say with a straight face there was not an outage in a site you've been covering for a month.
Last month, Newt Gingrich's media production company was paid $9,500 by the Republican National Committee, a fact he has not divulged on Crossfire, the CNN program he co-hosts. It's the latest ethics headache brought to the network by their new host.
The RNC made the payment to Gingrich Productions on September 25 for "media services," as National Review's Jonathan Strong first reported. Gingrich Productions is a multimedia production company founded by the former Speaker of the House that features his work and that of his wife Callista, who has served as the company's president since Newt transferred control of the company to her in 2011 in preparation for his presidential run.
According to financial disclosure forms that Gingrich filed during that campaign, Gingrich Productions paid him $2.4 million in 2010. It's unclear whether such payments have restarted following the conclusion of his run, but an April 2013 Time.com article reported that Gingrich's future plans were "centered around" the company.
Gingrich Productions' website highlights Gingrich's role as host of CNN's Crossfire, "where he continues to advocate bold policy ideas." As a Fox News contributor, Gingrich regularly appeared on air to promote the work of the for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations he headed, including Gingrich Productions.
A Media Matters review of CNN transcripts found no indication that Gingrich had disclosed the RNC payment on-air. A CNN spokesman declined to comment.
As the government shutdown loomed and then became a reality, right-wing media figures have called for maintained Republican commitment to keeping the government closed until Democrats agree to significant changes to the Affordable Care Act.
From the September 29 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
In an apparent reversal, CNN now says that Crossfire co-host Newt Gingrich is not actually violating network standards by failing to disclose his PAC's financial relationship with politicians discussed on the program.
Rick Davis, CNN's Executive Vice President of News Standards and Practices, issued a statement to Media Matters saying the network is "clarifying" its ethics policy, and that Gingrich is "not in violation" of network rules:
We are clarifying the policy and making it clear Newt Gingrich is not in violation. The policy: If a Crossfire co-host has made a financial contribution to a politician who appears on the program or is the focus of the program, disclosure is not required during the show since the co-host's political support is obvious by his or her point of view expressed on the program.
Davis' statement appears to be at odds with earlier comments he had made about the network's guidelines for Gingrich. In an interview with Media Matters earlier this month, Davis said that if Gingrich, who serves as honorary co-chair for the American Legacy PAC, "is helping fund a candidate and that candidate's on the show, or being discussed on the show, of course he'll disclose that. Disclosure is important when it's relevant."
However, as Media Matters reported, Gingrich hosted Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on the first episode of Crossfire's revival, and discussed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on September 24, without disclosing that his PAC had donated to the campaigns of both Republicans.
Gingrich also praised Cruz on CNN outside of Crossfire. Several hours after Media Matters first reported on Gingrich apparently violating network rules, he appeared on the September 25 edition of Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees and again appeared to cross the line. Gingrich said Cruz is "proving to be a pretty clever guy" and "there are an awful lot of Republicans who'd rather at least see someone with the guts to fight than just be told automatically let's surrender." Gingrich and CNN did not mention his PAC's ties to Cruz.
Issues with Gingrich and his PAC aren't limited to CNN disclosure problems. Mother Jones raised significant questions about whether Gingrich is fronting a "dubious PAC" since "most of the money flowing into American Legacy PAC is benefiting vendors and consultants who have long been associated with Gingrich" rather than actual candidates.
Less than a month into his tenure as a new CNN host, Newt Gingrich has already violated the ethical guidelines set for him by the network.
CNN executive Rick Davis previously told Media Matters that if Gingrich, who serves as honorary co-chair for the American Legacy PAC, "is helping fund a candidate and that candidate's on the show, or being discussed on the show, of course he'll disclose that. Disclosure is important when it's relevant." However, Gingrich has violated those standards since his first day of hosting.
As Mother Jones' David Corn and Andy Kroll reported today, Gingrich's PAC recently donated to the campaigns of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
After the donations were made, Gingrich hosted Paul on the first episode of Crossfire's revival -- and discussed Cruz on yesterday's episode -- without disclosing his PAC's donations in either instance.
The rebooted Crossfire debuted September 9 with a discussion about Syria featuring Paul and Sen. Bob Menendez. During the program, Gingrich sided with Paul against military strikes on Syria. A few weeks earlier, on August 20, American Legacy PAC founder and president Mike Murray sent an email to supporters announcing they're "proud to endorse Sen. Rand Paul and provide him with a check for $5,000 to aid in his re-election in 2016!"
During the September 24 edition of Crossfire, Gingrich discussed Cruz's lengthy speech against Obamacare, and complained that the Senate has become "virtually a dictatorial system" and "people like Ted Cruz, they end up giving speeches like this and making noise in the media, in part because they can't get a vote ... If Ted Cruz had come in yesterday and gotten his vote, he'd probably have gotten 12 to 20 to 25 votes." American Legacy sent an email on August 29 announcing they're "proud to announce our endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz along with a $5,000 donation to his campaign."
Following a brief hiatus for a failed presidential campaign/book tour, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is returning to the world of political punditry. Starting tonight, Gingrich will serve as one of the hosts on CNN's resurrected Crossfire.
As reported by The New York Times in August, installing Gingrich as part of a Crossfire reboot was "one of the first ideas that Jeff Zucker floated on becoming president of CNN Worldwide in January," according to Sam Feist, CNN's Washington bureau chief.
The Timesprofile documents how Crossfire was scrapped in 2004 a few months after Jon Stewart appeared on the show and accused the hosts of being "partisan hacks" that were "hurting America."
According to Gingrich, the show fell apart because "it became more of a talking-points yelling match between people who thought the job was to be smarmy."
Though Gingrich has a reputation as being one of the big minds of the Republican Party -- the Times quotes Zucker praising Gingrich as "an incredibly smart, intellectual thinker" -- he has a long history of outlandish rhetoric more befitting a radio shock jock than a wonky intellectual.
Here's a short look back at some of Gingrich's lowlights as a pundit and political figure, and the type of commentary CNN viewers can probably expect with Newt on Crossfire:
If Newt Gingrich shows signs of raising money or hiring staff for another presidential run he would have to immediately give up his new job on CNN's reborn Crossfire, a top CNN executive told Media Matters.
But until that time, Gingrich can remain on the CNN payroll even as he is involved with at least two political action committees that are working to raise money for Republican candidates and help the former House Speaker retire his 2012 campaign debt, as long as any conflict is disclosed on the show.
Rick Davis, a former Crossfire producer and current CNN executive vice-president of standards and practices, said Gingrich, who has floated a potential 2016 presidential run, would have to give up his new job at the network if he starts fundraising for a new political campaign or forms a staff to conduct such an effort.
"If they're going to get in touch with the [Federal Election Commission] and start raising some money for a campaign our relationship's over, or if they are going to start having some paid staff for some sort of campaign, our relationship's over," Davis said when asked about Gingrich.
According to Davis, Gingrich is subject to the same rules that applied to Crossfire hosts in the show's previous incarnation. Both Pat Buchanan and Geraldine Ferraro ended stints as hosts of that program to run for office, Buchanan for a 2000 presidential run and Ferraro for a 1998 Senate run.
"I was overseeing Crossfire back then and I dealt with both of them then and the policy then is the same policy now," Davis added.
Davis' comments come just days after Gingrich hinted that he may make another White House run in 2016.
In an interview with fellow Crossfire host S.E. Cupp, Gingrich said he would not rule out a 2016 run. When asked if he would "run again in the future," Gingrich replied: "I don't know. We still have a substantial campaign debt. If we can pay it off we would seriously look [at] a 2016 run."
Gingrich had been asked in the past if he would consider running for president in 2016, and said at various times, "It's not a no," "I don't rule it out, but we're not spending any energy on it," "I have no idea at this stage," "It's certainly something that we're going to keep our powder dry and see how the next two years evolve," and "I doubt that, but one never knows."
In June, National Review Online quoted a Gingrich "insider" claiming of a potential Gingrich bid: "There's no planning or anything like that. But these are people who are big fans of his, so a lot of them want to see him run in 2016."
Davis would not say if Gingrich had been asked about his 2016 plans during negotiations for the new Crossfire post, but added, "that's clearly our policy, he knows it and that's it."
Days before the re-launch of CNN's Crossfire, Newt Gingrich said in an interview with fellow Crossfire host S.E. Cupp that he won't rule out running for president again in 2016. When asked if he would "run again in the future," Gingrich replied: "I don't know. We still have a substantial campaign debt. If we can pay it off we would seriously look [at] a 2016 run."
Gingrich has been asked at various times if he would consider running for president in 2016, and said, "It's not a no," "I don't rule it out, but we're not spending any energy on it," "I have no idea at this stage," "It's certainly something that we're going to keep our powder dry and see how the next two years evolve," "I doubt that, but one never knows." In June, National Review Online quoted a Gingrich "insider" claiming of a potential Gingrich bid: "There's no planning or anything like that. But these are people who are big fans of his, so a lot of them want to see him run in 2016."
Gingrich used his prior Fox News employment as a springboard to rehab himself with Republican voters, and position himself for a longshot bid for the Republican nomination. The New York Times noted that "Gingrich's myriad appearances on Fox News over the years have been a central part of the rebirth of his political career. The television exposure, his aides believe, has allowed him to reintroduce himself to older Republicans and to introduce himself for the first time to a generation of voters who do not remember his rise nearly two decades ago." Gingrich's Fox News contract was eventually suspended as he signaled his intention to form an exploratory committee, and then terminated all together. Then-CNN media critic Howard Kurtz -- now with Fox -- wrote in The Daily Beast that Fox was allowing Republicans to "utilize the platform of the country's top-rated cable news channel, and pad their bank accounts to boot."
If Gingrich wants to bolster a president bid via Crossfire, he already has a model (though ultimately unsuccessful) in former host Pat Buchanan. As CNN noted when covering the legal and media issues surrounding Gingrich's dual roles as potential candidate and Fox employee, "CNN faced similar circumstances in the 1990s with Crossfire co-host Pat Buchanan when he ran for the Republican Presidential nomination. CNN ended Buchanan's duties on the show once it was clear that he was seriously considering a presidential bid."
CNN is using 21-year-old footage of Newt Gingrich attacking Hillary Clinton to promote the return of Crossfire, which Gingrich will co-host, and promising that the show will fixate on Clinton for the next several years.
CNN plans to relaunch the franchise in September and is running promotions for the show leading up to its September 16 premiere. The New York Times reported earlier this month that Gingrich will be "the marquee attraction" on the show.
And if a promo running at CNN.com is any indication, Gingrich will use his perch to renew his decades-long campaign demonizing Hillary Clinton. The promo, billed as a return to "Classic Crossfire," opens with the former Speaker of the House claiming: "The new Crossfire is going to bring a lot of new things to television, but it's also going to bring some that have been on a long time."
On August 12, a federal court judge ruled that the New York Police Department (NYPD) was improperly performing the common police tactic of "stop and frisk" by unconstitutionally targeting persons of color without reasonable suspicion. The New York City Council agreed, and passed legislation over a mayor's veto on August 23 to safeguard against future unconstitutional applications of this long-standing enforcement tactic. Right-wing media responded by ignoring the constitutional violations and instead defended the NYPD's actions for "establishing a sense of order."
Right-wing media incessantly trumpet their fidelity to the U.S. Constitution while simultaneously accusing progressives of ignoring it, a position that has been abandoned in their attacks on the court decision holding New York City stop and frisk policy is unconstitutional.
On August 12, a federal district court held that while case law has long allowed police to initiate street encounters that briefly detain and investigate persons suspected of wrongdoing, there are certain Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment parameters to the practice that the New York Police Department (NYPD) violated. Specifically, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin held that the NYPD's version of stop and frisks - generally permitted by the Supreme Court in the 1968 opinion of Terry v. Ohio - unconstitutionally targeted New Yorkers of color because of their race and without reasonable suspicion.
Rather than engage the legal analysis, right-wing media are instead defending the NYPD by downplaying or ignoring its current unconstitutionality and arguing its justification lies in its purported efficacy at reducing crime rates.
On August 13, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham appeared on Fox & Friends to dismiss the constitutional concerns over an "inconvenience" as "ludicrous" and accused the federal judge of "substitut[ing] her own view of the world, her own utopian view of how the world should be for the way the real life is, for the people who are trying to get by, not get killed, not get robbed, not get raped on the streets of New York." The editorial board of The Wall Street Journal reiterated this concern for New Yorkers, particularly those of color, by lamenting "if the judge's ruling isn't overturned, the victims won't be in the tony precincts of liberal New York. They will be in the barrios and housing projects where stop-and-frisk has helped to protect the most vulnerable citizens, who are usually minorities."
Fox News host Sean Hannity highlighted the alleged disproportionate criminality of African-American men in his sympathy for future victims at risk from a change in NYPD policy, arguing on his August 13 radio show "it's not racial profiling, or indirect racial profiling." He continued, "[the disparity in stops and frisks] mirrored the disproportionate percentage of crimes committed by young minority men, that's what [the NYPD] said." Bill O'Reilly bluntly warned on the August 13 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, "if they do away with this program, that would be a disaster."
Stansberry & Associates, an investment research firm catering to right-wing audiences' fears of President Barack Obama, has been fined $1.5 million for engaging in "deliberate fraud" and profiting from "false statements." Despite its shoddy history, numerous conservative outlets and personalities including Newt Gingrich, Fox Business, Glenn Beck, Mike Huckabee, Alex Jones, WND, and The Washington Times, have helped legitimize the firm and its wild investment schemes. The firm has also enlisted the help of former Fox News contributor Dick Morris, who has frequently promoted the firm in sponsored video pitches.
Stansberry & Associates was founded in 1999 by Porter Stansberry and claims to have "been predicting the most promising emerging trends and the most influential economic forces affecting the market - with uncanny accuracy - for the past 13 years." Stansberry advertises its services to right-wing audiences with attacks on President Obama and warnings about a forthcoming apocalyptic type collapse of the American government and financial system. Stansberry emails carry subject lines like, "A Survival Secret That Could Save Your Life."
In 2007, Stansberry and his firm -- then called Pirate Investor LLC -- were ordered by a district court to pay $1.5 million in restitution and civil penalties as a result of a Securities and Exchange Commission complaint. As reported by the Baltimore Sun, Stansberry was accused of "disseminating false stock information and defrauding public investors through a financial newsletter ... They claimed investors could double their money if they paid $1,000 for a stock tip involving Bethesda energy company USEC Inc. In total, 1,217 people purchased the report, although 215 of them got their money back after complaining."
A judge in 2007 ruled that Stansberry's activity "undoubtedly involved deliberate fraud" and "making statements that he knew to be false." An appeals court later found that "it would take an act of willful blindness to ignore the fact that Appellants profited from the false statements." Stansberry's defense of his actions can be found here, and a group of publishers, including The New York Times ("The Right to Be Wrong"), defended Stansberry's case on First Amendment grounds.
The Social Security Administration's Office of the Inspector General announced on September 12, 2011, that Stansberry & Associates "agreed to pay a $55,000 civil monetary penalty to the Social Security Administration" for violating the Social Security Act. The firm settled the case by paying the fine while not admitting a violation. SSA's complaint alleged that Stansberry advertised it services by claiming to have information from "insiders" on how to increase your Social Security check, and "the SSA OIG believed that the characterization of Stansberry's SSA contacts as 'insiders' falsely implied that the information was not available to the public. The claimed 'insider' information was, in fact, available to anyone upon request."
As Republicans made history yesterday by filibustering a secretary of defense nominee for the first time in U.S. history, Fox News contributor Scott Brown expressed support for the Republican's obstructionist strategy of denying Chuck Hagel's confirmation vote. Insisting there was no reason to "ram" Hagel's nomination through, and claiming Republicans were acting "thoroughly" and "thoughtfully," the former Republican senator told Neil Cavuto's viewers GOP senators leading the filibuster effort "have some very real concerns" and were acting appropriately in blocking a vote.
Sean Hannity agreed, boasting last night that blocking Hagel's confirmation represented a "major win" for the Republican Party.
Of course, Fox News employee Bill Kristol helped launch the entire anti-Hagel effort back in December and his group has aired anti-Hagel ads. This week on Fox News' Special Report, Kristol urged Republicans to stick together and delay the confirmation vote. Meanwhile, Fox contributor Erick Erickson took to the Internet yesterday, beseeching conservatives to contact their senators and implore them to filibuster Hagel's nomination.
So yeah, Fox News seems fine with the obstructionist effort underway in the Senate.
And yes, here's the part where we detail how Fox News projected a very different message when a Republican president's cabinet nominee once encountered far more mild opposition from Democrats. Under that scenario, Fox talkers thundered about the "petty" and "mean spirited" nature of Democrats and led viewers through a series of how-dare-they segments.
The glaring hypocrisy makes the current, hollow cries against Hagel even more difficult to take seriously.
The truth is, Democrats have never tried to obstruct an up-or-down vote on a secretary of defense pick before. And since the Senate tradition for the last hundred years has been to allow newly elected presidents to pick the cabinet of his choice, there is no recent instance to contrast with the Hagel nomination brawl, or the media behavior that surrounded it.
The closest comparison, and it isn't even that close, came when President Bush nominated Condoleezza Rice to be Secretary of State during his second term. Some Democrats objected, noting that Rice had helped plan, and publicly market, the controversial Iraq invasion; an invasion built around the false premise that Saddam Hussein was hoarding weapons of mass destruction.
Unlike Hagel (a critic of the Iraq War), Rice was easily confirmed by the Senate committee overseeing her selection, and was then given a full vote in the senate, which approved her 85-13. Democrats made no effort to place a "hold" or to filibuster her confirmation. As Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) told Fox's Chris Wallace at the time of the Rice nomination, "The president is entitled to his Cabinet." Feinstein added that she didn't want Rice "diminished in the eyes of the world," via the confirmation process.
But the mere fact that a handful of Democrats opposed Rice and pressed her closely about the Iraq War during the confirmation process prompted several rounds of angry complaints from Fox News. The same Fox News that now touts the Hagel filibuster as a "major win."
Right-wing pundits frequently use former President Ronald Reagan's name to apply a stamp of approval on anything or anyone they deem symbolic of the ideal conservative -- even when Reagan's actual record on issues ranging from taxes to the deficit deviated far from the ideological standards of today's conservative movement.
Republican darling du jour Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) is the latest to receive the Reagan badge. Ahead of his delivery of the GOP response to President Obama's State of the Union address, Karl Rove said Monday that "in Rubio, the Republicans have got probably one of their best communicators since Ronald Reagan." On MSNBC's Morning Joe, The Daily Caller's Matt Lewis called Rubio "Reaganesque." And in November 2012, pundit Cal Thomas published a column on Townhall.com titled, "Marco Rubio: A Hispanic Reagan?"
Rubio is just the latest in a long line of Republican politicians to receive the ubiquitous accolade:
Mitt Romney: Fox News figures repeatedly linked former presidential candidate Romney to the Gipper during both opinion and news shows in the months leading up to the 2012 election. Bill O'Reilly said that Romney "is going to mirror the ghost of Ronald Reagan," while political correspondent Carl Cameron said Romney, on his bus tour, spent a lot of time "sort of echoing Ronald Reagan."
Rep. Paul Ryan (WI): Fox News figures from K.T. MacFarland to Megyn Kelly compared Ryan to Reagan as part of their cheerleading for Ryan after he was chosen as Romney's vice presidential candidate.
Gov. Chris Christie (NJ): Fox Nation highlighted a column by the director of the American Enterprise Institute with the headline, "Christie's Starting to Look Like Reagan."
Sarah Palin: A post on Breitbart's BigJournalism.com said that Palin "carries the torch of liberty and American exceptionalism in the palm of her lovely hand" before calling her the "surviving embodiment of the spirit of 1776 and the Reagan reformation."
Gov. Scott Walker (WI): On Sean Hannity's Fox show, conservative radio host Mike Gallagher called Walker "the Ronald Reagan of our time."
Gov. Bob McDonnell (VA): Karl Rove, on Hannity's show, called Virginia governor Bob McDonnell "a Reaganite conservative."
Gov. Bobby Jindal (LA): In February 2008, Rush Limbaugh called Jindal "the next Ronald Reagan."
Right-wing media figures have splashed the "Reagan" label about so freely that they're in danger of rendering the compliment meaningless.