Ruth Marcus

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  • The Guide To Donald Trump's War On The Press (So Far)


    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.

  • An Extensive Guide To The Fact Checks, Debunks, And Criticisms Of Trump’s Various Problematic Policy Proposals


    Over the course of the 2016 presidential primary, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has laid forth a series of problematic policy proposals and statements -- ranging from his plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States to his suggestion that the United States default on debt -- that media have warned to be “dangerous,” “fact-free,” “unconstitutional,” “contradictory,” “racist,” and “xenophobic.” Media Matters compiled an extensive list of Trump’s widely panned policy plans thus far along with the debunks and criticism from media figures, experts and fact-checkers that go along with them.

  • Media Misleadingly Compare Anti-LGBT Indiana Law With Federal And State Religious Freedom Laws


    Media outlets have argued that Indiana's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) mirrors RFRAs passed in other states as well as the federal RFRA signed into law in 1993 by then-President Bill Clinton. In fact, Indiana's RFRA is broader than other versions of the law, and experts say it could allow private businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers on the basis of religion.

  • FLASHBACK: When Millions Of Lost Bush White House Emails (From Private Accounts) Triggered A Media Shrug

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Even for a Republican White House that was badly stumbling through George W. Bush's sixth year in office, the revelation on April 12, 2007 was shocking. Responding to congressional demands for emails in connection with its investigation into the partisan firing of eight U.S. attorneys, the White House announced that as many as five million emails, covering a two-year span, had been lost.

    The emails had been run through private accounts controlled by the Republican National Committee and were only supposed to be used for dealing with non-administration political campaign work to avoid violating ethics laws. Yet congressional investigators already had evidence private emails had been used for government business, including to discuss the firing of one of the U.S. attorneys. The RNC accounts were used by 22 White House staffers, including then-Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, who reportedly used his RNC email for 95 percent of his communications.

    As the Washington Post reported, "Under federal law, the White House is required to maintain records, including e-mails, involving presidential decision- making and deliberations." But suddenly millions of the private RNC emails had gone missing; emails that were seen as potentially crucial evidence by Congressional investigators.

    The White House email story broke on a Wednesday. Yet on that Sunday's Meet The Press, Face The Nation, and Fox News Sunday, the topic of millions of missing White House emails did not come up. At all. (The story did get covered on ABC's This Week.)

    By comparison, not only did every network Sunday news show this week cover the story about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emails, but they were drowning in commentary. Between Meet the Press, Face The Nation, This Week, and Fox News Sunday, Clinton's "email" or "emails" were referenced more than 100 times on the programs, according to Nexis transcripts. Talk about saturation coverage.

    Indeed, the commentary for the last week truly has been relentless, with the Beltway press barely pausing to catch its breath before unloading yet another round of "analysis," most of which provides little insight but does allow journalists to vent about the Clintons.

    What has become clear over the last eight days however is that the Clinton email story isn't about lawbreaking. "Experts have said it doesn't appear Clinton violated federal laws," CNN conceded. "But that hasn't stemmed the issue that has become more about bad optics and politics than any actual wrongdoing." The National Law Journal agreed, noting that while the story has created a political furor, "any legal consequences are likely to prove negligible."

    Still, the scandal machine churns on determined to the treat the story as a political blockbuster, even though early polling indicates the kerfuffle will not damage Clinton's standing.  

    Looking back, it's curious how the D.C. scandal machine could barely get out of first gear when the Bush email story broke in 2007.  I'm not suggesting the press ignored the Rove email debacle, because the story was clearly covered at the time. But triggering a firestorm (a guttural roar) that raged for days and consumed the Beltway chattering class the way the D.C. media has become obsessed with the Clinton email story?  Absolutely not. Not even close. 

  • New Poll Debunks Beltway Press Claims About Hillary, Wealth, And "Average Americans"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    After spending much of the last two weeks criticizing Hillary Clinton for supposed "gaffes" about her wealth and claiming she's increasingly out of touch with voters thanks to the combined earnings of herself and her husband, Beltway pundits are confronted with a new poll that shows that despite days worth of media attacks on Clinton's money comments, a clear majority think the former secretary of state relates to "average Americans" and the problems they face. 

    The findings from an NBC/Wall Street Journal survey forcefully debunk the punditry's conventional wisdom that by being "rusty" while discussing her wealth during her recent book tour, Clinton inflicted potentially deep damage to her possible presidential run by being so "out of touch."

    The recent wealth coverage continued the Beltway press' long tradition of parsing portions of Clinton comments taken from hours worth of long-form interviews and spinning then in the most unappealing way, and by claiming Clinton's word choice and "tone" is all wrong. (CNN even altered a Hillary quote about money last week to make it more incriminating and newsworthy.)

    To date though, voters don't seem to mind when Hillary Clinton talks about money.

    Nonetheless as the Washington Post's Dan Balz noted, Clinton's "comments about being "dead broke" upon leaving the White House and not being among the "truly well off" today have triggered an avalanche of coverage raising questions about whether she has lost touch with the lives of ordinary Americans."

    Just yesterday, Balz's colleague Ruth Marcus detailed what she called "Hillary Clinton's money woes," and warned the former first lady that the problem might get "worse" because she risks being viewed by voters as "greedy," "defensive," "whiny," and "out of touch."

    How was Marcus so sure that voters would deeply resent the Clintons' wealth if Hillary ran for president? Or specifically, that they'd resent how she talked about her wealth. Did Marcus cite polling? Did she interview voters? No, she just knew. Or she thought she knew.

    According to the new NBC/WSJ poll, none of Marcus' characterizations are accurate.

    And that's why the red flag of the wealth coverage was always the question of whether voters were as deeply offended by Clinton's wealth as the Beltway press is. (MSNBC's Chuck Todd recently dismissed the Clintons' earnings from giving speeches by insisting, "It's not like they have acquired their wealth from hard work.")

  • George Will Denounces "Flimsy People" Who Challenged Overtly Christian Prayers At Town Meetings

    Blog ››› ››› MEAGAN HATCHER-MAYS

    Washington Post columnist George Will dedicated his most recent column to bashing citizens uncomfortable with forced participation in Christian prayer before they can petition town officials, characterizing both the Jewish and atheist plaintiff in the Supreme Court's recent decision on the constitutionality of state-sponsored prayer as "flimsy people" with "thin skins."

    The suit, Town of Greece v. Galloway, was filed by two residents of Greece -- a small town in upstate New York -- who objected to their town officials' decade-long practice of inviting almost exclusively Christian clergy to deliver at times extremely sectarian prayers before the start of town meetings. On May 6, the Supreme Court's conservative justices held that the Christian prayer regularly invoked at town meetings before residents could engage their local officials in town business did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. In the majority's view, the prayers were appropriate because "although most of the prayer givers were Christian, this fact reflected only the predominantly Christian identity of the town's congregations." In their dissent, the liberal justices noted that although "legislative prayers" have been held to be a ceremonial exception to the First Amendment's prohibition on the establishment of religion, the Town of Greece crossed the constitutional line by embedding Christian prayers as the bar citizens must cross before they can engage their representatives.

    In his Washington Post column, Will celebrated the majority's reinterpretation of what constitutes permissible "legislative prayers." He also took the opportunity to gratuitously slam the "prickly plaintiffs" for bringing the case at all, falsely pretending the concerns of religious minorities are the same as those of "militantly aggravated secularists."

    From Will's May 7 column (emphasis added):

    Three decades have passed since the court last ruled on the matter of prayers during government meetings. In 1983, the court held:

    "The opening of sessions of legislative and other deliberative public bodies with prayer is deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country. From colonial times through the founding of the Republic and ever since, the practice of legislative prayer has coexisted with the principles of disestablishment and religious freedom."

    Since then, however, many Americans have become more irritable and litigious and less neighborly. Also, there are many more nonbelievers. And the court has made establishment-clause jurisprudence more labyrinthine with nuances such as the "endorsement test": What government behavior touching religion would a reasonable observer see as endorsing -- or disapproving -- a particular religion or religiosity generally?


    The majority held that ceremonial prayer -- an encouragement to gravity and sobriety -- is not harmful to the plaintiffs, who felt somehow coerced when present at public prayers, and who said such prayers are necessarily divisive. The court should have told them: If you feel coerced, you are flimsy people, and it is a choice -- an unattractive one -- to feel divided from your neighbors by their affection for brief and mild occasional expressions of religiosity.


    Taking offense has become America's national pastime; being theatrically offended supposedly signifies the exquisitely refined moral delicacy of people who feel entitled to pass through life without encountering ideas or practices that annoy them. As the number of nonbelievers grows -- about 20 percent of Americans are religiously unaffiliated, as are one-third of adults under the age of 30 -- so does the itch to litigate believers into submission to secular sensibilities.

  • Washington Post's Ruth Marcus: Mary Cheney Deserves Equal Rights, But She Should Keep It To Herself

    Blog ››› ››› LUKE BRINKER

    Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus took Mary Cheney to task for challenging her sister Liz's opposition to marriage equality, arguing that - even though it's wrong to deny gays and lesbians the right to marry - Mary Cheney and her wife Heather Poe should have stayed silent instead of "[g]oing nuclear on Facebook."

    In her November 20 column, Marcus echoed right-wing pundits who are casting Mary Cheney as the villain in the family feud, accusing Mary of unfairly jeopardizing Liz's chances of being elected to the U.S. Senate by deigning to say how she feels about having a sister who opposes her right to marry:

    In the matter of the Cheney Family Feud: Something in me balks at leaping on the let's-all-bash-Liz bandwagon.

    Sure, it would be fun. For one thing, she's wrong about same-sex marriage. As her sister, Mary, now famously posted on Facebook after her big sis re-proclaimed her opposition on "Fox News Sunday": "Liz -- this isn't just an issue on which we disagree -- you're just wrong -- and on the wrong side of history."


    Then there is the unfortunate matter of waging this family war in public. It's easy to imagine how infuriating it felt for Mary and her wife, Heather Poe, to be sitting at home watching Liz spout off on Fox News. The urge to fight back obviously was irresistible.

    But taking matters further public? Going nuclear on Facebook? Heather's post painted her sister-in-law as a political carpetbagger who shifted positions along with states:

    "I can't help but wonder how Liz would feel if, as she moved from state to state, she discovered that her family was protected in one but not the other," Heather wrote in a post Mary shared.


    Look, I would have been tempted to post, too. I would have been tempted to tweet. Then I would have thought better of it -- or, more likely, my spouse would have told me to step away from the keyboard. That's what Heather should have done for Mary. Instead, Mary reposted Heather's incendiary message.

    Like a number of right-wing pundits before her, Marcus argues Mary is to blame for the public Cheney family feud. Liz, who chose to run for public office and make her anti-equality position known, apparently bears no responsibility for putting her gay sister and her family in the spotlight.

    The reality is that while gay and lesbian couples are able to marry in 15 states and the District of Columbia, they're second-class citizens in the rest of the country. Pointing out that Liz's position relegates millions of gays and lesbians to second-class status isn't "incendiary" - it's basic truth-telling.

    To be fair, Marcus criticizes Liz Cheney's claim that she has always been "compassionate towards" Mary and her family, but she concludes by suggesting that Mary's family may have read too much into Liz's previous warmth. Perhaps, Marcus offered, Liz Cheney was just "being polite":

    And [Heather Poe posted], "when Mary and I got married in 2012 -- she [Liz] didn't hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us. To have her now say she doesn't support our right to marry is offensive to say the least." But maybe Liz was merely being polite at the time. To say she's happy for the married couple is not the same as saying she embraces their marriage.

    It's easy for Marcus - who's never had her right to marry put up to a referendum or become a political wedge issue - to call for restraint. But Mary and Liz aren't having a minor political disagreement. Liz's opposition to marriage equality has a direct impact on the livelihood and well-being of her gay sister. For gay and lesbian couples - whose freedom to marry isn't uniformly enjoyed and whose legal protections have come only after years of hard-fought struggle - keeping quiet just isn't that simple.

  • Bloggers aren't the problem -- The Washington Post is.

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus writes:

    Blogging is about speed: the early post catches the Google. It is about linking, which may sound like creating a community and encouraging diversity of views but which too often deteriorates into a closed circle of reinforced preconceptions. It is about provocation. Shrillness sells. Even-handedness goes unclicked. Once the people in my business spent time checking and rechecking facts and first impressions. Opinion writers mulled things over. In the world of the blogosphere, mistakes can always be crossed through and corrected; seat-of-the-pants reactions refined.

    Except: Shirley Sherrod.

    I am being unfair, in part, by singling out the blgosphere. The Sherrod story originated there, but the sins of Andrew Breitbart were aided and abetted by bloggers' co-conspirators on cable news. And, of course, in the Obama administration.

    And, of course (though Marcus never so much as hints at it): The Washington Post.

    The Post's first Sherrod article was absolutely horrible. And it came long after many of those shrill bloggers Marcus criticizes had gotten the story right. It must feel good for legacy media to wag their fingers at irresponsible bloggers -- but they'd do far more good by calling out their peers.

    Another Post columnist, E.J. Dionne, did just that today:

    [T]he Obama team was reacting to a reality: the bludgeoning of mainstream journalism into looking timorously over its right shoulder and believing that "balance" demands taking seriously whatever sludge the far right is pumping into the political waters.

    This goes way back. Al Gore never actually said he "invented the Internet," but you could be forgiven for not knowing this because the mainstream media kept reporting he had.

    There were no "death panels" in the Democratic health-care bills. But this false charge got so much coverage that an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll last August found that 45 percent of Americans thought the reform proposals would likely allow "the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care to the elderly." ...

    The traditional media are so petrified of being called "liberal" that they are prepared to allow the Breitbarts of the world to become their assignment editors. Mainstream journalists regularly criticize themselves for not jumping fast enough or high enough when the Fox crowd demands coverage of one of their attack lines.

    Thus did Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander ask this month why the paper had been slow to report on "the Justice Department's decision to scale down a voter-intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party." Never mind that this is a story about a tiny group of crackpots who stopped no one from voting. It was aimed at doing what the doctored video Breitbart posted set out to do: convince Americans that the Obama administration favors blacks over whites.

    This is racially inflammatory, politically motivated nonsense -- and it's nonsense even if Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh talk about it a thousand times a day. When an outlandish charge for which there is no evidence is treated as an on-the-one-hand-and-on-the-other-hand issue, the liars win.

    The Sherrod case should be the end of the line. If Obama hates the current media climate, he should stop overreacting to it. And the mainstream media should stop being afraid of insisting on the difference between news and propaganda.


    Washington Post to liberals: Get Lost

    WaPo, Ombudsman ignore right-wing race-baiting

    Is there a phony right-wing attack WaPo's Ombudsman won't promote?

  • Marcus notes right wing "vilif[ied] Tom Coburn for a moment of civility"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From Marcus' April 14 Washington Post column, "Vilifying Tom Coburn for a moment of civility":

    Coburn went on: "What we have to have is make sure we have a debate in this country so that you can see what's going on and make a determination yourself. So don't catch yourself being biased by Fox News that somebody is no good. The people in Washington are good. They just don't know what they don't know."

    The howling was swift.

    Rush Limbaugh: "Well, who cares if she's nice? . . . Al Capone was a nice guy. Hitler had friends, for crying out loud. . . . So Coburn says, 'There's no intention of putting anybody in jail.' No, no, no. . . . Somebody tell Tom Coburn she was specifically asked about possible jail time, and she said 'the legislation is very fair in this respect.' " Glenn Beck: "The Republican that I'm supposed to defend because he's so unlike Nancy Pelosi was defending Nancy Pelosi."

    Mark Levin, who manages to make Limbaugh and Beck sound like calm voices of reason: "We don't need you hack, detestable politicians telling us a damn thing. Most of you are a bunch of pathetic, unethical morons. And so, no, Mr. Coburn, we won't be told to sit down and be quiet. We won't be told by you to watch CNN to balance off Fox. You got that, pal? Who the hell do you think you are? You sound like a jerk, to be perfectly honest about it. You, the jerk, who backed John McCain."


    GOP senator calls out Fox News for bias and misinformation

    Beck in disbelief that "great Republican hope" Coburn would defend Nancy Pelosi

    O'Reilly to Coburn: "Maybe we deserve" criticism for Fox's treatment of Pelosi

    O'Reilly's whopper: "Nobody" on Fox said failing to buy health insurance could result in jail time

  • Abortion and the fungibility of federal funds

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    In my column last week about media coverage of health care reform and abortion, I pointed out some flaws with arguments by Chris Matthews and others that money is fungible, so any government funds that go to any insurance company that also provides abortion coverage constitutes federal funding for abortion.

    In today's Washington Post, Ruth Marcus makes an excellent point I wish I'd thought of:

    The same folks who squawk about money being fungible when it comes to federal funding and abortion take the opposite view when it comes to federal funding and parochial schools, or federal funding and faith-based programs.

    When the Catholic Church takes government money to run homeless shelters or soup kitchens, it frees up dollars for other, religious expenses that wouldn't be a permissible use of government funds. Somehow, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which pushed the Stupak amendment, isn't bothered by this reality.

    When the government gives low-income families tuition vouchers to use at parochial schools, or sends educational material and equipment to parochial schools, the bishops aren't worried about whether that money is being commingled to subsidize religion.

    "The simple fact that broad governmental social programs may have some effect of aiding religious institutions . . . cannot be cause for invalidating a program on Establishment Clause grounds," the bishops argued in one case before the Supreme Court.

    Last week, Matthews insisted:

    Everybody knows that money's fungible and that this is basically an accounting trick. And I don't think it'll work with people who have a moral problem with abortion funding by the federal government.

    For some reason, I doubt he'll address Marcus' point on his show tonight.