The Washington Post

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  • The Dean Of Yale’s Law School Just Schooled The Washington Post On Exxon And The First Amendment

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    Yale Law School Dean Robert Post took to The Washington Post to completely dismantle the bogus claim that the attorneys general investigating ExxonMobil for fraud are trampling the company’s First Amendment rights. And in doing so, he pointed to one of several opinion writers who have misinformed the Post’s readers by advancing this “free speech” defense of Exxon's alleged deception on climate change. 

    Writing in The Washington Post on June 24, Robert Post criticized “ExxonMobil and its supporters” in the media for deceptively “[r]aising the revered flag of the First Amendment” to condemn attorneys general who are investigating Exxon. The attorneys general are looking into whether the oil company committed fraud by deliberating withholding truthful information about climate change from shareholders and the public in order to protect its profits. As Post explained, Exxon and its allies are “eliding the essential difference between fraud and public debate,” and if Exxon has indeed committed fraud, “its speech would not merit First Amendment protection.” He added: “Fraud is especially egregious because it is committed when a seller does not himself believe the hokum he foists on an unwitting public.”

    One of the conservative media figures that Post called out for distorting the Exxon investigations was The Washington Post’s own George Will, who penned an April 22 column peddling the false claim that the attorneys general pursuing Exxon are seeking to “criminalize skepticism” about climate change. And that wasn’t the only basic fact that Will butchered, as the Climate Denier Roundup explained at the time:

    George Will used his column in the Washington Post to offer a lesson on how this campaign [against Exxon] is part of a larger progressive strategy to shut down debate. But apparently it’s Will that needs a history lesson, as he uses as evidence a story about a 2013 IRS investigation accusing the agency of targeting conservatives. But that investigation “found no evidence” that the IRS actions were politically motivated.

    Unfortunately, Will is not the only voice on the Post’s opinion pages who has misrepresented the facts to defend Exxon.

    As the Climate Denier Roundup noted, the same day that Will’s column ran, the Post also published an op-ed by two officials at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a think tank that peddled climate science denial while receiving funding from Exxon. The CEI op-ed repeated the falsehood that the attorneys general are seeking to “run roughshod” over Exxon’s First Amendment protections and prosecute “dissent.” It also engaged in carefully crafted legalese about CEI’s relationship with Exxon, as the Climate Denier Roundup observed:

    Worth noting CEI’s careful phrasing about its relationship with Exxon, which CEI says “publicly ended its support for us after 2005.” With Donors Trust and others making it possible to anonymize giving, the key word is “publicly.”

    Flashback to November 2015, and the story at the Post is much the same. Like Will, the Post’s Robert Samuelson claimed in a November 8 column that investigations of Exxon are an “assault” on free speech, and that the “advocates of a probe into ExxonMobil are essentially proposing that the company be punished for expressing its opinions.” Samuelson also repeated Exxon’s bogus talking point that a 1989 Exxon document proves that groundbreaking reports about Exxon by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times "'cherry-pick[ed]' their evidence."

    Then there’s the Post editorial board itself, which prematurely concluded in a November 15 editorial that Exxon “didn’t commit a crime.” Perhaps the Post will reconsider after hearing from Robert Post on that matter. 

    From Robert Post’s June 24 op-ed in The Washington Post:

    If large oil companies have deliberately misinformed investors about their knowledge of global warming, they may have committed serious commercial fraud.


    ExxonMobil and its supporters are now eliding the essential difference between fraud and public debate. Raising the revered flag of the First Amendment, they loudly object to investigations recently announced by attorneys general of several states into whether ExxonMobil has publicly misrepresented what it knew about global warming.

    The National Review has accused the attorneys general of “trampling the First Amendment.” Post columnist George F. Will has written that the investigations illustrate the “authoritarianism” implicit in progressivism, which seeks “to criminalize debate about science.” And Hans A. von Spakovsky, speaking for the Heritage Foundation, compared the attorneys general to the Spanish Inquisition.

    Despite their vitriol, these denunciations are wide of the mark. If your pharmacist sells you patent medicine on the basis of his “scientific theory” that it will cure your cancer, the government does not act like the Spanish Inquisition when it holds the pharmacist accountable for fraud.

    The obvious point, which remarkably bears repeating, is that there are circumstances when scientific theories must remain open and subject to challenge, and there are circumstances when the government must act to protect the integrity of the market, even if it requires determining the truth or falsity of those theories. Public debate must be protected, but fraud must also be suppressed. Fraud is especially egregious because it is committed when a seller does not himself believe the hokum he foists on an unwitting public.


    If ExxonMobil has committed fraud, its speech would not merit First Amendment protection. But the company nevertheless invokes the First Amendment to suppress a subpoena designed to produce the information necessary to determine whether ExxonMobil has committed fraud. It thus seeks to foreclose the very process by which our legal system acquires the evidence necessary to determine whether fraud has been committed. In effect, the company seeks to use the First Amendment to prevent any informed lawsuit for fraud.

  • The Problem With The Media’s ‘Trump Is Pivoting’ Narrative

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Media figures have repeatedly claimed that presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is “pivoting” to the general election every time he does something that they think makes him look or sound “presidential.” Media’s constant search for Trump’s “pivot” effectively whitewashes all of the racist, sexist, slanderous, and conspiratorial attacks Trump has doled out, and mainstreams the idea that Trump’s past diatribes can be forgiven so long as he assumes a veneer of conventional, tempered behavior.

    Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump and the media have engaged in a cycle wherein Trump launches offensive broadsides and character attacks; He gets bad press; Republican leaders clamor for Trump to tone down his rhetoric; Trump obliges, often using a teleprompter to restrain himself; Media figures claim Trump has “pivoted” and is “becoming more presidential”; and repeat.

    As MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace said, Trump constantly shatters the “pivot” narrative “by trotting out conspiracy theories” -- or, as others have noted, outrageous insults -- within hours of being lauded as “presidential.” 

    In following this pattern, the media are both applauding Trump for having simply mastered “campaign 101,” as CNN’s David Gregory noted, and excusing his past remarks as political maneuvering and electoral showmanship.

    In early June, after Trump launched a multiday racist crusade against Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over Trump University lawsuits, Republican leaders beseeched Trump to “get on message” and “quit attacking … various minority groups in the country.” That very night, Trump delivered a speech -- devoid of any attacks and with the aid of a teleprompter -- that “sought to calm fretful Republicans bolting from his side over his latest controversy,” CNN reported.

    Media figures immediately claimed that Trump’s restraint showed he was “pivoting.” NBC News reporter Ali Vitali wrote that Trump “acted presidential” in the speech, which “finalized his pivot to the general election.” CNN host Don Lemon said the “new, more presidential Donald Trump” is what “people in Washington wanted to see.” Unsurprisingly, Trump also received praise from right-wing media for sounding “more presidential than ever.”

    CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill explained the phenomenon:

    “It's kind of a good outcome for Trump, because we're not talking about a Mexican judge anymore. We're not talking about something controversial. We're talking about Trump changing the direction of his campaign. That can only be good news for him, based on what the last three weeks have been.”

    GOP leaders condemned Trump’s repeated “offensive” suggestions that President Obama had sympathies for terrorists, but changed their tune once Trump delivered his next teleprompter-guided speech following the mass shooting in Orlando, FL. Some media figures said Trump sounded “more presidential” and was “behaving like general election nominees behave,” and Trump’s slanderous accusations against the president quickly fell out of the news cycle.

    The “pivot” claim, which has repeatedly surfaced since at least February, has also helped wash away many of Trump’s past actions and comments: his doubling down on his proposed Muslim ban, his accusations that Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) father was involved in the John F. Kennedy assassination, and his questioning of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s faith.

    Some media figures have noted the journalistic malpractice associated with the constant fallback on the “pivot” narrative. New York Times Magazine correspondent Mark Leibovich, calling the narrative “absurd,” wrote:

    But really, how do you pivot away from saying that Mexicans are rapists? (Will he negotiate “great deals” with more moderate Mexican rapists?) If your campaign is a cult of personality, how can you modulate that personality and still have the cult? In Trump’s case, a “pivot” would constitute a complete overhaul of his very essence.

    Similarly, Washington Post opinion writer Kathleen Parker lambasted media’s “softening of criticism” of Trump and warned “the commentariat,” “Nothing makes Trump more acceptable today than yesterday or last week — or six months ago.”

    The "pivot" narrative has become a reset button, allowing media to excuse or forget all of Trump’s past rhetorical assaults. Media figures are essentially condoning all of his racism, sexism, and conspiracies, so long as he sounds and acts subdued and presidential.

    Image by Dayanita Ramesh and Sarah Wasko. 

  • Wash. Post’s Wemple Highlights Yet Another Conflict Of Interest In CNN’s Hiring Of Trump’s Former Campaign Manager

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple highlighted that, among the various ethical concerns with CNN’s hiring of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, an ongoing defamation lawsuit involving Trump and Lewandowski could pose “another conflict of interest” for CNN’s new hire. Wemple wrote that Lewandowski’s hiring has “reduced” CNN to a “pitiful reality” in which they must warn viewers “that everything they’re about to hear is fatally compromised.”

    On June 23, CNN hired Lewandowski as a “salaried” political commentator days after he had been fired as Trump’s campaign manager. CNN employees and other reporters immediately raised concerns both over potential ethical problems associated with Lewandowski’s hiring and the way Lewandowski has aggressively handled the press in the past.

    Wemple noted possible conflicts of interest in a June 24 Washington Post article writing that an ongoing defamation suit against Trump and Lewandowski by a Republican consultant could be another “possible [source] of taint” for CNN’s arrangement. Wemple highlighted questions which have arisen about whether Trump is “footing the bill” for the both of them, noting how the “entanglement could inhibit Lewandowski’s umpirely duty” to provide analysis about Trump. Wemple added that this concern, among several others, is forcing other CNN employees interviewing Lewandowski “to gore an interviewee not to bring accountability to a campaign, but rather to properly warn CNN viewers that everything they’re about to hear is fatally compromised.” Wemple ultimately wrote that “Trump is dragging down a network’s standards before viewers’ very eyes”:

    In his first appearance as a CNN contributor, former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski showed an unsurprising reverence for his ex-boss. Appearing last night with host Erin Burnett, Lewandowski was careful to refer to “Mr. Trump,” the proper honorific for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. He leveled no criticisms of the candidate. And he said this, too: “I am fully committed in my private time with my family and my friends and telling everybody that I know that Donald Trump is the only person that is going to save this country for my children and hopefully their children someday.”


    The hiring of Lewandowski, accordingly, has reduced CNN to this pitiful reality: A true journalist like Burnett is forced to gore an interviewee not to bring accountability to a campaign, but rather to properly warn CNN viewers that everything they’re about to hear is fatally compromised. Trump is dragging down a network’s standards before viewers’ very eyes.

    Yet there are other possible sources of taint for Lewandowski and his former boss. These two fellows worked together on a presidential campaign for a year, gathering some enemies along the way. One of them is Cheri Jacobus, a Republican consultant and PR adviser.


    A defamation suit filed by Jacobus in New York County claims that those representations are false. It was the Trump camp, contends Jacobus’s complaint, that wooed her. She’s seeking $4 million in damages, just for starters.

    Why mention this suit in the context of Lewandowski’s work for CNN? Because both he and Trump are named as defendants in the civil action. And according to court documents, a single law firm — LaRocca Hornik Rosen Greenberg & Blaha — is representing both of these men. Defending a defamation suit can cost significant sums. This blog has asked the Trump campaign as well as Lewandowski how the pay arrangements are proceeding. Is Trump footing the bill? Is Lewandowski? Have there been any changes in how the costs are handled since Lewandowski left the campaign?

    Inquiries to Lewandowski, the Trump campaign, CNN and the law firm haven’t yet fetched a single response.

    Little extrapolation is required to appreciate how this entanglement could inhibit Lewandowski’s umpirely duty to call balls and strikes on CNN. If Trump is paying for legal representation, for instance, why would Lewandowski call a bunch of balls and imperil the arrangement?

    Those considerations stand apart, of course, from another set of considerations: That Lewandowski, with a big assist from his boss, slimed someone who dared to criticize Trump — and comes away with the reward of a CNN contributor gig.

  • Florida Editorial Boards Lambaste Rubio’s Senate Record In Light Of Senate Run

    ››› ››› MARLEE PITTMAN

    After Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced his intention to seek reelection to the Senate -- despite previously pledging he would not run -- state editorial boards criticized the senator’s “thin record” and “absenteeism” from the Senate during his first term. Several outlets also criticized Rubio’s recent votes against stronger gun laws after claiming the Orlando terror attack on a gay nightclub motivated his reentry into the Senate race.

  • How The Media Helped Donald Trump Boost His Candidacy

    Harvard Professor Gives Insight Into New Shorenstein Report About How The Media Helped Trump And Hurt Clinton

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    The author of a new Harvard study on the media’s coverage of the presidential primary says the press clearly helped Donald Trump on his path to becoming the presumptive Republican nominee.

    This week, Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy released a detailed report on the media’s coverage of the presidential race in 2015, the year leading up to the first primaries. The study found that “Trump is arguably the first bona fide media-created presidential nominee. Although he subsequently tapped a political nerve, journalists fueled his launch."

    The study’s author, Harvard professor Thomas E. Patterson, told Media Matters in an interview that the massive amount of Trump coverage -- as well as its largely positive tone -- predated Trump’s rise in the polls and “helped position him to make a stronger run.”

    “In the past, to get a lot of coverage pre-Iowa you had to be pretty high in the polls, and they started to give him heavy coverage when he was way down there, in the single digits,” Patterson said in an interview. “It is virtually impossible when you go back through all the races before 2016 when you were in a multi-candidate field and you were down where he was you are almost an afterthought to journalists.”

    The study looked at coverage of the candidates prior to the caucus and primary votes by Fox News, CBS, NBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

    Equating the Trump coverage to advertising dollars, Patterson’s report found that Trump received about $55 million worth of positive and neutral coverage in the eight outlets studied, well ahead of the second place candidate, Jeb Bush, at $36 million.

    “It’s gold, it works in every way in [his] favor,” Patterson said. “As you start to go up in the polls, there is a circular pattern, you can raise money and it becomes easier to pull voters into your column. What was abnormal was this extraordinary amount of attention Trump got early on even though he did not appear on paper to be a credible candidate. He was far down in the polls, but he made statements that made for great stories.”

    The study found that all eight of the news outlets studied gave Trump predominantly positive or neutral coverage, from The New York Times, where 63% of stories about Trump were positive or neutral, to USA Today, which led the way with 74%.

    By the same token, Clinton received largely negative coverage across the eight news outlets during 2015. The report argues of this disparity, "Whereas media coverage helped build up Trump, it helped tear down Clinton. Trump’s positive coverage was the equivalent of millions of dollars in ad-buys in his favor, whereas Clinton’s negative coverage can be equated to millions of dollars in attack ads, with her on the receiving end." 

    Patterson pointed to reporting on Clinton's use of a private email account while secretary of state and Republicans' ongoing focus on the 2012 Benghazi attacks as two of the most negatives stories.

    “In her case, the emails and the questions about the emails, how big an issue is this actually, that was a big part of her coverage,” Patterson said. “Benghazi was a bigger part of the news early on and then she had that day-long session with Congress that a lot of people thought she did quite well with. Of all the candidates of recent decades who have been front-runners, she has had the strongest headwinds of negative coverage.”

    But Patterson said the press may have over-covered the email issue and failed to put it in proper context.

    “How big an issue is the email controversy in the context of the candidate’s preparedness and ability to be president of the states?” he asked. “I think you would get some who say it is a molehill into a mountain. My own sense is that as a standalone issue the emails are pretty small potatoes in the realm of presidential preparedness. It has been a common practice in Congress and among cabinet officers to combine them one way or another. She is not an outlier on this and you could ask why the press has not brought that part of the story into it.”

    Patterson added that even apart from those controversies, Clinton’s “substantive issue coverage was more negative than the other candidates.”

    Despite the helping hand the media gave Trump during the primaries, Patterson notes that “in the past few weeks, Trump has gotten the kind of press scrutiny that if it had come earlier it would have been a drag of some kind on his candidacy, perhaps enough to make it hard for him to go into the convention with a majority.”

  • A Comprehensive Guide To The Right-Wing Media Conspiracy Theorists That Have Influenced Trump’s Campaign

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump counts among his allies a stable of fringe right-wing conspiracy theorists who’ve made a name for themselves advancing conspiracy theories that include the myth that President Obama is a secret Kenyan Muslim, Lyndon Johnson assassinated John F. Kennedy, and the CIA is paying Beyonce to create mayhem. Trump’s conspiracy theorist allies also regularly wish violence upon political and media figures who they disagree with.

    Warning: This post contains graphic language and sexual content.

  • Fox News Joins Media Coalition Asking For Release Of Trump U. Depositions

    Fox’s Move Ensures Right-Wing Media Spin Of Trump Deposition

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Fox News joined a media coalition asking the judge in the Trump U. fraud case to release videos of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump being questioned over the real estate program. The move by Fox comes after defending Trump from allegations of fraud surrounding the Trump U. controversy.

    On June 11 Politico reported that a number of media organizations asked Judge Gonzalo Curiel to release video of Trump’s testimony in the Trump U. case. Lawyers for the media coalition argued that the lawsuit “has become a prominent election issue” and that Trump himself had cited Trump U. “as an example of his business success.” The initial coalition included all major TV news networks except for Fox News, as well as newspaper publishers from The New York Times, Washington Post, and Tribune Publishing.

    On June 15, Politico reported that Fox News joined the effort, stating that they were not aware of the request and became interested in joining as soon as they learned of the move:

    Fox News is joining a media coalition seeking to obtain full access to depositions presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gave in a class-action lawsuit over his Trump University real estate seminar program.

    When an array of news organizations moved last week to loosen restrictions on the deposition transcripts and videos, all the major news networks were part of the effort, except for Fox. Also on board were the New York Times, the Washington Post and Tribune Co., publisher of the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune.

    In a filing Wednesday with U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego, lawyers for the media coalition said Fox was joining the consortium supporting the drive to remove confidential designations on parts of Trump's testimony. If those restrictions are lifted, either side in the case would be free to release the transcripts in their entirety and likely the videos of the depositions as well.

    Fox News’ decision to join the media coalition now ensures that right-wing media can continue their struggle to defend Trump by selectively using any video released.

  • Washington Post Duped By NRA’s Attempt To Seem Reasonable On Guns For Terrorists

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON


    After the publication of this post, The Washington Post added and reorganized language so its article now states that the NRA expressed “general support” for Republican proposals rather than "general support" for a bipartisan solution. The primary Republican proposal was authored by Sen. Cornyn and is not a meaningful step toward blocking gun sales to suspected terrorists. The Post gave no indication that it had made revisions to its article. 


    The Washington Post erroneously reported that the NRA expressed “general support” for proposals to block gun sales to suspected terrorists. In fact, the NRA has supported, and continues to support, a proposal that has been described as having “an unworkable standard for blocking dangerous sales” to individuals suspected of having ties to terrorism.

    Under present federal law, there is no prohibition on individuals on either a terror watchlist or the no-fly list purchasing firearms from gun dealers. On June 15, presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump wrote on Twitter, “I will be meeting with the NRA, who has endorsed me, about not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns.”

    The NRA responded, also on Twitter, claiming, “Our position is no guns for terrorists -- period. Due process & right to self-defense for law-abiding Americans.”

    A June 15 Washington Post article cited the NRA’s tweet as evidence that the gun group was “expressing general support” for proposals such as a nascent bipartisan effort being developed by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and “a gun-control group led by former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg”:

    Trump’s announcement, made via Twitter, came as Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), locked in a closely watched reelection battle, told Ohio reporters that he is ready to back a federal ban on weapons sales to anyone on a terrorist watch list if a compromise can be reached. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who has worked on bipartisan gun-control legislation in the past and is also facing a tough reelection, is in talks with a gun-control group led by former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to come up with such a measure, the group said.

    The NRA responded to Trump by expressing general support for such proposals: “Our position is no guns for terrorists -- period. Due process & right to self-defense for law-abiding Americans,” the group tweeted.

    But in a June 15 statement, the NRA indicated that its “position on this issue has not changed.” The statement went on to express continued support for a proposal authored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).

    Cornyn’s proposal would not be a meaningful step toward blocking sales to suspected terrorists. As Everytown for Gun Safety explains, the Cornyn proposal, which was drafted in response to bipartisan legislation introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY), “would fail to address the terror gap, continuing to make it nearly impossible for the government to stop suspected terrorists from buying guns.” This is because the Cornyn proposal “has an unworkable standard for blocking dangerous sales -- requiring officials to show in court not only that someone is suspected of being involved in terrorism, but that he or she will actually commit an act of terror.”

    Additionally, “the counter-proposal would give the government only 72 hours to bring the suspected terrorist into court and meet this incredible standard -- or else the dangerous gun sale will proceed.”

  • Harvard Study Confirms Media’s Role In Trump’s Political Rise

    Study: “Trump Is Arguably The First Bona Fide Media-Created Presidential Nominee”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    A new Harvard University study highlighted how the media’s excessively positive coverage of Donald Trump during the primaries gave the candidate the platform he needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination.

    The study found that while media usually determined the highest polling candidate as the most newsworthy, this was not the case with Trump. He was neither leading in fundraising nor in the polls when his exaggerated coverage began. Additionally, the study found that  though he eventually rose in the polls to warrant such coverage, “he was lifted to that height by an unprecedented amount of free media” (emphasis added):

    So what explains the news media’s early fascination with Trump? The answer is that journalists were behaving in their normal way. Although journalists play a political brokering role in presidential primaries, their decisions are driven by news values rather than political values.  Journalists are attracted to the new, the unusual, the sensational—the type of story material that will catch and hold an audience’s attention. Trump fit that need as no other candidate in recent memory. Trump is arguably the first bona fide media-created presidential nominee. Although he subsequently tapped a political nerve, journalists fueled his launch.

    Journalists seemed unmindful that they and not the electorate were Trump’s first audience. Trump exploited their lust for riveting stories. He didn’t have any other option. He had no constituency base and no claim to presidential credentials. If Trump had possessed them, his strategy could have been political suicide, which is what the press predicted as they showcased his tirades. Trump couldn’t compete with the likes of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or Jeb Bush on the basis of his political standing or following. The politics of outrage was his edge, and the press became his dependable if unwitting ally.

    In 2015, after announcing his bid for president in June, the Trump campaign received  an unprecedented amount of coverage from network nightly news broadcasts. According to television news analyst Andrew Tyndall, though Trump announced his candidacy in mid 2015, he was only surpassed by weather reports in total airtime. Fox News gave Trump almost $30 million in free airtime in 2015, resulting in nearly 24 hours worth of exposure.

    The Harvard study pointed out “Trump’s coverage was positive in tone,” with the press using statements and interviews with Trump supporters that legitimized his comments. . The media also lauded Trump as “presidential” after winning the New York primary despite his repeated racist and sexists statements.

    After reading the Harvard University study, The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza acknowledged the media’s obsession with and overtly positive coverage of Trump contributed to his rise  (emphasis added):

    I think it's important to always take stock of how we are doing in terms of our coverage and what we did wrong and what we could do better. And I think that self-examination includes, when necessary, acknowledging when an argument you had made is no longer backed up by evidence. It's hard for me to look at the Shorenstein Center study and conclude anything other than that the media played a larger role in the rise of Trump than I previously believed.


    Still. For those of you who screamed when I wrote that the media bore no culpability in Trump's rise, you had it right. I'll try to do better next time.   

  • Trump Ally Alex Jones Blames LGBT Community For Orlando Shooting

    Jones: “I Charge Obama, And I Charge The LGBT Community In General With Endangering America”

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    Alex Jones
    Conspiracy theorist and Donald Trump ally Alex Jones blamed President Barack Obama and the American LGBT community for the shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse, which took the lives of at least 49 innocent men and women, stating, “I charge the LGBT community in general with endangering America."

    Right Wing Watch reported that Jones charged President Obama and the American LGBT community with “endangering America, and with the blood of these 50-plus innocent men and women, who did not deserve to die, who did not deserve to have bullets fired into them.” Jones’comments come after he claimed the shooting was a “false flag” attack designed to ban “your speech” and “guns”.

    ALEX JONES (HOST): This gentleman was openly claiming responsibility, and he had been watched for two years. They knew he was about to do it, ordered a stand down just like San Bernardino, and it took until later in the afternoon, eight, nine hours after everybody had gotten up, and knew about this horror -- for the media to go, OK, it’s Islamic terror.

    But Obama wouldn’t say that, he said it’s an attack on us all, because an attack on a gay nightclub is just the heart of everything, so it’s an attack on us all. And my issue is I hate any group of people being attacked, period, but now we’re going to hear the grandstanding, and the LGBT training of the kids in school, and America did this, and this is a part of -- hey, this guy killed more homosexuals than any other gay basher has done in the US in the last 50-plus years. I mean, there might be one death a year, and they act like it’s the end of the world.


    And then you’ve got the very same left, allied with radical Islam, in the belly of the West that has given them all this freedom, and they’re desecrating it, and they’re spitting on it -- and I’m talking about the LGBT crowd that the media speaks for, and that speaks for everybody else, and just sits up there and shoots its mouth off all day, you know, about how they control the culture. It’s a bunch of bullies, who bring in even worse bullies, and are just running around murdering people en-masse.

    And so I charge the left, and I charge Obama, and I charge the LGBT community in general with endangering America, and with the blood of these 50-plus innocent men and women, who did not deserve to die, who did not deserve to have bullets fired into them.

    Jones has a history of demonizing the American LGBT community, asserting the U.S. government uses juice boxes to “encourage homesexuality with chemicals so people don’t have children,” and claimed that non-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people protect “fake rights,” and will make “transvestites [...] throw up all over the walls” in public bathrooms.  

    Though Alex Jones has been relegated to the fringes of conspiracy media, Jones has been aggressively courted by Donald Trump and Trump surrogates. Donald Trump has previously appeared on Jones’ show, praising his “amazing” reputation. Jones has previously hosted Trump senior policy advisor Stephen Miller, and has repeatedly hosted Trump ally Roger Stone.

    Additionally, while the Trump campaign has “revoked the press credentials of the phony and dishonest Washington Post” and Buzzfeed, Jones’ website InfoWars has remained a credentialed outlet.

  • Wash. Post’s Wemple: Bill O’Reilly Is “Following Trump Into A Racist Abyss”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Washington Post’s Erik Wemple lambasted Fox host Bill O’Reilly for excusing presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “racist” attacks on the federal judge presiding over the Trump University lawsuit.

    O’Reilly used his primetime Fox show to call on Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the judge presiding over lawsuits against the now-defunct Trump U., to “recuse himself,” following Trump’s statement that Curiel has “an absolute conflict” because of his Mexican heritage. Trump faced widespread backlash for his “racist” and “highly offensive” remarks, and media figures on MSNBC and CNN condemned Bill O’Reilly for defending Trump’s “attack on the Constitution.”

    In a June 7th article, Wemple criticized O’Reilly for “following Trump into a racist abyss,” by defending “Trump’s argument that a judge cannot do his work because of his heritage — an argument that is bigoted, racist, misanthropic and dumb.” From Wemple’s article:

    In Bill O’Reilly’s world, friends excuse friends for being racist.

    The King of Cable News is a good old pal of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump. They’ve attended ballgames together. They’ve shared an untold number of vanilla milkshakes. They’re so tight that O’Reilly at one point used his association with Trump to put rival Ted Cruz in his place. “I’ve known him for about 30 years. I think he’s an honest man,” said O’Reilly. Settled!


    Reasonable people on both sides of this country’s political divide have condemned Trump’s argument that a judge cannot do his work because of his heritage — an argument that is bigoted, racist, misanthropic and dumb. O’Reilly is not one of those reasonable people. On his program last night, he attempted a a delicate rhetorical operation in which he called for Curiel’s recusal from the case without repeating Trump’s rationale word for word.


    Let’s lay out this un-theoretical argument: With those words, O’Reilly is explicitly following Trump into a racist abyss, one where an upstanding federal judge stands accused, somehow, of political biases just because of his ancestry. In nearly a year of campaign-trail outrages, this is one of Trump’s most sinister offenses — straight-up prejudice masquerading as highfalutin ethics. Ignorance of court precedent enters the mix as well. As Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick wrote, “Despite multiple sad efforts to conflict out black and female judges in discrimination cases in the late 1970s and ’80s—and more recent efforts to conflict out a gay judge in a marriage equality case—courts have consistently ruled judges are no more inherently biased if they are black, or female, or gay than they would be inherently fair if they were white, or male, or straight.”


    If only O’Reilly applied his own standards of ethical purity to his own work: What would he say about a journalist covering frequently and approvingly on a longtime pal? We may never know.

    Next time O’Reilly wants a little insight on conflicts of interest, he should take to heart what his colleague Megyn Kelly said on her program last night: “You can’t create a conflict of interest about a judge just by complaining about him.”

  • Wash. Post: Following Trump's Logic, Only "A White Male Republican" Could Judge Him Fairly

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In an article in The Washington Post, Philip Bump highlighted the vast number of “judges Donald Trump would like to bar from overseeing any future legal disputes involving his get-others-rich-quick schemes.” According to Bump, “logic would suggest that” following Trump’s racist attacks on the federal judge overseeing the Trump U. fraud case, his “benchmark for exclusion ... could probably also exclude as unfit” judges who are Democrats, immigrants, women, black, or judges with disabilities. Bump explained, “So what's left? A white* male Republican judge.”

    Presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Trump said the federal judge who ordered the release of documents pertaining to Trump’s failed Trump U., could not act impartially because he’s a “Mexican” and “hater” of Trump, and should “recuse himself” from the case because of an alleged “conflict of interest” in relation to Trump’s immigration policies. Trump’s comments have since garnered backlash from across the political spectrum, as “racist,” “bigoted,” and “highly offensive.” Trump has also said it’s “possible, absolutely” that a Muslim judge “would be similarly incapable of treating him fairly.”

    In his June 5 article, Bump highlighted the numerous judges “Donald Trump would like to bar from overseeing any future legal disputes involving his get-others-rich-quick schemes.” According to Bump, following Trump’s logic, his “benchmark for exclusion isn't solely membership in a group that Trump has criticized and/or sought sanction against. It's membership in a group that Trump might be able to argue could view him negatively.” From the June 5 article (emphasis original):

    Donald Trump has insisted over the past two weeks that the judge overseeing the Trump University fraud case cannot act impartially because he is "Mexican" (later: "of Mexican heritage"). That insistence has been received poorly, including by formerly stalwart Trump allies such as Newt Gingrich.


    Let's set aside the fact that Article VI of the Constitution prohibits the sort of religious test that Trump would apparently like to apply to those who sit in judgment of him. And let us also set aside that, in 1998, lawyers who questioned the fitness of a judge based on his ethnicity were reprimanded severely, to the point that they were mandated to inform future judges in the district of their botched challenge.

    Let us instead try to isolate which judges Donald Trump would like to bar from overseeing any future legal disputes involving his get-others-rich-quick schemes. We already know that Trump could reject anyone who is Muslim, "Mexican" or "of Mexican heritage." (Those are in quotes because "Mexican," in this instance, doesn't actually mean Mexican: The judge in the Trump University case is from Indiana.)


    The benchmark for exclusion isn't solely membership in a group that Trump has criticized and/or sought sanction against. It's membership in a group that Trump might be able to argue could view him negatively. After all, he regularly insists that Hispanics love him, but he, for some reason, assumes Gonzalo Curiel doesn't. He assumes Muslims would judge him harshly but tells the world that Muhammad Ali's rebuke of his ban on Muslim entry into the United States wasn't about him.

    With that dichotomy in mind, logic would suggest that Trump could probably also exclude as unfit:

    Judges from the Democratic Party. No Democratic judges, obviously, given both that Democrats clearly oppose his candidacy and that he has, in the past, described members of the party as having given rise to the Islamic State militant group.

    Judges who are immigrants. Trump's broadly skeptical view of immigration of all stripes drives much of his campaign rhetoric, from the wall on the Mexican border (which doesn't target only Mexican immigrants, of course) to his ban on Muslims. His policy proposals would add broad new constraints to entering the country, legally or illegally.

    Judges who are women. Trump's contentious history with women — a history that he has gone to great lengths to smooth over — is well documented. The New York Times collected a series of quotes that might indicate why a female judge would, in Trump's eyes, be biased against him.

    Judges who are black. Trump twice this weekend attempted to highlight support from black voters. He first pointed out a black man in the crowd at a rally, though that man wasn't a Trump supporter. He then tweeted an image of a black family that supported him — but the image was a news photo from an unrelated event. But that aside, his past comments about black people, legal fights surrounding his company's renting practices and recurring overlap with racists on social media all offer more than enough reason for Trump to assume that a black judge would treat him unfairly.

    Judges with physical disabilities. Trump's now-infamous imitation of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski speaks for itself. [The Washington Post, 6/5/16]

  • Wash. Post Debunks Mitch McConnell’s “Absurd” Claim That Merrick Garland Is Ideologically Extreme

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s editorial board criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) “patently ridiculous” claim that Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland is ideologically extreme.

    Since Garland’s nomination in March, groups like the Judicial Crisis Network, the National Federation of Independent Business and the National Rifle Association have made numerous false and misleading claims about Garland’s record to portray him as ideologically extreme. In fact, conservatives have praised Garland for years and multiple prominent conservative lawyers have announced their support for Garland’s nomination.

    In a June 5 editorial, the editorial board slammed McConnell’s “patently ridiculous” claim after he said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that “from a conservative point of view, I don’t think you could have a worse nominee than Merrick Garland.” The board wrote that it is “absurd” to call Garland a “worst-case scenario for Republicans,” noting, “Fellow judges from across the ideological spectrum [have] effusively praise[d] Mr. Garland” and that Garland’s record as a judge has “been careful and evenhanded.” From the June 5 piece:

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) continues to insist that the GOP blockade of Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to replace Scalia, is “about a principle, not a person.” The crucial principle that apparently justifies hobbling the Supreme Court is the newly invented notion that the president should be able to fill court vacancies during only three-quarters of his elected term.

    Mr. McConnell’s discovery of this principle has been as obvious a case of situational ethics as has ever been seen in Washington. Indeed, from the beginning, it was clear Republicans had more than proper procedure on their minds. “The next justice could fundamentally alter the direction of the Supreme Court and have a profound impact on our country,” Mr. McConnell warned in March.

    Now Mr. McConnell has gone a step further, making his opposition not simply cynical but patently ridiculous. In interviews last week, Mr. McConnell argued that Mr. Garland is ideologically extreme. “I don’t think you could have a worse — from a conservative point of view, I don’t think you could have a worse nominee than Merrick Garland,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I would say, he’s a well-qualified, very liberal judge,” he told NPR.

    It is absurd to claim that Mr. Garland, a nominee about whom many liberal groups are not excited, a judge whom Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) once called a “consensus nominee,” is the worst-case scenario for Republicans. Fellow judges from across the ideological spectrum effusively praise Mr. Garland. His work on the country’s second-most prominent court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, has been careful and evenhanded. Mr. McConnell’s claims do not pass the laugh test — unless by “worst,” he means “most-qualified” and therefore most difficult plausibly to reject.

    Mr. McConnell’s admission that Mr. Garland is “well-qualified” should end the discussion. The president gets to nominate; the Senate gets to object in extraordinary circumstances, but has an obligation to confirm if nominees are, as in this case, obviously qualified and within the mainstream of judicial thinking. No other arrangement can keep the system working. But the majority leader obviously has other considerations in mind.