The Presidency & White House

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  • Syndicated Radio Host Joe Walsh Says President Obama Was Held To A Lower Standard Than Trump Because He’s Black

    CNN Commentator Angela Rye Explains Why He Is Wrong

    Blog ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    CNN hosted syndicated radio host Joe Walsh to defend his claim that former President Barack Obama was held to a lower standard by the media because he is black. Despite CNN commentator Angela Rye pointing out the racism in his comments, Walsh steadfastly argued his position that President Obama was held to a lower standard by the media because of his race and even doubled down on the claim after the CNN appearance.

    Walsh’s ongoing dispute with Rye made news on March 28, when Walsh claimed that the media “lowered the bar for Obama … cuz he was black”:

    Rye and Walsh were invited on the March 29th edition of CNN’s CNN Newsroom to discuss Walsh’s tweets. During the exchange Walsh claimed his comments were not racist, but reiterated that Obama was held to a “very low standard” and “coddled” by the media. Rye explained that Walsh’s bigoted comments ignore the fact that Trump became president despite his long history of racism and sexism. Watch:

    BROOKE BALDWIN (HOST): Do you agree? Do you think the original comments were either racist or sexist?

    JOE WALSH:  Hey, Brooke. No, I'm rolling my eyes right now. Because this is what the left always do, does. They always go to racism. Now, assume for a minute, Brooke, that Sean Spicer was a condescending jerk yesterday. And I think he probably was. But what does that have to do with race? And what does that have to do with sex? Brooke, Sean Spicer has been a condescending jerk to white male reporters a whole heck of a lot. And April is a great reporter, but doesn't she want to be treated equally? Why does this always have to do with race and sex? It's ridiculous. 

    BALDWIN: Angela, how do you feel about it?

    ANGELA RYE:   I don't know if Sean Spicer is a racist. I don't know if Donald Trump is a racist. I don't know if the fallout that April experienced with Omarosa, who's a White House staffer, has challenges because of racial animus. What I do know is that April Ryan was disrespected yesterday and it was unwarranted. What I do know is that Sean Spicer is not April Ryan's father, so he should not tell her what she should and should not do. What I do know is that I'm sick and tired of this White House, as I was sick and tired of the campaign, treating people less than. Whether they're different because they are black or they're different because they cross the border, or they're different because they worship a different god or their god is known by a different name. I am tired of difference being disrespected and mistreated by this White House.

    [...]

    RYE: Sure, I think it speaks for itself. This president has been in turmoil since the campaign. He talked about grabbing women by their private parts. This is a man who -- let's put the shoe on the other foot. Barack Obama, a black man in this country running for president with not one, not two, but three baby mothers. Let's, you know, put the shoe on the other foot. Someone who took a loan from their father that they call a small loan of $1 million. Let's talk about all of those things. Someone who discriminated against people who were trying to just find spots in his housing facilities. Someone who took out full-page ads calling for the death of five young black and brown boys. If Barack Obama would have done any of that, Brooke, he would have never even made it to the general election. And that is the point. We're talking about a double standard. We're talking about lowering a bar. Barack Obama hurdled every bar that was put in front of him. When Michelle Obama talked about going high when they go low, they did it at every turn. This is a woman who was called an ape. Who they put pictures up of Barack Obama looking like a monkey. These are the people I'm talking about. They hurdled everything that came their way, every obstacle, and this man, it is, it is, it's asinine to even think that this man is now in the White House. Here we are in the middle of an investigation, but Hillary Clinton's e-mails. So, yeah, I mean, it's very frustrating and I'm tired of people telling me that black people are beneath a standard when we have to be twice as good all the time. And that is why I said, I'm not interested in having a dialogue with someone like Joe who has demonstrated a propensity towards bigotry. And he did that on Twitter yesterday in 140 characters or less.

    [...]

    BALDWIN: I want to understand why you had such a problem with what Angela said, and you took to Twitter and you let everyone know about it. I want to understand what your issue is with that. 

    WALSH: And Brooke, thanks. My disagreement had nothing to do with Trump, when Angela was making her case, she said that Barack Obama somehow had to live up to this perfect Jesus Christ standard that no other president had to live up to. My disagreement, Brooke, was about that. Because I find that laughable. And it's got nothing, again, to do with race. Never in our country's history have we had a president so like coddled and pampered and protected by the media like Barack Obama. You talk -- that's not a high standard, Brooke. He was held to a very low standard, because the media so loved him. 

    RYE: Did you or did you not say that you lowered the standard because he was black? Did you or did not say that the standard was lowered because he was black? Did you or did you not say that? 

    WALSH: Absolutely

    RYE: That is what makes you a bigot, Joe.

    After the CNN broadcast, Walsh repeated his racist claim that “Everyone made excuses for [Obama’s] inexperience simply because he’s black.” 

    Walsh has a history of making racist and discriminatory statements. After the July 2016 murders of five officers of the Dallas Police Department, Walsh tweeted that President Obama and “black lives matter punks” had better “watch out,” because “Real America is coming after you.” Walsh also told black people to “quit complaining about slavery & inequality,” insisted the media focus after Trayvon Martin’s murder should be “black-on-black crime,” and rewrote Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech to focus on Walsh's “dream that black America will take responsibility for improving their own lives,” and “cease their dependency on the government plantation.” Walsh was suspended from his radio show in 2014 for repeatedly using racial slurs on-air.

  • Media Must Choose: If Trump's Not A Liar, He's Delusional 

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    While President Donald Trump continues to rip apart the seams of honest discourse with his ceaseless collection of lies and falsehoods, some journalists remain reluctant to call him a liar. By resisting, the Beltway press continues to shy away from its primary task: truth telling.

    Additionally, by avoiding the “liar” label, journalists really leave themselves with only one other option in terms of describing Trump’s erratic behavior: “delusional.”

    The latest attempt to provide this odd cover for Trump came from Time Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs. Writing a preface to the magazine’s recent Trump-inspired cover story -- “Is Truth Dead?” -- Gibbs addressed the looming crisis in confidence by noting, “Like many newsrooms, we at TIME have wrestled with when to say someone is lying.”

    Gibbs stressed that the magazine is hesitant to use the term in conjunction with Trump because it’s hard to deduce the president’s motivations when he spreads falsehoods. Meaning, journalists need evidence that Trump purposefully misleads people with his comments and allegations.

    This continues the media’s unnecessary debate over whether it’s OK to call Trump a liar. “I’d be careful about using the word ‘lie,’” Wall Street Journal Editor-in-Chief Gerard Baker cautioned in January. “‘Lie’ implies much more than just saying something that’s false. It implies a deliberate intent to mislead.”

    But then Gibbs added an additional layer to the argument when she wrote of Trump’s lies, “What does he actually believe? Does it count as lying if he believes what he says?”

    Appearing on CNN’s Reliable Sources, Gibbs expounded (emphasis added):

    But to say that they are lying requires an additional level of knowledge that's very difficult to have of what their intention was. And the reason I think it's important is because in the case of President Trump -- and this came through with our interview with him over and over again -- some of the things that he says that have been disputed and completely disproven, it seems very clear he continues to believe.

    And so there's these sort of -- there's almost the philosophical, theological question of, if you believe what you're saying, even if it's not true, is that still a lie? I will leave that to the academics.

    So that brings us back into George Costanza territory: “It’s not a lie … if you believe it.”

    In other words, when Trump spreads falsehoods, he might actually believe them, therefore he might not qualify as a liar. Or, the press shouldn’t call him one because that’s more of a “philosophical, theological question.”

    That rationale rings hollow to me.

    As the most powerful public leader in the world, the president of the United States shouldn’t benefit from a media debate about whether he believes the dishonesty he pushes. He ought to be as honest as possible, as often as possible. Presidents before him have tried to adhere to that standard for over two centuries. Trump should, too. And if not, it’s not the job of the press to come up with excuses for why he cannot.

    And for the record, I don’t entirely buy the premise for this avoidance. Instead, I think pockets of the D.C. press are simply reluctant to call a prominent Republican, and especially America’s most famous Republican, a liar. They’re afraid and timid, and I’m convinced they would be neither if a leading national Democrat decided to habitually and unapologetically lie, and to do so without remorse.

    Nonetheless, if some journalists persist and cling to the idea that Trump’s not a deliberate fabricator because he believes all the misinformation he spouts, then that leaves journalists with only one option: to announce that Trump’s simply delusional.

    If, as Gibbs suggests, Trump is quietly convinced America is suffering through a historic crime spree, the unemployment rate last year was rigged, Mexico is going to pay for the border wall, the U.S. media deliberately ignores terror attacks, and millions of people voted illegally last year, that means Trump doesn’t function cognitively like most normal adults.

    Keep in mind that in conjunction with Time’s cover story, Trump participated in a Q&A with the magazine on the topic of falsehoods in which he lied, by one account, 14 different times. (Trump seems especially obsessed with claiming credit for having predicted that Brexit would pass, even though he did no such thing.)

    If journalists don’t want to call Trump a liar, are they willing to call him unstable?

    As Newsweek senior writer Kurt Eichenwald noted, “That leaves two possibilities: Trump intentionally dispenses falsehoods any smart person knows will be detected as lies, or worse, he cannot discern between reality and what he wishes was true.”

    Moving forward, news outlets have a choice. They can accurately label Trump a liar, or they can portray him as unhinged and unbalanced, based on the assumption that Trump believes the constant falsehoods that he spreads.  

    Or it’s possible there’s a third option: He’s both.

  • Trump Has Given Fox News More Than $5 Million In Free Advertising; Fox Has Given Him Millions More

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    According to The Washington Post, President Donald Trump has given Fox News more than $5 million in free social media advertising through his positive tweets. But Trump’s $5 million gift to Fox pales in comparison to the network’s promotion of Trump during the 2016 campaign.

    The Washington Post’s Philip Bump reported that Donald Trump has given Fox News more than $5 million in free social media advertising since he announced his candidacy, based on an established valuation by Captiv8, an analytics and social media marketing platform. According to Captiv8’s monetary valuation, one of Trump’s tweets is worth about $60,000, so when he promotes a show on Fox it is “essentially, a gift worth $60,000.” The company also estimated that Trump’s 52 tweets about the “failing @nytimes” could be seen as “the equivalent of $3.1 million in bad publicity.” From The Washington Post:

    In other words, that tweet from Trump promoting Pirro’s show was more than a favor to Pirro and her employer, Fox News. It was, essentially, a gift worth $60,000.

    With these metrics in mind, we went back through Trump’s social-media posts since he announced his candidacy to see how often he actively encouraged people to watch or buy particular programs or products. Although the list of those posts that appears at the bottom of this article is probably incomplete, it gives a sense of the value that Trump has provided to news networks.

    By our estimates, Trump has provided Fox and its affiliated networks (Fox News, Fox Business) with more than $5 million in free advertising

    [...]

    Although no social-media company connects brands to celebrities to have the celebrities disparage them, Subramanian figured that the hit to a company’s value from a negative post would be damaging, perhaps to the extent that a positive tweet or Facebook post was helpful. In other words, Trump’s 52 tweets about the “failing @nytimes” could be thought of as the equivalent of $3.1 million in bad publicity.

    Of course, Trump’s relationship with the media is a two-way street. The New York Times reported in March 2016 that Trump had already earned close to $2 billion worth of media attention on television, in print, and online, based on an analysis by mediaQuant, a media coverage tracking firm. Media Matters calculated that, for its part, Fox News gave Trump nearly $30 million in free airtime from May 2015 through December 2015. Another Media Matters analysis found that Fox News host and Trump sycophant Sean Hannity gave Trump more than $31 million in free advertising in the form of fawning interviews with the candidate between June 2015 and August 2016.

    The relationship between Trump and the network goes back to before the 2012 election when the network helped promote Trump's political ambitions.Trump has repeatedly praised Fox News, admitted that he may not have been elected president without the network, and appears to get both his news and talking points from the network. For its part, Fox has also repeated Trump’s lines to bolster his spin.

    The Washington Post’s analysis shows that Trump’s tweets are not only a way for him to circumvent the press, they also provide him the opportunity to help favorable news networks like Fox with tweets while simultaneously lashing out at news outlets that have been more critical of his presidency.

  • Trump Just Blew A Hole In Breitbart’s Case For Editorial Independence

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    President Donald Trump this morning urged supporters to watch a Fox News segment that was based on research overseen by White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon in his prior role as chief executive of the conservative group Government Accountability Institute (GAI).

    Last August, Bannon promoted the GAI report in an article he co-authored at Breitbart.com, which he was simultaneously running as chief executive. Breitbart is now fighting to gain permanent reporting credentials from the Senate Press Gallery in the face of criticism that the website lacks editorial independence because of its entwinement with GAI.

    This morning Trump tried to defuse criticism of his ties to Russia by encouraging his followers to “Watch @foxandfriends now on Podesta and Russia!”:

    During the segment in question, conservative activist Peter Schweizer detailed connections between former Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and a Kremlin-backed bank.

    Schweizer is both president of GAI and a Breitbart senior editor-at-large, and he and Bannon promoted the Podesta allegations last year in their roles with both. Their story provides a case study in how top Breitbart editors use the website to promote the work of a conservative group that pays them hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

    The Podesta claims were first raised in a July 31 GAI report titled “From Russia with Money: Hillary Clinton, the Russian Reset, and Cronyism,” which purported to detail unsavory connections between Clinton and her associates and Russia. On August 1, Bannon and Schweizer co-bylined a story breaking the news on Breitbart, and discussed it on the Bannon-hosted SiriusXM program Breitbart News Daily.

    “It’s gonna cause a firestorm because they’re going to have to answer the question, and Mr. Podesta’s gonna have to answer the question, why he failed to disclose this, and we’re going to drill down on what all this means,” Bannon commented at the time. “We’ve got a lot more of this coming.”

    The GAI report and Breitbart article were released amid a slew of news stories detailing the Trump campaign’s friendly stance toward the Kremlin, and just days after The New York Times reported that “American intelligence agencies have told the White House they now have ‘high confidence’ that the Russian government was behind the theft of emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee.”

    Sixteen days after the GAI report was released, Bannon took a leave of absence from Breitbart to become the Trump presidential campaign’s chief executive.

    Between its initial promotion of the GAI report and Election Day, Breitbart produced at least six more reports on GAI’s Podesta story. Meanwhile, the Bannon-headed Trump campaign issued a statement calling on Podesta to provide more information or step down.

    Following Clinton’s defeat, conservatives largely dropped the story. But after FBI Director James Comey announced during a March 20 congressional hearing that the bureau is investigating “whether members of President Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election,” right-wing politicians and media outlets began casting about for angles they could take to mitigate that damaging narrative.

    The next day, fringe gadfly Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) called for a congressional investigation into Podesta, relying on information in the August GAI report. Over the past week, Breitbart has produced two reports on the allegations, both citing GAI’s August report as the original source of the claims. The story has apparently gained enough attention on the right to catch the eye of Fox & Friends producers, generating this morning’s Trump-promoted interview with Schweizer.

    The new revelation about Breitbart’s overlap with GAI comes at a bad time for the outlet.

    Yesterday, the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery announced that it would not approve Breitbart’s request for permanent Capitol Hill credentials, citing in part concerns that key editors on the masthead have received payments from GAI. This suggests that the website falls short of the Senate Press Gallery’s requirement that outlets be “editorially independent of any institution, foundation or interest group that lobbies the federal government.” The committee has sought more information from the conservative outlet, with a deadline of April 14.

    Schweizer received $778,000 from GAI between 2012 and 2015 while simultaneously appearing on Breitbart’s masthead. And while serving as chief executive of both institutions, Bannon received $376,000 from GAI.

    As the Podesta reports show, top editors at Breitbart are getting paid by another organization and using their platform to produce and oversee reporting based on that organization’s work. This violation of the press gallery’s bylaws should lead to the rejection of Breitbart’s application.

  • Trump And Fox Both Attempt "Look Over Here" Strategy To Deflect From Russia Controversy

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Desperate to change the narrative about the probe into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential election, President Donald Trump is hyping ambiguous and tenuous connections between former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and her associates and Russia. Fox News is also utilizing this “look over there” tactic, and Trump is promoting their coverage.

    In the past 24 hours, Trump has twice employed the same strategy Fox News figures used to deflect from the probe into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia: They point to any other person who may have ties to Russia.

    On the March 27 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, host and Trump sycophant Sean Hannity deflected from a conversation about Trump’s ties to Russia by mentioning the “Uranium One fiasco” -- a false, debunked smear that Clinton, acting to benefit a foundation donor, personally approved a deal that eventually gave the Russian government ownership of U.S. uranium mines:

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): We already know a bigger crime, and what about John Podesta's connections to the Russians during the campaign, number one. Number two, look at this whole Uranium One fiasco, while Bill Clinton -- Hillary Clinton is secretary of state, he's giving speeches in Russia, getting paid twice what he normally gets paid. They get -- for the Clinton Foundation -- literally millions and millions of dollars sent to the Clinton Foundation. Hillary herself has to sign off on the Uranium One deal, where Russia literally controls 20 percent of American uranium?

    In a pair of tweets later that evening, Trump regurgitated Hannity’s argument and threw in just about everything else he could think of: “Why isn’t the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary [Clinton] deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia, Russian speech … money to Bill, the Hillary Russian ‘reset,’ praise of Russia by Hillary, or Podesta Russian Company.” He ended the second tweet with, “Trump Russia story is a hoax.”

    The next morning, Trump encouraged his followers to “Watch @foxandfriends now on Podesta and Russia!”:

    The segment that he flagged for his fans featured notorious serial misinformer and Breitbart.com editor-at-large Peter Schweizer hyping connections between former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and a Kremlin-backed bank:

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): So tell us about John Podesta and his connection to a Kremlin-backed company.

    PETER SCHWEIZER: Well, in 2011, John Podesta joins the board of this very small energy company called Joule Energy based out of Massachusetts. About two months after he joins the board, a Russian entity called Rusnano puts a billion rubles, which is about $35 million, into John Podesta's company. Now, what is Rusnano? Rusnano is not a private company, Steve. It is a fund directly funded by the Kremlin. In fact, the Russian science minister called Rusnano “Putin's child.” So the you have the Russian government investing in one John Podesta's businesses in 2011, while he is an adviser to Hillary Clinton at the State Department.

    DOOCY: While he’s an adviser to Hillary Clinton.

    Though Fox News and Trump are doing their best to hype the Podesta/Russia connection, there’s some smoke, but no fire. As The Wall Street Journal pointed out:

    It’s not illegal to invest alongside a Kremlin-backed investment vehicle tasked with developing and acquiring valuable technology to benefit Russia. Nor, as far as we know, is it illegal to do so while simultaneously serving as an outside adviser to the U.S. secretary of state.

    The Trump/Fox News echo chamber isn’t a new phenomenon. The president, who has repeatedly praised Fox, has lifted talking points from the network before. For its part, Fox has also repeated Trump’s lines to bolster his spin. Trump’s possible ties to Russia is just the latest manifestation of this echo chamber, and it likely won’t be the last.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko

  • Trump Tweets Congress Should Investigate Clintons After Hannity Promotes Uranium One Conspiracy

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    President Donald Trump tweeted that Congress should investigate Bill and Hillary Clinton for a “deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia,” hours after Fox News host Sean Hannity promoted the story on his radio show.

    On the March 27 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity revived the long-debunked conservative claim from discredited Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton allegedly sold “20 percent” of American uranium to the Russian government in exchange for Clinton Foundation donations. Hannity and guest Pat Buchanan argued that the “whole Uranium One fiasco” involved Bill and Hillary Clinton, with the former president “giving speeches in Russia, getting paid twice what he normally gets paid.” Hannity also mentioned “John Podesta’s connections to the Russians” as something that is a “bigger crime” than Trump and Russia:

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): We already know a bigger crime, and what about John Podesta's connections to the Russians during the campaign, number one. Number two, look at this whole Uranium One fiasco, while Bill Clinton -- Hillary Clinton’s secretary of state, he's giving speeches in Russia, getting paid twice what he normally gets paid. They get -- for the Clinton Foundation -- literally millions and millions of dollars sent to the Clinton Foundation, Hillary herself has to sign off on the Uranium One deal, where Russia literally controls 20 percent of American uranium?

    PAT BUCHANAN: Well exactly, all of these things were revealed, but the question is who will investigate the investigators? I mean, I saw, I think it was in the Post this morning or one of the papers, they're said, "Look at these -- they're trying to divert the attention away from the Russia connection to the WikiLeaks and to the getting into the DNC and Podesta files to this other thing." But look, I’m not against doing that, going into the Russian connection, if it's fair, but after eight months of investigating and you’ve turned up -- you can't even say who talked to who?

    A few hours later, Trump, who has pushed the smear before, parroted Hannity’s comments on Twitter, asking, “Why isn't the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia.” Trump also said Congress should investigate the “Russian speech" and the "money to Bill,” as well as the “Podesta Russia Company.”

    This appears to be the latest public example of Trump responding to segments from Fox News figures. In January, Trump responded to a segment on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor about crime in Chicago, tweeting, “If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible ‘carnage’ … I will send in the Feds!” Trump has also responded directly to Fox & Friends at least half a dozen times in March. On March 17, Trump blamed Fox News as the reason for his false claim that former President Barack Obama used British intelligence agencies to spy on him. Even after causing an international incident by citing a Fox figure, Trump continues to follow their lead, this time by resurrecting the repeatedly debunked Uranium One smear.

  • Journalists, Experts Agree Trump's Tax Reform Agenda Will Be Even Harder Than Repealing Obamacare

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH & CRAIG HARRINGTON

    After President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) failed to garner enough support to pass legislation that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Trump declared he had moved on to refocus his legislative priorities on tax reform. In light of Trump’s inability to get the Republican-led Congress to vote with him on health care changes, which had been a major campaign promise of virtually every elected GOP official, journalists and experts are beginning to question if Trump is capable of wrangling his caucus to tackle substantive conservative tax reform proposals that have been stagnant for decades.

  • Trump's Golfing Reveals The Shameless Hypocrisy Of The Right-Wing Media Bunker

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    “What do most men do when they retire?” Greg Gutfeld asked the other hosts of Fox News’ The Five, three days before President Barack Obama left office in January. “They play golf. But what if you've been playing golf for the last eight years of your job? He should go back and work. He should get a job.”

    A week later, when his colleague Eric Bolling claimed that President Donald Trump had already “accomplished possibly more than former President Obama accomplished in many, many years,” Gutfeld had a ready rejoinder: “That's what happens when you don't play golf.”

    Right-wing media figures like Gutfeld spent years turning Obama’s golf hobby into a ready-made attack. They cited the president’s golf game as evidence he hadn’t “really been that engaged,” and claimed that false rumors that he was a Muslim circulated because he “is much more diligent at golfing than he is at church attendance.”

    They criticized Obama for playing the sport during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while the economy was “doing really poorly,” during a Washington, D.C., earthquake, after a series of tornadoes hit the southeastern United States, following an earthquake in Japan, instead of attending the funeral of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, and in lieu of visiting the Gulf Coast to assess the response to the 2010 oil spill (which he had already done). In the eyes of these critics, the president shouldn’t play while “men and women in uniform are still getting killed in Afghanistan.”

    Obama’s rounds of golf -- either 306 or 333 over eight years, depending on the count -- became a shorthand way for conservatives to claim that he was lazy, disengaged, and self-indulgent.

    Those criticisms never made much sense.

    “Presidents have regularly turned to golf as a way to relax from their abnormally stressful job,” as CNN has noted. Given that presidents carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, it seems pointlessly cruel to begrudge them the leisure they need to recuperate. The specific criticism from the right wing -- that Obama was playing golf instead of doing something more important -- also never added up: When one is president, there is literally always something critical happening somewhere in the world. And indeed, polls showed that the American people largely found this line of criticism against Obama unfair.

    When Trump because president, conservative pundits suddenly stopped complaining about the “Golfer in Chief.” But 66 days after taking the oath of office, Trump has already taken 14 trips to golf courses.

    That’s still a far cry from the 1,200 and 800 rounds that Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Dwight Eisenhower played during their tenures in office. But there are a number of factors that make Trump’s golf habit worthy of note.

    First of all, Trump was one of those conservative media figures who regularly lashed out at Obama for golfing. “Trump was adamant that his predecessor, Barack Obama, spent too much time on vacation while president,” The Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted last month. “He tweeted his objections 38 times from 2011 to 2014.”

    On the presidential campaign trail, Trump continued to slam Obama in office. During one 2016 event in Virginia, he claimed that if he was elected, "I'm going to be working for you; I'm not going to have time to go play golf." Obama has “played more rounds just about than people who play professionally on the PGA Tour,” he complained at another rally.

    Meanwhile, just over two months into his presidency, Trump is visiting golf courses at a rate that translates to 77 trips per year, much more frequently than his predecessor, who played around 40 rounds per year. (The national average is reportedly 19 rounds. I have never played a round of golf.) And Obama didn’t play a round as president until April 26, 2009, more than three months into his tenure. By that time, he had negotiated through Congress and signed a $787 billion economic recovery bill, an expansion providing health care to 4 million children, and legislation making it easier to sue employers for wage discrimination based on gender. President Trump is still looking for his first legislative victory.

    Second, Trump’s golf trips are part of his broader tendency to visit properties that bear his name, which he has done “on 21 of the 66 days he has been in office, meaning that for the equivalent of three full weeks of his just-over-nine weeks as commander in chief, he has spent all or part of a day at a Trump property,” according to the Post. From the White House, Trump has made three trips to Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, VA; in Florida, he has visited Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach 10 times and Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter once.

    Meanwhile, the president is calling his Mar-A-Lago resort -- which doubled membership fees following Trump’s inauguration -- the “Southern White House” and making regular weekend trips to his home there. And he’s stopped in at the Trump International Hotel in Washington for two meals as president. All of these businesses benefit from the publicity they received when Trump visits. And their success ultimately benefit Trump and his family financially.

    “It is normal for presidents to get out -- and it can be a boost for small businesses across the city and the country,” Robert Weissman, the president of the nonprofit Public Citizen, told The New York Times. “But with President Trump, he spends his down time as a walking advertisement for his businesses. It is a major departure from historic norm and degradation of the office.”

    Third, Trump’s White House is actively seeking to hide from the public whether he’s playing golf or not. Aides refuse to confirm to White House correspondents whether the president is playing golf when he visits his golf courses; reporters instead are piecing together what happened from social media posts of those Trump is playing with, concluding that he has played golf at least 12 times.

    “The level of secrecy around golf is new for the presidency,” CNN noted. “While the Obama administration was hesitant to allow cameras to regularly get shots of the President hitting the links, they would tell reporters who joined the President for each round. Trump's nascent administration has not done that.”

    In fact, press secretary Sean Spicer has tried to convince reporters not to assume that Trump is playing golf when he visits his golf courses. “Just because you go somewhere doesn’t necessarily mean you did it,” he told reporters last week. “So, on a couple of occasions, he’s actually conducted meetings there, he’s actually had phone calls. So, just because he heads there, it doesn’t mean that that’s what’s happening.”

    Of course, the White House has places to conduct meetings and make phone calls. What it doesn’t have is a golf course.

    Finally, it is difficult to apply to Trump the argument that the president is working really hard and so deserves whatever leisure time he wants. The president is spending several hours a day watching cable news. He was so manifestly ignorant of the details of his top-priority policy agenda item, repealing and replacing Obamacare, that he lacked “sufficient command of the policy details to negotiate” on the legislation with members of Congress. It wouldn’t hurt him to spend more time learning how to do his job, before he gets all of us killed.

    Nonetheless, the conservative commentators and Fox News hosts who spent years demonizing Obama’s golfing have gone silent under Trump.

    The change has been so dramatic that on one broadcast last month, The Five’s hapless liberal host, Bob Beckel, complained that he “used to listen to Eric and Kimberly talk about how much -- Greg -- how much golf Obama played.” But he noted that Obama hadn’t played a round in his first several months in office while “Trump didn't even wait a week.” “Well, he does have excellent company that he golfs with,” Kimberly Guilfoyle responded. “He was with Rory McIlroy this weekend.”

    In fact, Fox is helping Trump’s White House hide his golf habit. Late Sunday afternoon, after Trump visited his Virginia golf club on two consecutive days, the network tweeted:

    “The sad thing about this tweet is that it really would be news if Donald Trump was at the White House working this weekend,” Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum commented. “But no: Trump played golf at his club in Virginia this weekend, so it's not clear what Fox was up to here. Perhaps they meant to say that by 5:26 pm on Sunday, Trump was back in the White House.”

    Fox could have told its audience the truth about the president’s weekend. But after eight years of priming its fans by attacking Obama for playing golf, the network knows exactly which buttons that would push.

  • Breitbart Denied Permanent Senate Press Gallery Credentials

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The credentialing committee for Capitol Hill reporters announced today that it will not grant Breitbart.com’s request for permanent credentials at this time, citing the website’s failure to demonstrate editorial independence from key supporters of President Donald Trump.

    Members of the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery referenced several concerns with Breitbart’s bid for permanent status at a hearing this morning. These included the lack of evidence proving that former Breitbart chief executive and current White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon had actually separated himself from the website; questions about whether Rebekah Mercer, who owns part of the outlet and was a key funder of Trump’s presidential campaign, also plays an editorial role; the fact that some on the masthead have also received payments from the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), a nonprofit group funded by Mercer and previously led by Bannon; and issues surrounding Breitbart’s apparent use of office space not zoned for commercial leases.

    The committee is requesting more information from Breitbart by April 14.

    For Breitbart to receive a permanent congressional press pass, its leaders must follow gallery rules by demonstrating that the website’s principal business is "the daily dissemination of original news and opinion of interest to a broad segment of the public" and that it is “editorially independent of any institution, foundation or interest group that lobbies the federal government.”

    Breitbart fails these standards in a number of ways, as Media Matters documented in a December letter urging the members of the standing committee to reject its application. Bannon’s position in particular raises significant concerns, as even if he did actually separate himself from the publication, the possibility that he could return to his position after serving in the Trump administration suggests that Breitbart News cannot be editorially independent. Moreover, Bannon, at-large editor Peter Schweizer, and managing editor Wynton Hall each have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary from GAI while simultaneously working for Breitbart.

    These ties between Bannon, Mercer, and GAI suggest that Breitbart is and will remain a propaganda arm for President Trump, not an editorially independent news outlet.

    The conservative operation’s status as a provider of “original news and opinion” is also in question -- according to a Media Matters review of Breitbart’s October 2016 content, only 17 percent was original; 78 percent of the website’s articles were wire copy, and the remainder were aggregated.

    Permanent congressional credentials would represent a substantial step forward for Breitbart. As BuzzFeed reported: “For newer outlets in Washington, winning permanent congressional press passes is a tedious process — but an important one. The hard passes are seen as the first step towards joining the White House Correspondents’ Association, where member news organizations rotate their reporters to travel with the president at home and abroad. Reporters also use the hard passes to get into other events around Washington.”

    Below is the full text of the letter Media Matters president Angelo Carusone sent the standing committee in December:

    To the members of the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery:

    Breitbart.com has reportedly come before the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery seeking permanent Capitol Hill credentials. We urge you to reject the request based on Breitbart’s disqualifying inability to demonstrate editorial independence as required by your rules.

    According to Rule 4 of the standards for issuing a permanent congressional press pass, if an outlet does not have General Publication periodicals mailing privileges under U.S. Postal Service rules and publishes daily, then the outlet's principal business must be "the daily dissemination of original news and opinion of interest to a broad segment of the public."

    Additionally, “publications must be editorially independent of any institution, foundation or interest group that lobbies the federal government.” In rejecting the application of the Supreme Court reporting outlet SCOTUSBlog, the committee explained that editorial firewalls are insufficient when personnel are inextricably connected between the federal government and an applying publication.

    Breitbart fails these standards in several ways:

    a. Media Matters analyzed all content published on Breitbart.com in the month of October and found that Breitbart published 82.7 percent unoriginal content. In fact, 78 percent of all Breitbart.com articles in October were wire copy. By contrast, just over 17 percent of Breitbart's content was original.

    b. Breitbart Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon is on leave while working as the top adviser for President-elect Donald Trump, and he has been appointed chief strategist and senior counselor to Trump once he is sworn in as president. Bannon also serves on the board of the data mining company Cambridge Analytica, which is reportedly seeking White House contracts.   

    c. Even if Bannon completely severs his position with Breitbart, his likely financial interest and the possibility that he could return to his position after serving in the Trump administration suggests that Breitbart News cannot be editorially independent.

    d. Many of Breitbart's top staff members have regularly been involved in other activities that raise questions about their editorial independence. They are intertwined with the Government Accountability Institute, a non-profit conservative research organization

    • Stephen Bannon served as chief executive of both institutions, receiving $376,000 from GAI from 2012-2015.  

    • At-large editor Peter Schweizer received $778,000 over that term to serve as GAI's president, secretary and treasurer.

    • Managing Editor Wynton Hall received $600,000 from GAI over the same period to serve as its communications strategist.

    e. Additionally, Wyton Hall is the owner of Wynton Hall & Co., a celebrity ghostwriting agency. His website claims he has worked for "NBA stars, White House presidential officials, Hollywood producers and movie stars, Fortune 500 CEOs, college presidents, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks, NCAA Hall of Fame coaches, top international motivational speakers, TV celebrities, and fashion models," all of which could presumably be written about at Breitbart.

    f. Numerous media observers and former employees suggest that given Bannon’s position in the Trump administration, Breitbart could serve as a state-allied propaganda outlet.

    g. Rebekah Mercer, daughter of a major Breitbart investor, is reportedly serving on the executive committee of the Trump transition team, and could end up serving in the Trump administration.

    h. Breitbart has already engaged in similar conduct internationally. Notably, Breitbart London editor in chief Raheem Kassam left the website to become chief of staff to UK Independence Party’s Nigel Farage during the 2015 UK General Elections; rejoined the website following the elections and spent the next year using his editorial post to support and advocate for UKIP’s signature policy initiative, Brexit; then briefly ran for UKIP leader.

    It is simply not credible for an outlet to claim the editorial independence required under your rules given that their longtime executive chairman is about to become the closest advisor to the president.

    In addition to these documented, inextricable, and disqualifying links between the outlet and the Trump administration, Breitbart has secretive business ties that it refuses to disclose as a matter of policy, including financial ties to foreign businessmen that are kept equally secret. The Committee should also be wary of granting additional credibility to an extremist website -- Bannon himself called it “the platform of the alt-right,” an ideology that features white nationalism.

    Given these facts, I urge the Standing Committee to reject the Breitbart application.

    Respectfully,

    Angelo Carusone

    President, Media Matters for America