The media gives Trump benefit of the doubt on abortion. He doesn’t deserve it

This was the week when the corporate media decided to mansplain Donald Trump to women and anyone else who might care about their reproductive rights.

“Don’t worry your pretty little heads about what he says,” we were told. “We’re going to tell you what he means.”

First, let’s tease out the most charitable take. The media always wants a ”story.” Thus, the thinking goes, Trump’s video statement this week describing his position on abortion must have been rooted in some political necessity. The Republican Party’s 2024 electoral hopes are obviously hemorrhaging on the issue of reproductive choice, so Trump must recognize his vulnerability on that issue, and must have felt it necessary to accommodate all of us by moderating his position. After all, it’s common for politicians to shape-shift on policy matters, even marginally. Those subtle changes in policy are eagerly picked up and parsed by the news media because they create conflict and drama that, in turn, provides a narrative for the press. 

But Trump is not a “normal” political candidate. For Trump, to acknowledge any shift or change on his abortion position would have gone against every ingrained aspect of his personality. It would be an admission, in effect, that he had miscalculated, or done something wrong. 

RELATED STORY: Trump's attempt to address abortion loses big—with everyone

So when Trump issued his scripted video—because he clearly couldn’t handle the intense discomfort of a live press conference—it was carefully crafted to acknowledge no error on his part. There was no sense he felt he’d miscalculated the impact of his long-asserted intent to overrule Roe v. Wade through his appointment of three virulently anti-abortion Supreme Court justices.

Instead, he bragged about it, spewing a bunch of ambiguous verbiage deliberately designed to say nothing else. For someone incapable of owning up to his mistakes, on abortion or anything else, it really couldn’t be otherwise.

But nearly all the mainstream media—Reuters, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, NPR, and CBS—wanted that “story,” that sensible, rational narrative to present to their viewers. So what they all did—every one of them, in fact—was invent a story out of whole cloth: that this was evidence that Trump was actually behaving like a normal political human being and moderating, ever-so-slightly, his position on abortion.

In doing so, they did all Americans a grotesque disservice, because Trump didn’t change a thing about his position. It was the media that did that for him, as astutely pointed out by Media Matters’ Matt Gertz:

Former President Donald Trump’s strategy of ducking questions on abortion requires mainstream reporters to let him off the hook and leave pro-choice swing voters with the false impression that he is more moderate than he actually is. So far, it’s working.

Major news outlets are falsely claiming that Trump said abortion “should be left to the states” in a video announcement Monday on his Truth Social platform. In fact, Trump said only that abortion “will” be left to the states, a statement of law that does not address how he would respond if Congress passed a federal abortion ban or how regulators would treat abortion under a second Trump administration.

Gertz has the receipts. As he posted on the social platform X, the media complicity in distorting what Trump said was as repetitive as it was egregious:

The inaccurate claim that Trump said abortion "should be left to the states" is everywhere in mainstream coverage.

— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) April 8, 2024

This is not some minor quibble. What Gertz illustrates here is literally serial misinformation being spun by every recognized paladin of  “mainstream” news. And that misinformation was dutifully picked up and disseminated by subsidiary outlets to foster and spread a phony narrative that Trump has somehow moderated his position on abortion. He hasn’t.

By reporting in headline after headline that Trump said abortion “should”—rather than “will”—be left to the states, the media have created the impression that for Trump, the abortion issue is now settled, and implicitly, that he won’t take abortion restrictions further should he be elected again in 2024.

So, to the casual reader of these headlines, which is as far as many readers go, that means he’s abandoned his intent, expressed just last month, to establish a national abortion ban, and It means no effort to outlaw mifepristone through the FDA. However, as Kaili Joy Gray and Kos have both written on this site, that is not what Trump said at all.

Anyone in the mainstream news who has followed Trump over the past eight years should have known that he does not ever acknowledge his own misjudgments. He didn’t do it for his disastrous COVID-19 response. He never gave the slightest indication that he erred in the heinous conduct that led to either of his impeachments. 

So he wasn’t about to do it for an issue, such as abortion, for which he clearly has no personal sentiments. The problem here is that the media still continue to treat Trump as a normal politician, equivocating in a way that the media have come to expect. That conventional narrative may be a way to reassure themselves or their audience, but it’s false.  

Trump is fundamentally incapable of making such an admission. There has not been a single instance in Trump’s public career where he has admitted any error in judgment, let alone admitted it to the news media. His past actions can’t be questioned, and if they are questioned his response, invariably, is to become angry and dismissive. This peculiarity of Trump’s personality was entrenched by his mentor, Roy Cohn, one of the most malignant and ruthless political operatives of the 20th century. Cohn had a singular rule that he hammered regularly into his young protege: Never, ever admit mistakes.

Gertz observes that Trump’s statement was simply a reiteration of what the existing law on abortion actually is: nothing more, nothing less. The media ran with that and assumed that Trump was “limiting” himself by those statements. As Gertz points out, he did no such thing:

Trump did not say whether he would sign a federal abortion ban if Congress passed it. Nor did he say whether federal regulators under his administration would move to ban medication abortions or restrict sending them through the mail, or how he will vote on the abortion referendum in his home state of Florida, or whether he will continue to appoint judges who will further curtail abortion rights.

So the media narrative as implied—and literally spelled out in many headlines—was wholly false. Instead, what we got were headlines that had the pernicious effect of minimizing the threat Trump actually represents, and more importantly, misrepresenting what he does or does not intend to do on abortion.

Nor did the situation improve on the nightly news. Gertz followed up by examining Monday’s broadcasts for ABC’s “World News Tonight” and “Good Morning America,” NBC’s “Nightly News” and “Today Show,” and CBS’ “Evening News.” All of them reiterated that Trump said abortion “should” be left to the states. CBS’s broadcast put it in a chyron, while a reporter falsely intoned that Trump had “suggested today that the federal government should stay out of the abortion rights debate.”

Again, no such language appears anywhere in Trump’s video speech. As Gertz notes, ABC egregiously characterized Trump’s statements as a “reversal” of Trump’s prior statements regarding a national abortion ban. And, as Gertz observes, none of the networks addressed Trump’s ludicrous claim that Democrats support “infanticide.” 

Viewed in the most charitable light, this is a massive, disturbing failure on the part of nearly every major news outlet in this country. The damage will reverberate well into the campaign season as voters are now going to have to reconcile what they they were told by their feckless media, whose misleading headlines are typically the solitary source of their information, with what is actually at stake for voters as the 2024 election approaches.

But it’s also difficult to reconcile the glaringly collective aspect of this. As Gertz points out, Trump is someone who habitually, routinely lies, to the point where very little he says can be given any credulity at all. It’s difficult to fathom why nearly every major news outlet leapt to the same erroneous conclusion about what he said, and pushed it to their viewers and readers in the exact same fashion. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow also pointed this out, while acknowledging her high regard for all of the sources involved. 

And now it’s even harder to argue with those who suggest that the media has normalized Trump and his pathologies, that its fixation on the horse race aspect of the 2024 election has clouded its own ability to distinguish facts from fiction.

That doesn’t mean we need to cynically reject everything the corporate-owned media decides to report about Trump, but it also doesn’t make us conspiracy theorists for calling out such blatant and obvious failures. Again, to reiterate a common phrase, despite eight long years of Roy Cohn’s protege living rent-free in our heads, none of this is normal. It’s not normal for the American public, and it should never, ever be normalized for those whose job it is to keep that public informed.

RELATED STORY: Rachel Maddow dissects pathetic media coverage of Trump's abortion video

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Are the handful of GOP impeachment holdouts ‘centrists’?

A new Politico story gives a sliver of fresh information on House Republicans' push to impeach Joe Biden: Not only has just one Republican member announced he will vote “no” on a planned vote to formally authorize the so-far unofficial impeachment inquiry, but of the entire caucus, all except "about a half-dozen" members are now supporting the vote.

The opposing vote is from Rep. Ken Buck. He is nobody's idea of a moderate, but he has expressed repeated unwillingness to support efforts by his own party to nullify an American election and propagate hoaxes meant to delegitimize it. (Buck is also retiring from Congress at the end of his term.)

It's Politico's framing of the half-dozen holdouts that's a bit galling.

"House GOP chips away at centrist resistance on Biden impeachment inquiry," says the Politico headline.

Not sure how you can call the half-an-egg-carton of holdouts "centrists" on this one, Politico. Those six or so representatives hail from swing districts, the site reports, so the more appropriate designation might be "cowards."

It's not centrist to be undecided on whether or not an impeachment inquiry based on not even a shred of evidence of actual wrongdoing (but a whole lot of unhinged and provably false conspiracy theories) should go forward solely because the coup-attempting Donald Trump, now indicted in four separate jurisdictions, was impeached twice and Trump's also-coup-supporting admirers have been obsessed with inflicting revenge on everyone who ever caught Trump committing  alleged crimes. No, it's just cowardice. The undecided members are trying to gauge which will cost them more votes: supporting a clearly spurious and revenge-based impeachment and infuriating swing voters, or not supporting impeachment, which will infuriate the far-right elements of their base.

It's a tough call for sure, but it's not centrist. It's just a craven attempt to govern based not on principle but instead on what will best boost their own personal interests. By the same token, you could call a pickpocket who made off with their wallets a "centrist" because they ignored laws and morality to squarely focus on "What should I do if I want to have more money?"

And this bit is just maddening:

But some moderate Republicans argue that a lack of cooperation from Hunter Biden and other family members has forced the GOP’s hand. Formalizing the investigation would boost the GOP’s leverage in its pursuit of documents and witnesses, they say, and represents just one step in the process.

Come again? Hunter Biden is showing a "lack of cooperation" in disproving an ever-shifting range of conspiracy theories, most of them disprovable by even the most basic fact-checking?

How is he supposed to "cooperate" to disprove theories that have no supporting evidence to begin with? Republican hearings have brought forward "evidence," like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's public display of Hunter nudes almost certainly obtained through criminal hacking efforts in attempts to prove who-knows-what.

How is Hunter supposed to more fully "cooperate" with that probe? Do Republicans believe he must now strip naked in front of them, live and in person?

Well, Rep. Jim Jordan probably does.

The coverage of the Republican "impeachment" drive continues to be risible because journalists continue to note the utter lack of evidence as an aside or afterthought in stories that otherwise treat the Republican effort as a credible political process simply by virtue of Republicans willing it to be.

The story here is that despite a lack of evidence that the sitting president has done even a single untoward thing in relation to his son and despite increasingly circus-like efforts to promote hoaxes after Republican investigators could find nothing else, all but seven or so House Republicans support opening an impeachment inquiry anyway in a brazenly dishonest, politically crooked attempt to redirect attention from the unequivocal crookedness of their own coup-attempting, indicted, and openly fascist party leader.

The six or so possible holdouts aren't the story. The uniform corruption that has strangled nearly the entire Republican caucus, though, continues to be the story that will best predict the possible demise of American democracy itself.


Comer isn’t even trying as Jake Tapper makes fun of his Biden conspiracy theory on live TV

Comer's latest bombshell may be his worst dud yet

Hunter Biden asks to testify publicly. House Republicans scurry away in a panic

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Markos and Kerry give their thoughts on what the country is facing in 2024. The Republican Party is running on losing issues like abortion and repealing the ACA—with no explanation of what they plan on replacing it with. Trump has a lot of criming to atone for, and the Republican platform remains set on destroying democracy.

Trump again threatens the media. Will the media care?

In an infamous article from 1922, The New York Times introduced the United States to a rising German politician by insisting that "Hitler's anti-Semitism was not so violent or genuine as it sounded." It would be nice to think that in the intervening century the nation’s largest media outlets have learned a lesson. And they have. They’ve learned to lean into it.

As Daily Kos’ Laura Clawson reported on Tuesday, a new study shows that the media is willing to cut Donald Trump infinite slack when it comes to using dehumanizing and threatening language toward everyone he sees as an opponent. Which is … everyone. Democrats. Republicans. Former members of his staff. Judges. The whole legal system. Steve Jobs’ widow.

But no one seems as eager to indulge Trump as America’s leading news outlets. It’s not just that they’re willing to look the other way when he attacks others; they are also eternally willing to bend over and take another one for team “objective journalism.” Except what they’re promoting isn’t anything like fairness, and what they’re protecting certainly isn’t some platonic ideal of truth.  

The nation’s major media outlets are begging Trump to hurt them again. Hurt them good. Oh, and to destroy the nation while he’s at it.

Overnight, Trump attacked MSNBC. The reason for this isn’t particularly clear and doesn’t particularly matter. However, in this attack, Trump makes an overt threat against the network, its leader, and the whole concept of the First Amendment.

In response to Trump’s attack, NBC News has issued this heartfelt reply: silence. But then, why wouldn’t they? They also didn’t comment back in September, when Trump threatened NBC’s parent company and insisted they should be investigated for “Country Threatening Treason.”

Silence in response to Trump’s threats is what major media outlets do.

Trump already declared the free press “the enemy of the people.” He already put journalists in cages so that his supporters could jeer them as Trump pointed them out for mockery. He didn’t do these things in the early days of his 2016 campaign. He did them while occupying the White House. Trump stood behind the bully pulpit and regularly informed the American public that the media was their enemy.

Those journalists were in a cage for a rally that Trump held in 2018, far from any presidential election. That the link to that Iowa rally is from an Australian news outlet is not a coincidence, as the reporter from that outlet seems to be the only one who was shocked by the way journalists were being pointed out for threats and derision, or by how an undercover filmmaker approached the cage to whisper that he was too afraid to try and conduct interviews, or how they weren’t even allowed to go to the bathroom without being supervised by a member of Trump’s staff. By that point, American journalists following Trump seemed to have simply accepted this as their lot.

Just over a month ago, Trump threatened journalists with prison rape unless they gave up sources who were informing on Trump’s crimes. And those same journalists went back to work the next day, cutting Trump every possible break.

The biggest of those breaks is simply this: Acting as if because Trump espouses fascism, racism, misogyny, bigotry, and violence every day, it’s not news. This is the most ass-backward idea ever cooked up in a newsroom. The fact that Trump does it over, and over, and over is the news. Responsible, objective journalism isn’t ignoring Trump’s threats because he makes them regularly. The regularity of his vile statements makes them both worse and more newsworthy.

If the mass media treated the Son of Sam killings the way they do Donald Trump, they would have stopped reporting after the first victim. After all, it’s just more of the same thing, right?

Trump is out there attacking journalists every day. He’s out there spitting on the First Amendment every day. He’s doubling down on his attacks on democracy every day. And all major media seems to think about is how many more clicks, views, and ad dollars they will make if they can use silence and selective reporting to ease Trump over the line to the White House.

Every time Trump calls out journalists or a media outlet, the reaction seems to be the same. Rather than fighting back, or defending their reporting, outlets slink further into the placating corner. Or hire another former Trump official. They seemed genuinely more concerned about offending Nazis than fighting them.

News outlets appear willing to keep up the pretense of being objective, even when studies show that they are leaning on the accelerator for Trump. They’ll keep up that pretense even in the face of the absolute reality that, should their boost carry Trump back to the Oval Office, he will come for them. He will come for the “enemies of the people.” He will come for those guilty of “country threatening treason.” He will make the days when he only put reporters in cages and encouraged the crowd to scream at them seem like a fond memory.

Trump is dedicated to destroying democracy. He’s absolutely insistent on ending the free press. He is openly using Nazi propaganda and threatening to repeat the most despicable events in history. Even so, as Laura wrote on Tuesday:

There is no question, by the hard numbers, that the media is giving Donald Trump a pass. His dehumanizing rhetoric describing his political opponents as “vermin” that he will “root out” is a nonstory as far as the broadcast networks, cable news networks, and largest newspapers in the country are concerned

Unless something changes, it will go on being a nonstory right up until the time Trump is telling them what stories are allowed.

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Republican chaos is purposefully designed to dampen voter engagement

The Washington Post ran an illuminating story on Sunday titled, “In a swing Wisconsin county, everyone is tired of politics.”

A more honest headline would’ve been, “In a swing Wisconsin county, everyone is tired of Republican politics.”

With conservative nihilists either actively destroying our institutions, like the Freedom Caucus and the U.S. House of Representatives, or promising to do so, like Donald Trump, it should come as no surprise that people are growing increasingly tired of this.

Still, traditional media outlets remain wary of ascribing proper blame, doing a disservice to people who take that “both sides do it” coverage to heart. The Washington Post article featuring people in Wisconsin’s Door County, which is between Milwaukee and Green Bay, exemplifies that. It is one of just nine counties in the country that have voted for the winning presidential candidate since 2000. Let’s take a look.

The pandemic and inflation have already rattled folks, and the broader political backdrop — the impeachments, Trump’s torrent of falsehoods about the 2020 election, the Capitol insurrection, the band of hard-right Republicans ousting their speaker — has blocked out notice of what both sides cast as accomplishments, such as the billions of dollars poured into updating the nation’s roads, bridges and ports. Even as the economy grows at the strongest pace in two years, and jobs continue to proliferate, signs of progress are easy to miss amid what voters see as screaming matches.

So what are these screaming matches voters tell the Post are distressing them? Impeachments, Trump’s 2020 lies, the insurrection, and former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s ouster. What do all these items have in common?

The answer is obvious: They are all things conservatives do. Even the pandemic was exacerbated by anti-science Republicans. Yes, voters refuse to see positive news on the economy because of those Republican screaming matches, but that’s on purpose. Republicans have every interest in making sure Democrats don’t get credit for being responsible stewards of our economy.

Here is the next paragraph:

They long for compromise. They want to feel heard and understood. Most Americans, for instance, desire access to abortion, tighter restrictions on guns and affordable health care. Many wonder why our laws don’t reflect that.

Access to abortion, tighter gun restrictions, and affordable health care? Which party is fighting for that, and which one opposes all those things?

Again, the article shouldn’t be about how people are disenchanted with politics, but with how Republicans are poisoning the electorate that otherwise supports the core Democratic agenda.

Nichols, a 58-year-old caregiving service manager in the city of Sturgeon Bay, sees Biden as “not super impressive” at a time when she aches to be reassured. She wants a leader who can bring the sparring factions together — a feat no one seems to be close to accomplishing. (Her favorite thing about Biden, though: “He’s not always in the news.”) Trump, on the other hand, was guilty of “mean girl behavior,” she thought, picking fights with even his own party while racking up criminal charges.

The government in general reminded her of the reality series “Big Brother” — “with all the lies and deals behind the scenes.”

“You don’t know where to turn or who to believe,” she said.

So … she longs for a leader who can bring everyone together, but she is upset by “all the … deals behind the scenes.” Politics isn’t about facts and figures, it’s about vibes. That entire sentence is nonsensical, yet this voter absolutely believes it. It doesn’t mean she’s stupid or unsophisticated; we need to stop thinking of voters that way. (I used to do so, and I’m increasingly realizing that it is not helpful in achieving our goals.) It means Republicans have done a great job of muddling the political landscape so that it repels people who are natural Democratic supporters.

Talking about Washington, [League of Women Voters advocates] decided, isn’t the best way to nudge Door County voters to the polls. But when the group focused on hot-button issues, Kohout noticed, residents seemed eager to listen. Chairs filled up at their event focused on mental health and opioid addiction.

Investment in mental health and opioid addiction? Again, those are government investments Democrats are happy to make, and Republicans are eager to block.

Henderson had liked Trump’s outspokenness at first — she would have voted for him in 2020 but was recovering from surgery on Election Day. Now she resents his “cockiness” and wishes he and other politicians would channel more energy into addressing the soaring cost of food. Two months ago, she’d had to lift the price of every menu item by 50 cents, and now her barbecue chicken Mother Clucker sandwich cost $10.75. Customers, she knew, wouldn’t pay much more than that.

Inflation is a serious issue, and arguing that the United States has the lowest inflation rate of any industrialized nation doesn’t do much to assuage those concerns. But we also know that a big part of inflation is corporate America taking advantage of it to artificially raise prices, leading to record Wall Street profits. One party would do something about that, the other wants to give corporations unfettered ability to price-gouge Americans.

The article then meanders around some Libertarians in the area, because sure, why not talk to a Libertarian about (checks notes) abortion rights, tighter gun restrictions, affordable health care, corporate price gouging, and mental health and opioid programs?

The LGBTQ+ community here is small, [Owen Alabado] said. As a gay man with Filipino roots in the overwhelmingly White town of Baileys Harbor, he stood out. It felt personal when Door County’s board of supervisors voted in September to restrict what flags can be raised on county poles, effectively banning the Pride rainbow. Then lawmakers in Washington elected a House speaker who had previously suggested criminalizing gay sex.

Alabado was sick of the division, he said. Neither party, he thought, seemed capable of fixing it. He wished he could be excited to vote for Biden, rather than feel obligated to do so to defend “basic human rights.”

“I can’t really speak to anything he has done,” he said, “because I’ve tuned it out, like a lot of people have. We’re so tired of the us-against-them politics.”

One party is banning the LGBTQ+ flag and trying to criminalize gay sex, but sure, both parties are part of the problem. And “I don’t know what Biden has done because I refuse to pay attention” is a weird flex. But again, vibes. People are fed up with the toxicity of our politics and they want to tune out. Who does this benefit? Republicans. Conservatives are doing this on purpose.

The single most successful Biden moment over the past three years hasn’t been any of his actual and very real policy accomplishments. It was the Dark Brandon meme.

We can lament the lack of sophistication among key voters, chastising them for not doing politics right, or we can understand that nihilist conservatives are destroying our institutions precisely to drive down voter participation and engagement.

If it takes Dark Brandon to combat that, sign me up. And over the next year, we’re going to have to find ways to talk to people in a way that calms and reassures them while also driving home the existential threat to our democracy that Trump represents.

Does that seem like an impossibly contradictory task? It is. But that’s what the country wants, and it will be our job as liberals and Democrats to find the solution.

Republicans are challenging labor leaders to fights and allegedly physically assaulting one another. Donald Trump says he will abolish reproductive rights entirely and is openly calling for the extermination of his detractors, referring to them as “vermin” on Veterans Day. The Republican Party has emerged from its corruption cocoon as a full-blown fascist movement.

Here’s how inherently partisan the House impeachment inquiry is

The early weeks of House Speaker Mike Johnson’s tenure are seeing a predictable outbreak of “moderate” Republicans saying they sure hope that the impeachment inquiry that former Speaker Kevin McCarthy launched against President Joe Biden will “go where the evidence goes” and rely on “an orderly and fair process.” Those quotes are from Reps. Don Bacon and Doug LaMalfa, respectively, who will provide invaluable cover for Johnson as he works to get the media to buy into his Very Smart Constitutional Lawyer persona. But a Washington Post article on the impeachment dynamics under Johnson contained maybe the most damning possible passage on Johnson’s approach.

But in this week’s private meeting with moderates, Johnson appeared to agree with Republican lawmakers who argued that since Biden’s polling numbers have been so weak, there is less of a political imperative to impeach him, according to Bacon and others who attended the meeting.

I’m sorry, but how is that a passing mention in a story largely focused on how Johnson “has taken a more reserved tone, both publicly and privately, urging members to conduct a thorough and fair investigation with no predetermined outcome”? If Johnson’s “more reserved tone” is based on feeling that it’s no longer politically important to impeach Biden, that’s not a sign that he’s prioritizing being “thorough and fair”; it’s a sign that he’s proceeding from an entirely partisan starting point!

Before he became speaker and decided that his play was looking like a serious guy by getting the media to ignore that his constitutional law work was anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ extremism, Johnson promoted House Oversight Chair James Comer’s baseless allegations against Biden. “The things that the evidence is leading us to, the allegations that are very serious and have been made in the mounting evidence stacking up to show is the causes that are listed right there in the Constitution,” he said in late September. “So we have no choice. Why are Democrats ignoring it purely for partisan political purposes?” Also in late September, he stood on the House floor and railed against the media for correctly observing that the impeachment inquiry “may be weakest in history” and was “the most predictable impeachment investigation in American history.” It goes on. “One thing that remains clear: The list of credible allegations that Joe Biden engaged in bribery schemes continues to grow,” he tweeted in early October. “The Constitution specifically lists bribery as a cause for impeachment. We can't have a President that is bought & paid for by foreign adversaries.”

Sure, Johnson gave lip service to following the evidence from time to time, but he regularly promoted Comer’s wildest allegations against Biden as truth, and presented impeachment as the logical and necessary outcome, the constitutional responsibility of the House for such corruption. And now the reporting shows that if, as speaker, he is backing off a little, it’s not just because he has decided it’s important to look like a statesman but also because he thinks impeachment is currently less important from a partisan standpoint, based on the polling.

This is who Mike Johnson is. The media needs to actually pay attention, rather than reporting such massively damning information as if it were a ho-hum scenario not worthy of extended comment.

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The band is back together, and it is a glorious day as Markos and Kerry’s hot takes over the past year came true—again! Republicans continue to lose at the ballot box and we are here for it!

Biden warns Trump is an existential threat to democracy. The media whiffs it

In advance of his speech at the United Nations on Tuesday, President Joe Biden traveled to New York on Sunday and spent time at a fundraiser in a Broadway theater Monday night. In front of supporters there, he hammered at the threat Donald Trump presents to the nation's democracy.

“Let there be no question, Donald Trump and his MAGA Republicans are determined to destroy American democracy. And I will always defend, protect and fight for our democracy,” Biden said, according to the Associated Press.

CNN has more from the speech:

“I will not side with dictators like (Russian President Vladimir) Putin. Maybe Trump and his MAGA friends can bow down and praise him, but I won’t,” Biden said.

“I don’t believe America is a dark, negative nation, a nation of carnage driven by anger, fear and revenge. Donald Trump does,” he added later.

Citing Trump’s vow if reelection to act as “retribution” for his supporters, Biden asked: “Did you ever think you’d hear a president of the United States speak like that? Well, I believe we are a hopeful, optimistic nation driven by the proposition that everyone deserves a shot.”

CNN describes the speech as "some of his fiercest condemnation to date" of coup conspirator Trump, but none of Biden's remarks seem especially controversial. The AP itself has reported on Trump and his allies’ plan to overhaul the government on authoritarian premises. Trump has repeatedly told crowds he was their "retribution," including at a Waco, Texas, rally that coincided with the 30th anniversary of the deadly Branch Davidian standoff. On a fundamental level, one cannot plausibly argue that a man who organized a mob of known-violent supporters, refused to support their disarming, and had them march on the Capitol in an attempt to block the certification of his opponent's election victory is not a dangerous threat to democracy itself.

Trump is pressing for fascist revolution, and nothing Biden said at the fundraiser is false. But instead of acknowledging that, the media writes stories that play off the potential ensconcing of an authoritarian cultist as one of many competing election factors. Here's the AP's take:

It was the among the president’s strongest rebukes of the Republican front-runner and former president, who is facing criminal charges for his role in the effort to overturn the 2020 election. And it comes as the political pressure is ramping up from Republicans in the House who have opened an impeachment inquiry into Biden in an effort to tie him to his son Hunter’s business dealings and distract from Trump’s legal peril.

Biden said he wanted to send the “strongest and most powerful message possible, that political violence in America is never never never acceptable.”

What the hell is that?

On one hand, "criminal charges for [Trump's] role in the effort to overturn the 2020 election." On the other hand, Biden is facing an "impeachment inquiry"—one that has editorially been determined to be a House Republican attempt to "distract from Trump's legal peril," even as the reporting excludes the crucial detail that the allegations against Biden are, to all available evidence, utterly false.

CNN's version is no better. "Biden takes on Trump and age questions in new fundraiser speech," goes the article’s headline. The first paragraph focuses on Biden accusing Trump of being "determined to destroy democracy." But paragraph two brings us the apparently similarly important news that:

Biden also sought to rebut chronic questions about his age, claiming his long experience in Washington gave him the wisdom to steer the nation forward.

Ah. On the one hand, a potential end to democracy. And on the other, Biden referenced attacks on his age. You can see how both of those things would perk up political journalism's ears to roughly the same extent.

On the same day Biden made these remarks, we learned that Trump has been using classified documents as scratch paper to pass messages to his assistant. It's the sort of buffoonish incompetence or intentional criminality—it's unclear which—that should disqualify anyone from government service.

If press rooms can recognize that the House Republican "impeachment inquiry" of Biden is a straight-up attempt to "distract" from all the crimes Trump's accused of, then the rest of it should follow. That means the House Republican attempt is crooked. That means the party itself, or at least its most powerful members, are attempting themselves to subvert democracy by propagating hoaxes.

Follow the ball, here, reporters. Yes, we grant you that Biden is slightly older than his also-old opponent. But what is the thing future historians will be talking about when chronicling this election and its outcome? What are the threads that will be weaved together to explain these times, presuming a future Republican Party allows history books to accurately record them?

It isn't poll numbers on how many Americans think Joe Biden is old, CNN. It's not a few paragraphs tacked on about Biden's "tepid fundraising schedule," AP, after getting bored with Biden's warnings about our imperiled democracy a mere half-dozen paragraphs in. Figure this out.

Sign the petition: Trump attempted a coup on January 6. He is a clear & present danger to democracy


Trump used classified notecards to write to-do lists for his Mar-a-Lago assistant

Failure to televise Trump’s federal trials will unleash flood of MAGA conspiracy theories

The press needs to stop pretending Trump’s word salads amount to policy thoughts

Kerry talks with Drew Linzer, director of the online polling company Civiqs. Drew tells us what the polls say about voters’ feelings toward President Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and what the results would be if the two men were to, say … run against each other for president in 2024. Oh yeah, Drew polled to find out who thinks Donald Trump is guilty of the crimes he’s been indicted for, and whether or not he should see the inside of a jail cell.

White House tells media to commit acts of journalism

No media report on the House impeachment inquiry targeting President Joe Biden is complete without prominent coverage of the fact that Republicans have no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden, and are instead basing their drive to impeach on lies. Unfortunately, a lot of media coverage is incomplete in this exact way, leading the White House to send a letter to major media organizations, calling on them to do better at reporting the facts.

“It's time for the media to ramp up its scrutiny of House Republicans for opening an impeachment inquiry based on lies,” the White House wrote. The memo details how "Covering impeachment as a process story—Republicans say X, but the White House says Y—is a disservice to the American public who relies on the independent press to hold those in power accountable.”

And in the modern media environment, where every day liars and hucksters peddle disinformation and lies everywhere from Facebook to Fox, process stories that fail to unpack the illegitimacy of the claims on which House Republicans are basing all their actions only serve to generate confusion, put false premises in people’s feeds, and obscure the truth.

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That’s the crux of it: If House Republicans can rely on the media to help spread their lies under the guise of neutral reporting, without a full explanation that these claims are false, then people are going to believe things that are not true. The media cannot fully combat the spread of disinformation, of course, and right-wing media organizations like Fox News are more interested in spreading it themselves. But traditional media shouldn’t let itself be used to launder false claims.

Predictably, the right-wing media immediately started stirring up outrage about the White House issuing “marching orders,” as go-to Republican legal expert Jonathan Turley put it. It’s a dynamic we’ve seen repeatedly.

The White House: Hey, guys, could you try to stick to the facts and identify misinformation as such?

Right-wing media: How dare they??? This is oppression.

That outrage is a reflexive response; in this case it’s also intended to distract from the 14-page appendix accompanying the White House letter, which offers thorough debunkings of seven key lies on which Republicans are basing their claims about the need for an impeachment inquiry. For instance, Republicans insist, “Joe Biden ‘engaged in a bribery scheme with a foreign national.’” But that allegation is based on an FBI document recording an unverified allegation that was initially investigated and dismissed by the Justice Department under Donald Trump.

In short: A claim about something Biden allegedly did before he was president that the Trump Justice Department couldn’t substantiate at a time when Trump was looking for ways to discredit Biden has now become an exhibit in a push to impeach him.

Another of the Republican claims, that "Biden has participated in his family's global business ventures with America's adversaries,” was directly refuted by testimony from two of Hunter Biden’s former business partners—witnesses House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer bragged were going to help him show Biden’s corruption. No such ties have been revealed in the thousands of pages of bank records House Republicans have obtained.

Everything the White House offers there is exhaustively documented, with many of the sources coming from the same media organizations the letter is begging to fairly cover this impeachment inquiry. The facts are widely available, and now they’re neatly summarized in a very transparent 14-page document with lots of links. Reporters and their editors need to use those facts—and not in the eighth paragraph following seven paragraphs of Republicans lying, but right up front, every single time.

Kerry talks with Drew Linzer, director of the online polling company Civiqs. Drew tells us what the polls say about voters’ feelings toward President Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and what the results would be if the two men were to, say … run against each other for president in 2024. Oh yeah, Drew polled to find out who thinks Donald Trump is guilty of the crimes he’s been indicted for, and whether or not he should see the inside of a jail cell.

Another day, another outright hoax promoted on Fox News

Fox "News" is a propaganda outfit intended to manipulate public opinion by bending the "news" to preferentially be whatever the Republican hard right would most like it to be. Sometimes this means reporting real news with a conservative edge to it; sometimes it means peddling hoaxes, often in tacit coordination with the Republicans who invented them to begin with. We're supposed to believe that if Fox only promotes a certain percentage of fake stories, they still retain legitimacy as a "real" news outlet, but there's never a number put to that. Can a legitimate news outlet run one completely made-up story a day and retain legitimacy? Is it fine if the hoaxes run mostly during prime-time hours? Can a network promote $790 million worth of fake news, but not $795 million?

Do tell, American pundit corps, because the rest of us remain mystified.

Over the weekend, Fox News showed us how they operate—again—with nearly three hours of gaudy coverage of a straight-up news hoax. This one was a throwback to the specific Rudy Giuliani-spread anti-Ukraine, anti-Biden hoaxes that got Donald Trump impeached when Trump attempted to solicit support for the hoax from the Ukrainian government in exchange for an end to his holdup of congressionally mandated military aid to the country.

Remember discredited former Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin, the man ousted from the government after international pressure over what was seen as Shokin's, ahem, lackluster interest in fighting Ukrainian corruption? He's back, thanks to Fox News bobblehead Brian Kilmeade.

That it was left to one of the glassy-eyed “Fox & Friends” hosts to interview the disgraced Shokin should tell you just how little appetite there was among Fox’s "legitimate" news team to appear on camera with the buffoon; Kilmeade certainly has no reputation for "journalism" that could be tarnished. This is the conspiracy that resulted in the complete dismantling of conservative faux-journalist John Solomon's waning career, after all, and there's not many media figures outside the “Fox & Friends” lineup who want to be the next John Solomon.

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In the interview, Shokin regurgitated the same conspiracy theory that Giuliani attempted to import to the United States the moment it appeared that Joe Biden would be Trump's presidential opponent: the notion that he was the victim of a Biden plot to oust him when, in fact, his removal was spurred by an international campaign and by official United States government condemnation of his failures. Giuliani sought to boost the theory with the help of pro-Russian (read: treasonous) Ukrainian oligarchs that Ukraine's post-Shokin anticorruption efforts had targeted. That not a shred of this theory turned out to be true—and a whole lot of it was manufactured outright—was hardly a surprise.

That Trump himself would soon attach himself to the hoax, using the powers of his office to demand the Ukrainian government announce they were "investigating" the false charges, was ... also not a surprise.

Media Matters tallies up the Fox promotion of Shokin's completely hoax-premised claims against Biden, and between "teasing, airing, and analyzing" the interview it amounted to "at least 50 segments across 19 different programs." That's a heavy media push, and it coincides with a new House Republican push to mount an impeachment trial against Biden to act as a counternarrative to Trump potentially landing his ass in a prison cell on a host of federal and state charges.

Why would Fox News be resurrecting a Giuliani-boosted hoax immediately after Giuliani himself has been indicted for attempting to corruptly undermine an American election? What's the "news" value in rerunning one of his most notorious anti-Biden campaign scams?

There isn't any, as the interview itself made clear. But it allowed conspiracy-minded Fox News hosts to run the footage as if the claims were new, and to speculate on whether House Republicans would use Shokin's claims to help justify a Biden impeachment. That is of tremendous use to Republicans, even if Shokin himself remains an utterly discredited fraud-promoting huckster.

That brings us back to our original question, then. What percentage of the Fox News day can be booked with actual, known hoax-pushers before the "journalism" side of the business can be discredited? We've been told repeatedly by other media figures that the "news" side of Fox News is on the up-and-up, no matter how many times their anchors make partisan asses of themselves during "real news" hours. It's up to those media figures, then, to share a number with us. For CNN, for NBC, for The Washington Post, for The New York Times: What percentage of completely fake "news" can your journalism include, per segment or per page, and still retain its “real news” label?

Do tell. The rest of us simply don't seem to understand "journalism" with enough nuance to put some numbers to these things, so stop beating around the bush and just give us your answers, straight up. How many intentional hoaxes are "real" news outlets allowed to promote?


It took the Marine Corps to get Fox News to pull a fake story

The media insistence on propping Fox News back up again is getting so, so tedious

Faux News strikes again: Hannity promotes verifiable Biden hoax

Fox News keeps playing journalists, and journalists keep letting them

Political journalists boost Republican nonsense—and sabotage democracy

Once again, the fundamental crisis in America’s political journalism is an unwillingness to confront corruption—or even to recognize it. Uncritically repeating politically motivated hoaxes is a corrupt act, one that sabotages democracy by depriving citizens of the facts necessary to make democratic decisions.

A new CNN story is indicative of this very problem, so let’s rip it to pieces and see what we can learn. The article is "McCarthy starts to plot Biden impeachment strategy while GOP skeptics remain,” and it is a bog-standard inside look at the politics of the Republican Party’s attempt to further its propagandistic narratives.

The article tells us that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has "privately told" Republicans he plans to begin an impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden "by the end of September." And yet, despite setting up an array of committees and subcommittees for Trump's most-loyal toadies to probe Biden and his family, the vengeance squads continue to present only nebulous theories and claims that have already been disproven. This presents McCarthy with a problem.

The article continues:

But leadership recognizes that the entire House Republican conference is not yet sold on the politically risky idea of impeachment. That’s why one of the biggest lingering questions – and something Republicans have been discussing in recent weeks – is whether they would need to hold a floor vote to formally authorize their inquiry, sources say. There is no constitutional requirement that they do so, and Republicans do not currently have the 218 votes needed to open an impeachment inquiry.

Skipping the formal vote, which would be a tough one for many of the party’s more vulnerable and moderate members, would allow Republicans to get the ball rolling on an inquiry while giving leadership more time to convince the rest of the conference to get on board with impeachment.

In other words, with no clear evidence of wrongdoing, House Republicans in swing districts don't want to commit to an impeachment based on the murky say-so of the chamber’s conspiracy cranks. So, to make his deadline, McCarthy plans to simply skip that vote if he must and launch the inquiry anyway.

The issue with this article is not what it covers but how it covers it. All this information is presented as a problem of political gamesmanship. That Republicans have unearthed no actual justification for impeaching Biden is depicted as a political problem, nothing more.

Another factor that could complicate the fall timeline for an impeachment inquiry: Government funding expires at the end of September. McCarthy has already signaled they will need a short-term spending patch to keep the government’s lights on, which hardline conservatives have balked at.

Officially moving ahead with an impeachment inquiry could help keep angry conservatives off McCarthy’s back. And the speaker himself has linked the two issues publicly, warning that a government shutdown could hinder House Republicans’ ability to continue their investigations into the Biden administration – a direct appeal to his right flank, and a sign of all the competing pressures that the speaker is facing.

Every political journalist in Washington, D.C., knows that House Republicans’ push to impeach Biden exists as a strictly partisan maneuver to (1) retaliate against Trump's impeachments and (2) manufacture an anti-Biden scandal so as to offset the accusations of Trump’s rampant criminality. Republicans want to bend the narrative from "Trump and his Republican allies did crimes" to "Both sides are doing crimes." Their intention is to use the false claims to sway the next presidential race. Again.

But we political journalists are going to ignore all that, studiously, and report on the propaganda campaign as a political tactic. What does this mean to Republicans in vulnerable districts? How will it affect short-term spending battles? Can McCarthy thwart would-be Republican moderates to push the propaganda campaign forward?

It's not until paragraph nine that we get the disclaimer: Republicans’ impeachment rationale is bullshit:

Republicans have pointed to unverified allegations that Biden profited from his son’s foreign business dealings as grounds for impeachment and have also alleged that there was political interference at the Department of Justice in the ongoing Hunter Biden criminal case – neither of which Republicans have been able to prove, which the White House and Democrats have repeatedly stressed.

“Unverified” is the key word, but the paragraph ends with a deflection to "White House and Democrats" who insist on pointing out that Republicans have not been "able to prove" their claims—a deflection that is unnecessary and borders on manipulative. CNN knows these claims are unverified, that Republicans have been unable to prove their accusations, and yet the grounds for this impeachment inquiry gets a passing mention deep in the story.

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Most of the claims surrounding Hunter Biden are the product of a Trump-era ratfucking operation by Rudy Giuliani, the now-indicted former mayor of New York City. The operation’s goal was to deflect from Russian election interference with a bizarre theory that, actually, it was Russia’s enemy Ukraine that meddled in our elections and that Hunter Biden, Hillary Clinton, and the Hamburglar were all somehow involved. Republicans’ investigations of the “Hunter Biden” story isn't a case of longstanding suspicions of a Biden crime ring being dutifully probed by public servants; it is a conspiracy-peddling campaign pushed by known liars, several of whom are facing charges for their own roles in an attempted coup.

Republicans’ conspiracy mongering is the far more interesting and important story, and political journalism so often seems uninterested in telling it. It is as if these journalists cannot comprehend conspiracy-peddling as corruption. Surely, by writing such articles, they would invite retaliation from elected officials whom the journalists court for access. Better to have access to those telling lies than to point out the lies.

The article closes out by calling attention to a new social media post by the man at the center of all this. On Truth Social, Trump screeched his frustration at, of all people, his allies in Congress: "You don’t need a long INQUIRY to prove it, it’s already proven. … Either IMPEACH the BUM, or fade into OBLIVION. THEY DID IT TO US!"

That is what the article should have focused on: the indicted leader of an attempted coup demanding the impeachment of the man who beat him, all while the indicted leader himself mounts a new bid to retake power. It is the story of one political party mired in corruption and peddling hoaxes. It is the most exciting political story on the planet, the story that happens in nations just before democracy falls and a strongman and his toadies declare elections to be too corrupt to continue and journalists to be enemies of the citizens. It is the last political story a democracy tells, and the political journalists tasked with fetching quotes from the conspirators still avoid telling it.


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Republicans consider a novel way to obstruct investigations of Trump

Republicans' star witness contradicts Republican claims

Republicans erupt in outrage after AG Garland appoints the special counsel they demanded

We talk about the upcoming Republican presidential debate and how sad a situation it is. The Republican Party shot itself in the foot with a Trump-sized bullet and now it's stuck with him for the foreseeable future. We still try to game out the possible paths the Republican field might take in order to rid themselves of the Donald.

Media pretends planned impeachment of Biden has some basis in facts

House Republicans have been planning to impeach President Joe Biden since before last November’s midterm elections. They had to come up with an excuse, which they knew would center on Hunter Biden. After months of relentless sham investigations, they are ready: It’s going to be about Hunter, like they planned, and since they haven’t found anything implicating the president in corruption, they will go ahead and lie. Lucky for them, the headlines will focus on Republican claims rather than the fact that they are lies.

Dueling articles at The New York Times and CNN show the multiple ways that the media can cover the Republican impeachment push without ever saying that it’s completely partisan BS. CNN offers up what appears to be a straightforward news report on House Republican plans. Really it’s dozens of paragraphs laundering false Republican claims.