The Conservative Media Impeaches Taylor and Kent

President Trump’s impeachment hearings began on Wednesday, and after some fairly partisan opening statements from congressional leaders, we were introduced to the proceedings’ first two witnesses: William Taylor (our U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine) and George Kent (a deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs).

Both men were there by subpoena, and answered questions on what they knew of (and had previously expressed concerns over) the hold Trump placed on Ukraine’s security assistance, as well as the president’s controversial communications with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. (Much of the Democrats’ stated basis for impeachment is the implication that the congressionally approved assistance was contingent on Zelenskiy digging up political dirt on Joe Biden).

Taylor and Kent seemed to quickly establish themselves as credible, highly competent individuals — men who’ve served their country honorably, and under multiple administrations. And early in their testimony, they even gave supporters of President Trump some nuggets to cheer for:

But as things continued, and the two described their concerns over the president’s irregular maneuvering (which included the firing of an ambassador, and Rudy Giuliani leading a politically-motivated “investigation” under the mantel of U.S. foreign policy), it became clear that their testimony was rather compelling…and potentially damaging to President Trump.

That didn’t stop some on the right from continuing to find bright spots:

Of course, pretending that this was an important exchange is rather silly. Ratcliffe’s question is a perfectly legitimate one when asked of the Democrats holding the impeachment hearings, but not of the witnesses. Taylor and Kent were subpoenaed fact-witnesses, called on to testify to what they know. They aren’t the ones pursuing impeachment, nor are they burdened with having to make that determination.

To Fleischer’s credit, he didn’t attack the credibility and character of the witnesses. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for some of his colleagues in the conservative media.

While the hearings were underway, Rush Limbaugh, on his radio show, tore into Taylor and Kent, calling them “deep state” operatives and “professional nerds who wear their bow ties, and they have their proper diplo-speak.”

“These guys are simply ticked off that they were not listened to,” Limbaugh added. “They are ticked off that they were not heard… There hasn’t been anything but a bunch of self-important, narcissistic, ‘we run the world’ kind of guys really ticked off that they were ignored, that they were not listened to.”

This went on for some time. Here’s a little more:

“They are from a different world, and it’s a world where they think they are in charge. It’s a world they think they run. They don’t get to determine foreign policy. But in their world, they do. In their world, they are in charge of foreign policy. They believe in their own superiority. They believe in their own competence and importance with a complete cluelessness.”

For a little perspective, one of those “clueless” “self-important nerds” (as Limbaugh referred to him), who had the gall to express his concerns over what he believed to be improper government conduct, is a former captain and company commander in the U.S. Army, who voluntarily served in Vietnam. I’m talking about Taylor, who also happened to earn a Bronze Star and an Air Medal for valor.

Regardless, Sean Hannity shared Limbaugh’s sentiment on his own radio program:

“What you’re really watching are these nerdy guys that don’t know President Trump, never met with President Trump, that speak to the European Union ambassador, make interpretations out of his conversations that actually contradict his testimony, and obviously they have a level of self-importance that is just nauseating to me.”

Aside from the obvious takeaway — that it’s pretty darned funny for Limbaugh and Hannity to be calling anyone “nerds” — it’s interesting that they appeared to be reading from the same script.

Hannity, carrying that script over to his Fox News show, later called the two witnesses “self-important” and “uncompelling.” He said they “seem to care more about Ukraine-first policies than America-first policies.”

Mark Levin, a guest on Hannity’s show agreed, describing Taylor and Kent as “two homeless guys.”

On Tucker Carlson’s show, guest Christian Whiton called the witnesses “deep state crybabies” and said they “looked like people who sat by themselves at recess.”

Carlson himself described them as “washed up bureaucrats.”

Fox News’s Chris Wallace had a very different take earlier in the day, saying that “William Taylor was a very impressive witness and was very damaging to the president.”

This royally upset frequent Trump defender, Sean Davis of The Federalist:

Yes, Davis, who prides himself as someone who exposes unfair media narratives, said that Chris Wallace, one of the most evenhanded national journalists we have, “is every bit as deranged with Trump hatred as the nuttiest guests on CNN or MSNBC.”

You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

There’s a perfectly reasonable (and probably effective) argument to be made that what Trump did doesn’t rise to the level impeachment, and that the Democrats are pursuing this initiative for purely political reasons.  But as is often the case with the conservative media these days, it’s not enough to simply make such an argument. Anyone of notoriety who puts forth potentially detrimental information (or even detrimental commentary for that matter) on this president must be both discredited and burned at the stake.

This serves as a regular reminder that Trump Derangement Syndrome goes both ways, chronically suffered not just by those who can’t find anything right with the president, but also by those who can’t find anything wrong.

Megyn Kelly, on John A. Daly’s new novel, Safeguard.




This Just In: Trump Declares War — on Canada … Fox Exclusive!

Editor’s Note: This is a non-member column (open to all). 

It’s 9 o’clock PM in the east and it’s time for Sean Hannity on Fox.

Hannity:  Tonight we open with big, explosive news … fair and balanced as always … on this show we hold everybody accountable … no one, no matter how powerful, is above our scrutiny.

OK, I’m kidding.

Earlier today the wussy prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, made hateful, vile comments about our president, the great Donald Trump.

Trudeau said, and I quote: “I think President Trump is a very smart man … a genius actually.  I think he’s a very honest man.  And I think he’s one of America’s great presidents, in the same class as Washington and Lincoln. My only complaint is that his ties are a tad too long.

I, Sean Hannity, am appalled.  Appalled that the leader of a hostile foreign country would say such vile things about our great president, the great Donald Trump.

Wait.  Hold on.  We’re just getting a tweet in from the president.  I’ll read it to you:

Because of the unprecedented harsh language uttered in Canada by Justin Sissy Boy Trudeau I am now issuing a minimal, reasonable, civil response to his detestable attack on me, your great president.  I am declaring war on Canada. And, oh yeah, I’m also sending a few cruise missiles into downtown Toronto.” #NeverInsultMeEver

Hannity:  Is he the greatest president ever – or what?

Let’s call in our newest Fox News contributor, Sarah Sanders, who joins the Fox family because she can be counted on to give you, my loyal audience, honest, unvarnished analysis with no holds barred and favoritism toward absolutely no one.

Sarah, what do you make of the great Donald Trump’s minimal, reasonable, civil response to Sissy Boy Trudeau?

Sanders:  I think it was a minimal, reasonable, civil response to the Sissy Boy’s detestable attack on our great president. I know this president.  I worked with this president.  I’ve told lies for this president.  And if he declares war on a hostile foreign place like Canada, I’m with him 10 million percent.

Hannity:  That’s why Donald Trump and I hired you here at Fox, Sarah.  For your honest, no holds barred, take no prisoners, Katie bar the door analysis.

I know what my loyal audience wants to hear.  And we make sure we give them what they want to hear.  Every freaking chance we get.

See you tomorrow night, Sarah, when you’ll be back to analyze Donald Trump’s latest tweet, sent out 3 seconds ago, saying that he’s issuing an executive order mandating that his image be carved in stone on Mt. Rushmore.

I’m sure you’ll have something interesting on that one, Sarah.

Sanders:  Long overdue, Sean.  Should have been up there 10 years ago.  At least.

Hannity:  We’ll be back after this commercial break.

-0-

Editor’s Note:  My next column will be up on this website next Monday morning … on how MSNBC has a fascination with Hitler … and Donald Trump




Hannity Should Apologize for the Seth Rich Debacle

By May of 2017, Seth Rich was a regular topic of discussion on right-wing websites, social media, conservative talk-radio, and even cable news. It had been almost a year since the 27-year-old DNC staffer had been murdered in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C., but his name was now more recognizable than ever.

Police believed (and still believe) that Rich’s death was the result of a botched robbery attempt, but his unsolved homicide lent voice to an alternative theory — a conspiratorial and disturbing scenario suggesting that he had in fact been killed by agents of presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.

The outlandish premise was that Rich, not the Russian government, was responsible for leaking the infamous “hacked” DNC emails (that became a big political story in the closing months of the 2016 election) to WikiLeaks (who later published them). And whether it was an act of retribution or an attempt to keep Rich from divulging additional information, Clinton operatives had him silenced.

Despite there being absolutely no evidence linking Rich to the emails, the thesis gained an enormous amount of traction, receiving its inarguably biggest boost from Fox News’s Sean Hannity, who made the “murder mystery” a nightly segment on his highly-rated show. Hannity obsessed over the Rich tale, promoting it to his audience with the help of shady guests and “sources,” despite protests from Rich’s grieving family who were pained by their loved one’s memory being dragged through political dirt.

One of Hannity’s go-to guys was WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, who, at the time, was hiding out in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid sexual assault charges by Swedish authorities. Assange had been cryptically suggesting in interviews that Rich was indeed the source of the emails.

This was not the first time (nor the last) that Hannity had granted legitimacy to Assange. The two had formed somewhat of a relationship during the 2016 election, as both were working to discredit Donald Trump’s general election opponent, Hillary Clinton. Hannity even had Assange on his program a couple of times, which was pretty odd considering that just a few years earlier, Hannity had called on President Obama to arrest Assange for publishing secret diplomatic cables that had put American lives at risk.

But politics makes strange bedfellows, and apparently all had been forgiven. Hannity’s fawning treatment of Assange helped transform the WikiLeaks founder into somewhat of a folk hero among President Trump’s base, many of whom suddenly viewed the man as an ally to America.

Earlier this year, however, Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in our 2016 election confirmed what most rationale political observers had already figured out: Assange had been secretly working with the Russian government, and was behind the fabricated link to Seth Rich — the purpose being to draw suspicion away from Russia’s role in helping Donald Trump’s candidacy.

Additional information came out just this week, with the release of an independent Yahoo News investigation into the origins of the Seth Rich hoax. The probe discovered that the story was first disseminated by none other than the Russian government’s foreign intelligence service, known as the SVR. And it happened just days after Rich’s death.

The investigation was extensive, and the report is certainly a compelling read. It details the false story’s spread from a prominent Russian propaganda website to fake social-media accounts (designed to look like they belonged to Americans) to Amercian conspiracy-theory websites (like Alex Jones’s Infowars). From there, it received the attention of Trump ally, Roger Stone. Stone advanced the story though social-media outlets, and months later, it was even being tossed around inside the White House, where then-chief strategist Steve Bannon promoted it to a 60 Minutes producer.

A few weeks later, as the Yahoo News article describes, the story found its biggest audience yet:

“The conspiracy claims reached their zenith in May 2017 — the same week as Mueller’s appointment as special counsel in the Russia probe — when Fox News’ website posted a sensational story claiming that an FBI forensic report had discovered evidence on Rich’s laptop that he had been in communication with WikiLeaks prior to his death. Sean Hannity, the network’s primetime star, treated the account as major news on his nightly broadcast, calling it ‘explosive’ and proclaiming it ‘might expose the single biggest fraud, lies, perpetrated on the American people by the media and the Democrats in our history,’”

The Fox News report quickly came under heavy scrutiny and was soon discredited (eventually being retracted by the network), but Hannity stuck with it for days… not relenting until Seth Rich’s family spoke to him directly and finally convinced him to stop.

Fox announced an internal probe into how the fabricated story had made it all the way to their website and even their on-air reporting. The network also reportedly looked into Hannity’s conduct throughout the Seth Rich debacle. The findings of that investigation have never been publicly released.

It’s hard to miss the irony of Hannity, who has spent the last couple of years accusing the rest of the media of pushing a Russian-related conspiracy theory, turning out to be a Russian asset himself, having unwittingly mainstreamed and magnified Russian propaganda to a level rarely seen in this country.

While people in the media do make honest mistakes, it’s difficult to categorize what Hannity did as a good-faith misstep. It’s one thing for a partisan working for a news organization to sell his audience on a slanted view he may honestly subscribe to. It’s another to eagerly promote unsubstantiated Internet hearsay, and the word of people as despicable and compromised as Julian Assange, just because it’s politically helpful to do so.

Hannity has long been a reckless media figure, but with the Seth Rich fiasco, he reached a new low. He should be ashamed of the tremendous disservice he did to Fox News viewers, Fox News colleagues, and the Rich family. He pumped adrenaline into a dark and painful fairy tale that should have never been given a platform on a legitimate news network. But because it was, a lot of righties bought into it (perhaps millions more than would have otherwise even heard of it), and still believe it’s real.

To this day, Hannity has yet to apologize or even acknowledge his role in Russia’s misinformation campaign. Now that the SVR has been identified as the source of the story he aggressively lent credence to, it’s time for Hannity to finally own up to his mistake… publicly.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for him to do it.





Bernie’s Q&A: Sean Hannity & Seth Rich, Biden’s appearance, Manchin, Sowell, and more! (5/17) — Premium Interactive ($4 members)

Welcome to this week’s Premium Q&A session for Premium Interactive members. I appreciate you all signing up and joining me. Thank you.

Let’s get to your questions (and my answers):


Bernie, I am curious if you have met or appeared with either Thomas Sowell or Walter Williams. I have read many of their books and articles over the years and learned much from them. Much of my thinking was transformed and crystallized by Professor Sowell’s book, “The Vison of the Anointed.” Earlier today, in a comment to an article by Professor Williams, it was suggested that the President award both of these scholars A Presidential Medal of Freedom. Are you able to weigh in on that and are you in a position to help us all out here lend our voices and support? — Michael F.

I was on the radio with Walter Williams a while back, when he was sitting in for Rush Limbaugh.  I like him.  And I’m a very big fan of Thomas Sowell.  I’d be in favor of either or both of these men getting the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Hi Bernie, after you wrote Bias did you expect a sort of sea change in how the media reported news or was your goal more to an expose the left wing media for who they actually are. Bias was a great book, thanks. — Mike G.

Thanks Mike.  Bias — as an idea for a book — had been percolating in my head for quite a while.  When I left CBS News I decided to try to actually write it.  My goal was simply to say, This is how it is; this is how they operate. I wanted to take the reader behind the curtain.  I expected nothing.  Certainly not how popular the book became.  Since Bias came out in 2001, things have gotten worse.  Cable is one reason.  But the most prestigious papers in America have also gotten worse.  Nothing will change until they lose customers because of their bias.  Here’s the really bad news:  The customer wants bias — as long as the bias validates his own bias.

Sir Bernard–Great minds think alike….as I often agree with your LOGICAL responses. My sense is you value your privacy, which I respect….but I would ask that you consider an opportunity where your most loyal fans (myself included) can meet you in the flesh, so to speak. Hopefully, from my brief profile, I come across as a reasonably sane and balanced human being. And THANK YOU for indulging me with my multi-question submissions. Be well, do good work, and keep in touch. BTW, are you or have you been a fan of Garrison Keillor’s work? — Matthew Q.

I used to speak to audiences about my books — and in the process met all sorts of people … not all fans, by the way.  Not sure how we would accomplish a get together … I see practical logistical “issues.”  But who knows, I may be somewhere and can let you all know and maybe some gathering could come of it.  As for Garrison Keillor:  There was something about the tone of his voice, the cadence of his speech, that didn’t connect with me.  He sounded like a funeral director.  Too calm for my taste.  But hey, that’s on me, right?

Bernie, I’m a right wing guy, I make no bones about it. You often mention that bias is bias, and you are correct, guys like Hannity often states he’s not a journalist but a opinion guy, Fox News is touted as a right wing propaganda network. I disagree Hannity is up front about who he is, and in my opinion, does more investigative journalism than actual journalists! Over the past 2 years it seems like Fox has gotten stories right and everyone else got it wrong, also doesn’t the fact that they get more viewers than all cable news combined point to credibility? That’s why I believe Trump is correct labeling CNN fake news! Covington High School and Jesse Smollet just 2 examples! Your thoughts. — Ralph P.

Hey Ralph.  I understand what you’re saying, but let me try to add a few thoughts for you to consider.  My problem with opinion people on Fox and CNN and MSNBC isn’t that they give opinions instead of straight news facts.  My problem is that they’re ideologues.  Hannity and the others will praise Donald Trump for doing something that they’d condemn if Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton did the same thing. They’re not honest analysts.  They’re sycophants who cover for Mr. Trump or Mr. Obama … for liberals if they’re liberal hosts and for conservatives if they’re on Fox.  They’ll tell you what you want to hear but they won’t act on principles.  The real problem, for me anyway,  is that it’s ok with a lot of the audience, an audience that wants their own views validated.

As for fake news:  Donald Trump says journalists at times flat out make up sources, that they don’t really exist.  He’s wrong 99.9 percent of the time. The president is playing you, Ralph.  He’s putting the idea of fake news in your head — and the heads of all his most passionate supporters — so that you won’t believe negative news about him when it’s true.  All I ask is that you consider what I just wrote.  Thanks.

Bernard. My question is long so I’ll begin by apologizing for that.

Sean Hannity has shown that he’ll say pretty much anything to defend his friend, President Trump, but I think his spreading of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory was probably the most disturbing example.

Hannity tormented the Rich family for weeks by using their murdered family member as a political pawn to provide an alternate/phony explanation for Russia’s hacking of DNC e-mails. Hannity even embraced Julian Assange, who he once said (when Obama was president) should be arrested for declaring war on the U.S.

Mueller determined that Assange (arrested last month), did indeed fabricate the Rich story to draw suspicion away from Russia, who he was secretly working with. Being that Hannity lent Assange a huge television platform from which to spread that lie (which turned Assange into a hero of the MAGA people), one would think that Hannity would have suffered some professional consequences for the stunt.

That hasn’t happened. Instead (as far as I can find) Hannity hasn’t apologized or acknowledged responsibility for his role as an unwitting Russian asset who fed his audience weeks of Wikileaks/Russian propaganda. I doubt he even lost a single viewer over the fiasco. Its like it never even happened.

Who’s to blame for this lack of accountability? Is it 100% his viewers (who couldn’t care less)? Should Fox have penalized him at some point, in some way? Thank you — James

Who’s to blame?  Let’s start with Hannity, who as you correctly point out, will say pretty much anything to defend the president.  Then let’s go to Hannity’s bosses, people who put the bottom line on the top of their list of concerns (though, as I recall, management did tell him to knock off the Seth Rich misinformation).  Then there’s the audience, that loves Trump and hates just about anyone who doesn’t love Trump.  It’s a corrupt operation, James — and I’m not simply talking about opinion shows on Fox.  The other outlets follow the same business model: Tell the audience what it wants to hear … validate their biases … give them red meat so that they’ll come back for more.

Bernie: I have a theory of the American economy and economic/political perceptions I wanted to run by you. I have long struggled with the (mis)perception that the President is in charge of the U.S. economy, currently at $20 Trillion. In my opinion, no one person, committee, The Fed, etc. is “in charge” of such a large, diverse and robust force. But Presidents clearly have influence over economic activity. So what’s the explanation? My metaphor is that the economy is like a large river like the Mississippi. The President doesn’t make it flow; that’s ridiculous. The Mississippi is a huge and massive force that hurdles downriver on its own. However a President can keep it flowing unimpeded, keep it clean and unpolluted, make sure those using it do so responsibly and in coordination with each other. He/She can make sure the economic river doesn’t flow out of its banks and ruin other objects in its path (externalities). So getting outside of my metaphor, when Obama weighed down the economy with regulations and restrictions, he caused a pitiful recovery after one of the worst recessions of the past 50 years. While Trump gets credit for deregulation and tax cuts, he gets demerits for these Chinese tariffs. Let’s put to bed this notion that the President is in charge of the economy. The people in charge are those huge, thick and willing participants in the daily exchange of goods and services (otherwise known as capitalism). You like my river analogy, or no? — Steve R.

Me Likey! I totally agree with you, Steve.  I just told my barber a few days ago that no president is “in charge” of the economy.  The real people who run the economy are businesspeople, big and small, and their customers.  People like my barber. But, as you say, presidential policies can do things to keep the river running smoothly — or they can do things to muck it up.  You nailed it, Steve.

What is your opinion of drivers who advertise the COEXIST bumper stickers? My personal opinion is that they are naive at best, and arrogant at worst for this reason: I may be wrong, but it always appeared to me that the bumper stickers are NOT aimed at addressing the ones who actually SHOULD take the attitude that we need to COEXIST with one another. As another bumper sticker reads: “I can’t coexist with people who want to KILL ME!” Your thoughts are appreciated. Best Regards—The Emperor

Look at it this way, Emperor:  The original COEXIST number stickers represent 3 major religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.  The greater of the bumper sticker was simply sending out a hopeful message that we should all live side by side peacefully.  You can’t possibly be against that, right? The message is aimed at everybody.  Is it a tad idealistic.  Sure. So? You think the message is aimed at you — and you don’t need the pep talk, the other guy does.  Emperor, we’re polarized enough already.  Let it be.

Last Sunday I heard Mark Levin’s program at 10 on Fox. He had a guest who was a constitutional prosecutor who outlined unequivocally why Trump did not commit obstruction. Did you hear his program and what do you think?? I don’t feel he obstructed the investigation because he asked McGann to talk with Rosenstein about firing Mueller because he had a conflict of interest. — Jeffrey W.

I did not see the program, Jeffrey, but I have some thoughts on your question.  Mark Levin is a smart man but every week he has people on who agree with him; people who say the kind of things Fox viewers want to hear.  You tell me:  Has he ever had anyone on who had a view contrary to his?  Has he ever had a liberal on who told him something he hadn’t considered?  Do you think he wants to have an interesting conversation or just feed the viewer what the viewer wants to consume? CNN and MSNBC are just as bad.  I’m worn out by all of them, though, in fairness, Levin does have interesting people on his show.

Is it my imagination (I doubt it) or has Joe Biden had plastic surgery recently? He looks stretched out and gaunt and older. I just saw some older pictures of him with President Obama and the smile lines, wrinkles and fullness are more appealing. Or is this something you’re not supposed to notice or talk about? He was open about his hair plugs, wasn’t he? — John F.

According to an April 28th story in the Daily Mail: “Former Vice President Joe Biden has undergone numerous cosmetic procedures to alter his appearance, including Botox, hair transplants, and dental work, plastic surgeons say.

“Surgeons say that Biden, 76, who polls show is the front runner in the race for the Democratic nomination for president, began to look noticeably different during the 2008 campaign.”

So you’re onto something John.  The article concludes with this:  “Biden has never confirmed undergoing any of the procedures, nor has he spoken about his appearance publicly.”

Hi Bernie, I dislike when people complain about things without offering solutions, so never do so myself. A few years ago I came up with some solutions to what I consider to be the nation’s biggest problems. For example I determined, following a root cause analysis, that the biggest problem we have is how few people understand our own economic system. Aware that there are hundreds of museums in DC dedicated to everything from art, to spying to space, and even to news, but none to our system of economics, I outlined a plan for a Museum of Capitalism where parents could take their kids and learn about the prosperity and innovation that free markets bring. (and maybe some politicians, commentators, and journalists too) Recently, I have added to the ‘problem list’ the attacks on due process and free speech — not by government — but by campus mobs, censorship by tech companies, and social media police. But I wanted to ask your opinion about the other ‘new problem’: incompetence in journalism. I was in the automotive business and obviously familiar with the ISO-9000 standards to assure quality and wondered if there were journalism standards developed by an independent non-governmental body like ISO and a monitoring system. It sure seems that the business of journalism is lacking in standards and accountability. — Michael E.

Here’s a link to the standards put out by the Society of Professional Journalists.

But, and forgive me for stating the obvious … No one goes to journalism jail if they don’t follow the rules, which aren’t really rules, but guidelines.

Hello again, Mr. Goldberg! Last time I asked you a question regarding citizen journalists and cited a pair of examples, though I am more interested in the concept of them than the examples themselves. This week I would like to ask you about taxpayer funded media (ex. BBC in UK, and SVT on TV and SR on the radio in my country of origin, Sweden). Is this concept good or bad? Why/why not? — Carl-Simon Pihl

I’m not a fan of tax funded media, Carl-Simon.  I understand that in theory the journalists are not beholden to their benefactor — the federal government.  But what if the news organization displays biases against either Democrats or Republicans.  Will there be retaliation by the offended party?  Maybe.  Even if there isn’t, journalists should be free to cover government without wondering if the government they’re covering will cut off their funds.  I know it works in other countries.  And I realize that the U.S. government funds, to some extent, NPR and PBS.  I just don’t like it.

What is your opinion of the Better Angels Nonprofit Organization that is attempting to help unify (or depolarize) the country? — Ival S.

Their heart is in the right place.  Anything that might unify or depolarize the country is worth a try.  But I’m not Pollyanna.  It may be asking too much for the organization to have much influence on our deeply divided country.  But like chicken soup, it couldn’t hurt.

Bernie: What is your perspective on the issue of guns, the second amendment and related issues. Does the right to bear arms really protect us in this modern age? — William W.

The Supreme Court has decided that Americans have the right to have guns.  I have no problem with that.  In fact, I believe the bumper sticker notion that if the government outlawed guns only outlaws would have guns.  But in the past when I’ve written that all rights come with limitations — including the First Amendment — so you have no right to have a surface-to-air missile in your backyard, I’ve heard from gun people who were not happy with me; they believe that limitations are nothing more than a slippery slope. People have a right to protect themselves, they have a right to have guns, but there are limits, as I say — and if they’re reasonable, I have no problem with them.  Of course, what I think is reasonable may not be what the other guy thinks is reasonable.

Mr. Goldberg, Like you, I believe that the news media should provide us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Which is why I am so appalled – and presume you are, too – by how the biased media have for so long gotten away with hiding from the American people the real story about all these “no fly zones” our government has been creating in foreign lands. Every one of them is in a country whose leaders hate America – yet we do for them something truly wonderful that we don’t do for our own country. You and I and our fellow Americans have to swat flies – yet our tax dollars are enabling people living under the rule of some of our worst sworn enemies not to have to. There’s no area in America that is off limit to flies, right? But at our cost foreign adversaries enjoy huge spaces where their people are guaranteed never to be bothered by flies. You can be sure these despots are taking the credit for eliminating the menace of flies; they sure aren’t telling their people to be grateful to America.

Two questions:

  1. Why do you think the media never ask presidential or congressional candidates to state a position on this important issue?
  2. As someone with such an abundance of awards for insightful reporting and such a well deserved reputation for sound thinking and great analysis, do you have any suggestions for how we the people might be able to arouse public opinion enough to put an end to this disgraceful practice?

You’re funny.  Ever think of going pro?

To follow up on your response regarding the positive qualities of Joe Manchin in the “truth to power” question posed last week, I’ve often thought that he leans Republican regarding his support of the Kavanaugh confirmation and his support of fossil fuels in his coal rich state. Have you heard any conjecture regarding the possibility of him switching parties? What is your opinion on this topic? He clearly does not fit the vision of the ultra liberals who now run the Democratic Party. — Ken M.

He should switch parties and I keep hoping he will.  But I don’t think it’ll happen.  He’s a lifelong Democrat and a switch to the other side wouldn’t be easy for him.  But you’re right, Ken, he clearly does not fit the vision of the lefties who run the Democratic Party.Maybe someday he’ll get fed up with their left-wing nonsense.  One can hope, right?

Bernie, I think that “Unreported News” (for lack of a better term) has long been more of a problem with news reporting than “Fake News”. For example stories like Fast & Furious, Benghazi, or the IRS and VA scandals during the Obama administration as well as the classified email abuse, etc… during Hillary’s campaign I’d often see first on Fox News or on conservative websites, and then updated regularly. At the same time CNN, MSNBC, the Big 3 nightly news broadcasts along with the major newspapers would seem to only grudgingly and briefly report on, or in some cases outright ignore, such a subject until it came to a point they no longer could and had to give it the coverage it deserved. I realize that it goes both ways; that Fox News et al. tend not to harp on Republican or Trump’s controversies, missteps and failures. Do you have any thoughts on news organizations ignoring or undereporting news they think could hurt “their side” of the political spectrum? — Barry R.

I’m glad you added that last thought, Barry … about how it goes both ways.  Because it does.  You’re absolutely right that unreported news is a bigger problem than so-called fake news.  It’s not only a form of bias, it’s journalistic corruption.  It’s most obvious in the cable news business — the key word being “business.”  Because that’s why it happens: Money.  As I’ve said many times before, it’s about giving the audience what it wants to hear.  And, to your question, NOT giving the audience what it doesn’t want to hear.

Facebook continues to silence/ban conservative thought under the “they’re breaking our rules of conduct” excuse which apparently consists of posting non liberal viewpoints. All the while vile liberal posts continue with impunity. My question, when do you think the FCC will step in and treat it like any other public communication forum? Hold it’s feet to the fire. If ever……. — John M.

As much as I’m against silencing voices social media sites don’t like, I’m against the federal government stepping in.  I’m probably in the minority on this, but I see these companies as purveyors of information not unlike old school newspapers.  The NY Times, for example, can ban any voices it chooses to.  It can publish letters to the editor only from liberals.  They can ban conservative voices on the editorial page.  It’s not good, but the government has no right to “fix” the problem.  But, as always, I can be wrong — especially about this because I’m not a social media guy.

Mr. G, In view of the biases and misleading reporting by pretty much every medium, except a select few, where is one to go for simply honest and objective news? I read the WSJ and enjoy most of their paper, but it is limited news for the most part. So, any recommendations? — Terry J.

It’s a good question, Terry, and the best I can offer is to go to more than one place for news.  If you like the WSJ then check out the NYT also. The problem, of course, is that too often bias creeps into hard news reporting.  Sometimes it shows up by what the paper doesn’t cover. (See an exchange between Barry and me above.)  I’ve said before that on TV, I like Special Report on Fox.  I think they’re straight shooters.

Is William Barr the only adult in the room? — William W.

It sure looks that way, William.

 


Thanks, everyone! You can send me questions for next week using the form below! You can also read previous Q&A sessions by clicking here.




Why I’m No Longer on the Fox News Channel

On March 7, 2012, while I was a paid contributor at Fox News, I wrote a confidential email to Roger Ailes, who at the time ran the operation.  In it, I told Roger of my concern that while Fox News was more than willing to allow me to challenge liberal bias in the news, at least one person close to him, in a high place at Fox, wasn’t so happy to hear my analysis about conservative bias.

I wrote that “On a few occasions over the years I’ve been asked to comment on some double standard in the media.  Once, the question was about how the media were treating Sarah Palin.  After I went through the obvious – that they were treating her like crap – I made another point:  that there are some in the conservative media whose interviews with her are valentines masquerading as interviews.  That’s when the phone rings and a Fox executive wants to know if I was talking about anyone at Fox.”

The person who called (my agent) was Bill Shine, then a vice president at Fox and now the deputy chief of staff for communications in the Trump White House.  (I tried to talk to him directly but he wouldn’t take my calls or respond to my email. So I went over his head to Ailes.)

Shine asked my agent if I was talking about Sean Hannity, who was a close friend of his.  My agent said I was making a “general statement” about conservative media.  Let me state now that I was indeed talking about Hannity, whose interviews with Sarah Palin – and later Donald Trump – resemble wet kisses a lot more than journalism.

I then wrote about another double standard at Fox.  It was “about how some conservatives in the media went ballistic when [MSNBC commentator] Ed Schultz called Laura Ingraham a slut, then went AWOL when Rush [Limbaugh] threw the same word at another woman.

“Can’t do it, I was told.  Why not, I asked.  Roger will think you’re being disloyal to Fox News.  Really? I see the birth of Fox News as the most important media event in the past 15 years or so.  Fox allows voices to be heard that ABC, NBC and CBS News barely know exist.   When I talk to groups I always say good things about Fox. So how does this ‘disloyalty’ thing work?”

I also told Roger that, “My value to Fox News is based on my being an honest analyst, one without a predictable, pre-determined agenda. Am I conservative? Yes.  But I’m not an ideologue and I think even commentators have to be fair.  I see no reason to mention any Fox person by name – I never have — but answering an anchor’s question honestly – even if my comments point out something the Fox PR department might not approve of — is, in my view, a plus for FNC, not a minus.  It lends credibility to FNC:  Here’s a network – unlike a lot of others – that isn’t afraid to have one of its own contributors give his honest opinion, even if it’s a critical one, about the very network putting him on television.  That, to me anyway, shouts strength, not weakness.”

One day later, Roger Ailes got back to me.  Here is his entire response:

Bernie,

Thanks for your note. Say whatever you want—I think liberals are the biggest offenders but conservatives need to be held accountable when they’re not doing the right thing. Don’t worry about me, I’m actually in favor of free speech.

Warm regards,

Roger

I never revealed the contents of my email to Roger Ailes or his response to me.  I never talked publicly about it.  It was, as I say, a confidential conversation between an employee and his boss.  But Roger is no longer with us – and I, after 10 years as a paid analyst, am no longer with Fox.  It’s time, I believe, to publicly share my views on what’s happened to Fox News since Roger sent me that response.

As many of you know, I used to be a regular on the Fox News Channel, mainly on the O’Reilly Factor, where I was told my appearances were among the show’s highest rated segments.  When Bill got fired, most of the people who were on his show became persona non grata at Fox. For whatever reason, producers, and I assume management, didn’t want to have anything to do with anyone who was associated with O’Reilly.

Despite that, I became a regular on a morning show, anchored by Bill Hemmer – until, without ever telling me why – his staff stopped asking me to offer my opinions and analysis on his show.

As I told a Fox News vice president, “I don’t need Fox’s money or Fox’s air time.”  But I was curious about what happened, about why I was dropped without so much as a word of explanation.

The Fox VP told me that Hemmer’s show had absolutely no problem with me – none. But obviously that was not true.  There was a problem.  And so, I shared with her my theory:

Fox will tolerate a liberal criticizing President Trump, I said, but the network didn’t want conservatives taking shots at him.  Sometimes I defended the president against what I thought was unfair criticism.  But I was also critical of Mr. Trump, of his vindictiveness and his dishonesty.

The Fox vice president pleaded ignorance.  She told me she knew nothing about that.

But here’s what we do know:  Social media would light up within seconds of my saying something negative about the president – light up in a negative way.  Supporters of the president are, if nothing else, loyal to him.  They didn’t want to hear negative comments about a man they supported, no matter how true they were.  Once they wanted to hear what I said about liberal bias in the news.  After all, I literally wrote a book on the subject — a book called Bias. But now, they didn’t even want to hear about that from me, not if there was a chance I was going to also criticize the president.

Producers and anchors don’t need angry viewers.  In cable TV news – at Fox, at CNN and at MSNBC – the business model is easy to understand:  Give the audience what it wants to hear.  Validate the biases of the viewers.  Keep them coming back for more. In that world, I was a problem.

For the record, no one at Fox ever tried to put words in my mouth.  But they didn’t have to. Instead they simply kept me off the air for almost all of 2018 before my contract eventually ran out at the end of the year.  Let’s just say I didn’t lose any sleep over the snub.

What happened to me had happened to other contributors before me. Col. Ralph Peters was a regular on Fox – until he had had enough.  When he left the channel, he went public about his experience:

“As I wrote in an internal Fox memo, leaked and widely disseminated, I declined to renew my contract as Fox News’s strategic analyst because of the network’s propagandizing for the Trump administration. Today’s Fox prime-time lineup preaches paranoia, attacking processes and institutions vital to our republic and challenging the rule of law.”

And there was Erick Erickson, a well-respected conservative whose contract wasn’t renewed.  He too wasn’t pro Trump enough:

“I am neither anti-Trump nor pro-Trump, but a conservative who does not think he is, but thinks he is advancing some things commendably. All news shows on all networks tend to favor a straight R v. D panel and I’m not in those boxes anymore.”

George Will isn’t at Fox anymore either, another conservative who’s not a fan of President Trump.

The important lesson here is not about George Will or Ralph Peters or Erick Erickson or me. What’s important is that cable TV news is not a journalism model.  It’s a business model. Some people are willing to play the game for a paycheck.

I’m not one of them.