Fox News Lawyers Tell Court: Our Audience Doesn’t Assume We Tell the Truth

Any fair-minded person who has watched Fox News for more than fifteen minutes knows that the network will twist, distort, mangle, and deliberately lie in the pursuit of their mission to disseminate right-wing propaganda. It is why they were created by conservative media baron Rupert Murdoch and Republican campaign hack Roger Ailes.

Fox News, Tucker Carlson, Donald Trump

The evidence of Fox’s purposefully dishonest “reporting” has been documented for years by a multitude of journalists and fact-checkers. But for the purpose of this article it isn’t necessary to provide any links to that documentation. That’s because Fox news has admitted it themselves. And this time it isn’t some Fox idiot making an inadvertently true gaffe. This time it was in a court of law.

Tucker Carlson, one of Fox’s most prolific liars, is being sued for defamation. Karen McDougal is a former Playboy model who was paid $150,000 by the National Enquirer on behalf of Donald Trump in order to buy her silence about their sexual affair. Subsequently, Carlson did frequent stories aiming to discredit McDougal and defend Trump. In the course of those stories Carlson accused McDougal of extorting Trump and made representations that he asserted were “undisputed facts.” The only problem is that they were easily disputed and not remotely factual.

So McDougal filed suit against Carlson and Fox News. And their in defense, Fox’s lawyers have taken a unique position. They are literally arguing that Carlson’s audience doesn’t expect him to tell the truth. According to The Hollywood Reporter

“Fox News’ attorney Erin Murphy argued that Carlson repeatedly couched his statements as hypotheticals to promote conversation and that a reasonable viewer would know his show offers ‘provocative things that will help me think harder’ not straight news.

“‘What we’re talking about here, it’s not the front page of the New York Times,’ said Murphy. ‘It’s Tucker Carlson Tonight, which is a commentary show.'”

Let’s set aside the ludicrous contention that Carlson has any reasonable viewers. Likewise the suggestion that any Fox News viewer has the capacity to think hard. What we are talking about are devotees of a media cult who blindly believe whatever they are told by Fox News and their current cult master, Donald Trump. They not only assume that what Fox says is true, they regard it as the gospel from a divine source.

In reality, Carlson did not couch his statements as hypotheticals. He explicitly described them as facts. What’s more, Fox News also floats a defense that asserts Carlson’s remarks were not made in malice, a standard that may be relevant in a defamation case. But how can an accusation of having committed a criminal act (extortion) against someone who Carlson is personally associated with (Trump) not be perceived as malicious?

It’s also interesting that Fox News is introducing the New York Times as a standard for truth telling. By making a distinction between Carlson’s fictionalizations and what should be considered honest journalism, Fox’s lawyers chose the New York Times as the model of a professional media enterprise. What will Trump have to tweet about that?

The bottom line is that now any time Tucker Carlson, or Sean Hannity, or Laura Ingraham or the “Curvy Couch” potatoes of Fox and Friends, attempt to pass off their lies and insults as “news,” it will be much easier to refute them with these admissions made by Fox’s legal team in a court of law. And the cherry on top of this sundae is that they will probably lose the defamation suit as well.

ADDENDUM: There has been some comparison of this defense to one used by MSNBC in defense of a defamation suit filed against Rachel Maddow by the Trump-fluffing conspiracy crackpots at OANN. However the only similarity is that both argued that their defendant offered opinions. The difference is that Fox’s lawyers argued that Carlson’s audience didn’t expect his opinions to be factually based. But MSNBC’s lawyers argued that Maddow’s opinions were “precise factual recitations that indisputably and accurately state the facts” and that her commentary was “fully protected opinion because (a) it was based on disclosed facts.” Big difference.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Study Shows Higher Rates of Coronavirus Deaths Linked to Watching Sean Hannity

Anyone who has observed how Donald Trump and Fox News have portrayed the emergence and spread of the coronavirus for the past few months cannot help but notice their trivialization of the pandemic threat. They have contradicted the health experts who have been issuing dire warnings all along. They have insisted, falsely, that it is less deadly than the common flu. They have accused Democrats of creating it as a hoax to bring down the President.

Fox News, Sean Hannity

More recently, the Fox/Trump cartel has been peddling the asinine exploits of astroturf protesters who seek to prematurely end the “stay-at-home” policies imposed by most state governors. These are measures that have been responsible for helping to mitigate the most tragic consequences of the pandemic. They seem to be operating a doomsday cult with a death wish for the nation in order to allow wealthy corporations to return to padding their bank accounts. And they’re too stupid to realize that the only way back to economic prosperity is to protect the health of all Americans by defeating the virus.

Not surprisingly, the field marshal for the COVID-19 militia is Sean Hannity of Fox News. And now his contributions to the success of the contagion have been affirmed by a study conducted by a trio of economists with the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics at the University of Chicago. The study compiled data related to the virus and matched it to television ratings for both Hannity, who routinely downplayed the virus, and Tucker Carlson, who, at least initially, reported on its potential for great harm. The key conclusions from their research reveal a distinct relationship between higher infection and death rates from the coronavirus and viewing of Hannity’s program:

“Using both a poll of Fox News viewers over age 55 and publicly available data on television-watching patterns, they calculate that Fox viewers who watched Hannity rather than Carlson were less likely to adhere to social distancing rules, and that areas where more people watched Hannity relative to Carlson had higher local rates of infection and death.”

While there are caveats to accepting these conclusions without some healthy skepticism (it is just one study and not yet peer reviewed), it satisfies a certain level of common sense. After all, any “trusted” source of information (as Fox News viewers consider Hannity) is likely to exert influence on the consumer of that information. So if Hannity tells his audience that there is nothing to worry about, they will behave in a dangerously cavalier manner that makes them more susceptible to virus transmission and acquisition. And that’s precisely the behavior that would produce the results seen in this study.

The study did not explore more broad associations involving Fox News as compared to other news networks. But it isn’t hard to imagine that the same factors would play out with similar results. In other words, if Fox News tells you it’s okay to go to work and ignore social distancing recommendations, you are probably going to be more at risk than viewers of CNN or MSNBC who are taking prudent precautions.

These conclusions are also aligned with rational logic. News Corpse speculated two months ago that Trump’s cult rallies were potential breeding grounds for the coronavirus due to their willingness to ignore the warnings. What’s more, a recent Gallup survey found that Fox News viewers and Republicans are more likely to buy Trump’s COVID-19 lies. Consequently, they too would have increased vulnerability. Which makes it impossible not to presume that it is far more dangerous to be in the company of reckless Republicans, Hannity viewers, and Trump supporters, than cautious Democrats. Proceed at your own risk.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Fox News Senior Legal Analyst on Trump: ‘The Remedy of Impeachment is Acutely Needed’

The impeachment of Donald Trump is finally being debated in the House of Representatives. The outcome is not expected to surprise anyone. Trump will be be impeached and will wear that mantle of disgrace for the rest of his life. Even if the Senate fails to remove him from office, the stain of impeachment is an indelible affirmation that Trump breached his constitutional duties and betrayed his country.

Donald Trump Walking the Plank

The partisan players in this battle are easily recognizable in most instances. Republicans and Fox News pundits are staunchly devoted to Trump regardless of what laws he has been shown to have broken. But every now and then someone steps out from behind the curtain of political prejudice to act as an advocate of truth and justice.

Now, as Trump’s impeachment looms, a lone voice from Fox News is standing up to the right-wing group-think that the network so rigidly enforces. Andrew Napolitano is Fox’s Senior Legal Adviser. And on Wednesday morning, as Congress was weighing Trump’s fate, Napolitano penned an op-ed with the headline: “Trump impeachment: Undisputed evidence that he abused his power.”

The article was published in the arch-conservative Washington times. For some reason, Fox News has been spiking Napolitano’s commentaries that support Trump’s impeachment. And this article had some blunt opinions on the matter. For instance…

“In Mr. Trump’s case, we have undisputed evidence that he abused his power by inviting a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 presidential election and then compounded this by directing subordinates to refrain from giving congressionally commanded evidence of his behavior.”

“It is undisputed that Mr. Trump withheld the delivery of the $391 million in military aid to Ukraine that Congress authorized and ordered and that Mr. Trump himself signed into law. He said he withheld that aid because he first wanted “a favor” from the president of Ukraine. The favor, requested by others on Mr. Trump’s behalf, was the announcement of a Ukrainian government criminal investigation of Mr. Trump’s potential political adversary, former Vice President Joe Biden.

“In the language of the streets, this is a shakedown; it sought to enhance Mr. Trump’s personal political needs and bears no relationship to American foreign policy.

Napolitano went on to describe the criminal violations Trump committed. They included the federal prohibition on soliciting campaign aid from a foreign government, and bribery. He also explained that these acts are crimes whether or not they are consummated by the exchange of money or services. It is the solicitation that triggers the offense.

And that’s not all. Napolitano also noted the criminal obstruction of justice by Trump for having “directed his subordinates to disregard congressional subpoenas, lawfully issued and validly served.” And he was troubled by Trump’s apparent belief that he is above the law. Napolitano made clear that this was dangerous, and that there is something that the Founders had in mind for just such a problem:

“Everyone who believes in the rule of law should be terrified of a president who thinks and behaves as if it does not apply to him. As the DOJ has stated repeatedly, impeachment is the proper constitutional remedy for that.”

Trump has been frantically trying to dodge accountability for his clearly impeachable activities. But his legal basis is virtually nonexistent, and he has refused to even defend himself before the committees of jurisdiction in Congress. Instead, he relies on bootlicking Fox News hacks like Gregg Jarrett and Alan Dershowitz (each of which he retweeted six times on Wednesday) for legal advice. Even worse, his idea of “legal scholars.” is Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson.

Former federal judge Napolitano, on the other hand, says that “the remedy of impeachment is acutely needed.” But you can rest assured that Trump will dismiss that as fake news and malign Napolitano (who was a close friend of Trump’s for decades) as a Never-Trumper. That’s just how the mind of a paranoid narcissist works.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

SRSLY? Trump Cites Fox News Shills as ‘Legal Scholars’ to Dismiss Impeachment Report

The impeachment of Donald Trump has now moved from the House Intelligence Committee to the House Judiciary Committee. And with that the legal arguments for the constitutional grounds for impeachment are coming to the forefront of the public discourse. A panel of law professors are the first witnesses to appear before this committee. But Trump has his own laughably obtuse ideas on the matter.

Donald Trump, Constitution

Trump held several press avails with foreign leaders during his trip to London for the NATO summit. In each of them he managed to deliver blatantly political screeds that exalted himself and maligned his critics. But on one occasion he offered his opinion of the report written at the conclusion of the House impeachment hearings. Not surprising, he was less than impressed. He had the following exchange with a reporter (video below):

REPORTER: Do you want to comment on the House Democrats impeachment report that came out last night and the hearing today?

TRUMP: Well, I saw it and it’s a joke. Everybody is saying it. I watched reviews. I watched Sean Hannity. I watched Laura Ingraham. I watched Tucker Carlson. I watched a lot of other legal scholars.

REALLY? So now Trump is passing off right-wing hacks on Fox News as the “legal scholars” he relies on to shape his views of impeachment. That’s even worse than his actual lawyers (i.e. Rudy Giuliani) and the other TV attorneys that he depends on for advice. And he’s admitting to watching an awful lot of TV while he’s at this international summit. He went on to site his longtime friend Alan Dershowitz and the Bill Clinton special prosecutor, Ken Starr, as additional sources of his legal opinions.

For some reason Trump failed to note that Fox News’ Senior Legal Analyst, Andrew Napolitano, concluded that the evidence of Trump’s impeachable behavior is overwhelming. He also left out the commentaries by Napolitano and staunch pro-Trump sycophant Andrew McCarthy, who both disputed the anti-impeachment arguments of committee witness Jonathan Turley. However, Trump did go on to repeat some of his recent lies relating to his popularity:

“I will tell you it’s a uniform statement pretty much right down the road. What they’re doing is a bad thing for the country. It’s of no merit. And the Republican Party has never been more unified, ever. They have never been as unified as they are right now.

“I’ve never seen anything like it where you have 197-0 where the Senate is very angry about it. I think the Senate I can say is angry. The Republican Party is angry. A recent poll came out 95% approval rating for me in the Republican Party which is a record. “

Nevermind that it is entirely irrelevant whether the Republican Party is unified. They are expected to be united in defense of their president. That doesn’t have any bearing on his guilt. And more to the point, Trump’s assertions as to the unity of the GOP being uniformly in favor of Trump is simply false. He has never been able to provide a source for 95% approval, but a recent poll put the number at 74%. And majorities of the American people are solidly in favor of impeaching Trump and removing him from office.

Trump is living in a fantasy world where he is beloved by all and everyone agrees with him on everything. The truth is that he is the most unpopular president in modern times who has never even hit 50% approval. And it’s downright pathetic that he has to resort to partisan hacks like Hannity to justify his delusions on the legality of impeachment. He might as well be citing Lionel Hutz.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

WRONG! Trump Lies that Ukraine President Said He Did Nothing Wrong

On Monday morning Donald Trump whisked off to London for a summit with NATO, the international alliance that he repeatedly disparages. That is, at least, when he isn’t shilling for Vladimir Putin and Russia to be admitted into the group that was formed to counter the hostile intentions of Russia.

Donald Trump Impeach Fearful

Prior to his departure, Trump felt it was necessary to whine some more about the impeachment proceedings in Congress. These are the proceedings that he said were unfair because they weren’t public. Then he complained when they became public. And he was furious that he wasn’t allowed to participate. But he is now refusing to accept an invitation to participate.

Trump is obviously afraid to appear under oath before the Judiciary Committee because he knows that if he tells the truth he is likely to further incriminate himself. But if he lies he’s committing perjury. So his only recourse is to tweet from the safety of his bedroom. And that’s what he did several times, addressing a new interview by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Trump said exonerates him:

It will not surprise most people that Trump is lying. He simply made up this assertion that Zelensky said he “has done nothing wrong.” In fact, Zelensky said quite the opposite:

“Look, I never talked to the president from the position of a quid pro quo,” Zelenskiy told Time and a handful of European publications in an interview published Monday. “That’s not my thing. … I don’t want us to look like beggars. But you have to understand. We’re at war. If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us. I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo. It just goes without saying.”

Trump zoned in on Zelensky’s comment that he never talked about a quid pro quo. But it’s clear that his meaning was that he didn’t want to portray his dealings with Trump as subservient. His complete statement in context shows that he was plainly concerned about Trump’s threat to “block” critical military aid, and that it doesn’t matter what you call the arrangement, it “goes without saying” that the aid and Ukraine’s concessions to Trump were inextricably intertwined.

However, that didn’t stop Trump from lying about Zelensky’s comments. He has been saying for months that there was no quid pro quo. Which is odd considering that his chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, said there was. Even more damning, Trump actually admitted that there was indeed a quid pro quo on national television:

REPORTER: Mr. President, what exactly did you hope Zelensky would do about the Bidens after your phone call? Exactly.

TRUMP: I would think that if they’re honest about it they’d start a major investigation into the Bidens. It’s a very simple answer. They should investigate the Bidens.

It is truly mind boggling that there is anyone who still believes anything that Trump says. He lies with the reckless abandon of sociopathic con man. He even lies about the lies he told a few days, or even hours, before. Even one of his staunchest defenders on Fox News, Tucker Carlson, recently called Trump a full-blown BS artist.” And that’s coming from someone who knows Trump well, and whose job relies on intimate knowledge of bullshitting.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Tucker Carlson of Fox News Admits that Trump is ‘A Full-Blown BS Artist’

Occasionally Fox News let’s its guard down and airs something that has the distinct ring of truth. There has been very little of that in the past few weeks as the impeachment of Donald Trump has been producing an avalanche of evidence against him. A parade of career diplomats and national security professionals testified under oath before Congress that he abused his power by extorting the president of Ukraine in an effort to smear Joe Biden. And despite his denials, the resulting public opinion of Trump has suffered.

Fox News, Tucker Carlson, Donald Trump

However, on Thanksgiving eve, one of Trump’s most devoted Fox News bootlickers, Tucker Carlson, delivered a monologue (video below) that exposed Fox’s viewers to a portrait of Trump that they rarely see. Carlson began the segment by correctly noting that…

“One of the reasons progressives say they hate Donald Trump is because he lies a lot. Trump, they’ll tell you, is a committed liar.”

Indeed. That is surely one of the many reasons that progressives oppose Trump. Of course, there’s also his bigotry, dictator worship, ignorance, and infantile behavior. These should be reasons that anyone oppose Trump, but Carlson didn’t go that far. In fact, he slammed rapidly into reverse.

Apparently unfamiliar with the concept of truthful reporting, Carlson belittled journalists who document Trump’s dishonesty as being like “obsessed baseball fans.” Carlson noted that the Washington Post has already collected more than 13,000 false or misleading statements by Trump. He singled a particularly memorable lie that Trump told at the very beginning of his term about the size of his inauguration audience being “the largest ever.” But even Carlson couldn’t pretend to believe that:

“We’re not going to lie to you. That was untrue. The crowd at the 2017 inauguration was not the largest ever measured on the National Mall. Sorry, it wasn’t. Why did the president claim it was? Well, because that’s who he is. Donald Trump is a salesman. He’s a talker, a boaster, a booster, a compulsive self-promoter. At times, he’s a full-blown BS artist. If Trump hadn’t gotten rich in real estate, he could have made a fortune selling cars.”

OK, then. We can now all agree that Trump is a “full-blown BS artist.” That much Carlson got right. Although, to be accurate, Trump did not get rich selling real estate. He inherited a fortune from his father that he mishandled so badly he had to declare multiple bankruptcies and take a humiliating job as the host of a reality TV game show. However, Carlson’s conjecture that Trump might have had more success as a shady car salesman hits closer to home.

As to Trump’s penchant for lying, Carlson’s casual admission that it’s just “because that’s who he is,” should be more troubling than he made it sound. That is not a personality trait that is sought in any leader. And Carlson’s attempt to downplay Trump’s lying simply because “most people know this,” and that “It’s obvious,” is downright bizarre. He’s implying that the knowledge that someone is a pathological liar makes it acceptable.

Carlson spent the next ten minutes making excuses for what he portrays as Trump’s truth telling. For the most part that consists of his maligning immigrants, smearing minorities, insulting Democrats, and expressing unfettered adoration for murderous foreign tyrants. And this, as it turns out, was the whole impetus for the entire segment. Carlson believes that Trump’s overt racism is what makes him so honest. And the social “benefit” of that unmasked hatred makes up for all of the blatant lying. So in Carlson’s world – and Trump’s – you can lie all you want so long as you remain faithful to an agenda of white supremacy and hatred. And being a “full-blown BS artist” doesn’t exempt you from leading the Republican Nationalist Party.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Thanks Trump! The Pumpkinhead President Scares Fox News Ratings Into an Abyss

The month of October has been a frightening experience for Donald Trump. His Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, admitted on national TV that there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden. His personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, had a nervous breakdown on Fox News. He was forced to reverse an idiotic plan to host the 2020 G7 summit at his Doral golf resort in Miami. And his one bit of good news – the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – produced a paltry two point bounce in a poll by his favorite, ultra-biased pollster, Rasmussen. Scary, huh?

Donald Trump, Fox News, Halloween

Trump was so terrified throughout the month that he fear-posted 104 panic-tweets attacking the fearsome chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff. And as if the Offender-in-Chief doesn’t already have enough reasons to soil his trousers, the Trump-fluffing “news” network that he relies on to prop him up with worshipful propaganda, Fox News, fell on some hard times as well. The ratings for October reveal that impeachment has been good news for both America and Fox’s chief competitor, MSNBC.

The total day ratings for Fox News declined by a whopping 27 percent in the all-important 25-54 demographic, compared to October of 2018. In the same period MSNBC rose 12 percent. MSNBC also increased total prime time viewers 25 percent, and prime time demo viewers 16 percent.

This growth was driven by impressive gains by The Rachel Maddow Show, which was the #1 cable news program for the month among adults 25-54. Her show was up 13 percent, while Fox News’ Hannity declined 21 percent in that time slot. In total viewers Maddow was up 22 percent, compared to Fox’s 2 percent drop. She beat her direct competition, Sean Hannity, as well as Fox’s other prime time stars, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham.

These gains were also present in other MSNBC programs. The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell was up 20 percent (Fox News dropped 22 percent). The 11th Hour with Brian Williams finished #1 in the 11 p.m. hour, up 25 percent (Fox News declined 31 percent). The Beat with Ari Melber delivered the network’s most-watched month ever in the 6 p.m. time period, up 34 percent (Fox News down 12 percent). Deadline: White House with Nicolle Wallace was #1 in total viewers, up 13 percent (Fox News dropped 27 percent). All In with Chris Hayes was up 24 percent (Fox News was down 19 percent). Even the weekend had great news with total day gains of 10 percent (Fox News dips of 32 percent).

There could be several explanations for this powerful performance by MSNBC and the simultaneous collapse of Fox News. Trump’s impeachment might have stirred more interest by progressive news consumers to tune in more. At the same time, it might have discouraged conservatives from watching the news at all. But there’s another possible factor that drove Fox’s viewers away: Donald Trump. He spent a fair amount of time bashing his own own best media outlet and even telling his followers to turn off Fox.

For instance, after a Fox poll showed him losing to Biden, Trump tweeted that “I have NEVER had a good @FoxNews Poll. Whoever their Pollster is, they suck.” And then there was the time he tweeted that “@FoxNews doesn’t deliver for US anymore. It is so different than it used to be.” And not mincing words, Trump told his Deplorables that “We have to start looking for a new News Outlet. Fox isn’t working for us anymore!”

It’s hard to determine whether Trump’s Fox bashing had any real impact on their ratings. But it isn’t hard to see that he is a fickle and vengeful narcissist who demands 100 percent adoration at all times, lest you be cast into the corn fields, aka TrumpScorn. However, it is more likely that television audiences were simply more interested in getting honest presentations of the news by real journalists instead of slobbering, glassy-eyed sycophants. And since a majority of Americans favor Trump being impeached and removed from office (even in that Fox News poll), even the opinion side of MSNBC would figure to be more popular.

If Trump has anything going for him at this time, it’s the “bloody highway crash” appeal that might cause viewers to tune to Fox in order to see exactly how his mental breakdown will unfold in real time. Sure, it’s morbid and gruesome, but hell, it’s Halloween. Everybody may just be in a weird mood.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Shepard Smith Suddenly Signs Off at Fox News the Day After Bill Barr met with Rupert Murdoch

The most jarring news in the media world today is that Shepard Smith of Fox News announced on the air that he was anchoring his last broadcast at the network. No one had anticipated his departure and there had been no speculation about it. His colleagues were dumbstruck and issued their own emotional reactions.

Fox News, Shepard Smith, Donald Trump

Smith was out of place at Fox News. He was frequently reporting the actual facts of a story even while his primetime colleagues (Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson) were deliberately lying and even maligning his work and his honor. Carlson engaged in an on-air feud with Smith just last month after his guest, Trump flunky Joe diGenova, called Smith a fool for daring to report honestly. However, despite the open hostility, Smith bravely endured in a losing war to inform Fox’s viewers. One of his recent valiant efforts involved setting the record straight on the Russia probe and the Mueller report. And on another occasion Smith brutally, yet subtly, roasted Fox News while accepting a First Amendment Award.

It cannot be ignored that Smith announced his departure (video below) the day after Donald Trump’s shill Attorney General, William Barr, had a private meeting with the overlord of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch. That confab was originally suspicious because it occurred the day after Fox News released a poll showing that a majority of voters favored Trump’s impeachment and removal from office. Trump, who has long despised Smith, naturally expressed his disappointment with Fox tweeting falsely that “I have NEVER had a good @FoxNews Poll. Whoever their Pollster is, they suck. […] @FoxNews doesn’t deliver for US anymore.” And then Barr traveled to Murdoch’s lair to kiss his ring.

However, this new development makes it all even more suspicious. There is no way of knowing at this time if that meeting had anything to do with Smith leaving Fox News. His on-air farewell was nothing but grateful and gracious. But it is extraordinarily rare for a figure so closely tied with a broadcaster (Smith was at Fox from day one) to leave without any notice. Normally one would announce they are going off to pursue other opportunities, and that their last day would be a week or a month away. But Smith is already gone. And in his goodbye he noted that there is an agreement with Fox that he will not work as a journalist anywhere else for some unspecified period of time.

There is already speculation that Smith was forced out. And of course, there is already speculation that that speculation is false. But get real. If Smith wasn’t forced out overtly by his bosses who were through tolerating his independence, then he was forced out covertly by the way he was treated. In the matter of his feud with Carlson, it was Smith who management reprimanded.

No doubt Smith’s departure will bring great joy to Trump. And he will surely tweet something nasty about it before long. But Fox News has lost one of its only connections to ethical journalism. And it could not have come at a worse time. Trump is suffering a hysterical meltdown as Congress gets closer to his inevitable impeachment, but which he insanely has taken to calling a “coup.”. Just last night he delivered what may be the most disgusting performance of his short residency in Washington.

What’s left at Fox News will be an increasingly sycophantic cadre of true believers who literally describe their Dear Leader in terms generally reserved for kings or gods. As Trump’s megalomaniania, paranoia, and malignant narcissism become more severe, his martinets at Fox News will become more unbearably worshipful. So as we heartily wish good luck to Shep, we nervously wish it also for ourselves.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Fox News Marches Lock-Step with ‘Impeaching Trump Will Hurt Democrats’ Talking Point

This week just keeps getting worse for Donald Trump. First it was revealed that a whistleblower charged him with serious breaches of national security in a conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Then he was forced to release the memo containing an account of that phone call that was disturbing and incriminating. And on Thursday the text of the whistleblower’s complaint was also released after the White House could no longer persist in suppressing it. Simultaneous to this, his Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, was grilled about his conduct with regard to the whistleblower complaint in a pair of congressional hearings.

Fox News, Impeach Trump

In addition to that, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House or Representatives would be formally conducting an impeachment inquiry. Much of the work on that had already begun, but this made it official. Trump’s response to these events was to panic-tweet dozens of bootlicking testimonials by worshipful disciples in politics and the press. It was a barrage of sycophantic adoration and utterly dishonest rationalizations for his flagrantly unlawful acts. It was most assuredly not the behavior of an innocent man.

Not surprisingly, Fox News was prominently featured among these tributes to Trump’s treason. Their mission to shield Trump from any and all harm continues as the news gets ever more precarious for his dangling presidency. And what appears to be a coordinated offensive by Fox news is taking shape. Thursday’s messaging was strikingly aligned across many of its programs. What they are pitching is that, regardless of how terrible this all looks for Trump, it’s really much worse for Democrats. For instance:

  • Karl Rove on Fox’s Daily Briefing told host Dana Perino that “Impeachment is a losing issue for Democrats.”
  • Rush Limbaugh warned Democrats that “They’re not thinking about blowback.”
  • Newt Gingrich offered his stale analysis that “When [Pelosi] starts an investigation the person who’s gonna get clobbered is Joe Biden.”
  • Tucker Carlson turned to frightening Democrats, saying that they “have just become so obsessed with destroying Donald Trump, that they’re destroying themselves.”
  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders summed it all up by asserting that “All this is doing is helping [Trump] get reelected.”

WOW! That sounds pretty darn awful for Democrats. And by extension, it sounds like Trump and his Republican Nationalist Party should be celebrating. In fact, they ought to be thanking Democrats and promoting their efforts to impeach Trump at every opportunity. After all, it’s only going to help Trump get reelected and crush the Democrats’ hopes for majorities in Congress. If Republicans really believe what they are saying, then all of this drama over impeachment should be putting them in good mood.

However, for some reason that isn’t the case. Even after insisting that the Democrats are destroying themselves, and that Trump will be the beneficiary, they are still whining incessantly and demanding that all efforts to impeach Trump be halted. Trump himself is threatening legal action, which is not an option with regard to impeachment. And his Twitter feed is blowing up with more tweets and retweets than ever, almost all which are nasty reactions to his pending impeachment.

Apparently, Trump and his minions are not really as happy about him being impeached as they are trying to pretend. The reality is that his violations of law, ethics, and his oath of office, are more than sufficient to warrant impeachment and removal from office. And no one knows that better than Trump. He is aware of what he’s done and what the consequences are. And that is why he – and the Cult of Deplorables he leads – have been scared into incoherence. It’s almost pathetic enough to feel sorry for them. Nah, not really.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Lacking Any Coherent Impeachment Defense, Trump Deploys An All Fox News Blitzkrieg

On Wednesday morning Donald Trump released the transcript White House provided, non-verbatim memo of his July phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. It was somewhat anticlimactic considering that he had already admitted that he pressured Ukraine to smear Biden, and even declared Biden “corrupt” and subject to the electric chair. Still, he has been saying for days that the call was “perfect,” that he had done nothing wrong, and promised that it would exonerate him. What the hell was he thinking!

Donald Trump, Phone, Pacifier

Keeping in mind that several days prior to this phone call, Trump had frozen nearly $400 million dollars in military aid to Ukraine, who were engaged in a conflict with Russian troops on their eastern border. With that as context for Trump’s remarks, here are some relevant and incriminating parts of the memo (full document below):

“I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. […] I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance.”

“Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it. […] I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great.”

“The other thing, There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.”

So Trump starts out by asking for “a favor.” That’s precisely how Godfather Don Corleone began his conversations with shakedown victims when he made them “an offer you can’t refuse.” Zelensky knew that the aid his country needs was at risk. This is as close to a quid pro quo as is ever encountered in organized crime. And having that followed up by a request to meet with Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and his Attorney General, William Barr – which is a new and troubling revelation – only makes Trump’s clearly unlawful intentions more clear.

The fact that Trump bothered to malign special counsel Robert Mueller is another indication that he is tying this call to his own political tribulations. And directly warning Zelensky that “it’s very important that you do … whatever you can do,” is hardly a subtle nudge. Trump then brings up the Ukrainian prosecutor who he calls “very good” despite being held in disrepute by the U.S. government, the European Union, the World Bank, and other international institutions.

Trump then got to the real point when he brought up Joe Biden and made the objectively false statement that he “stopped the prosecution” of Biden’s son. In fact, the corrupt prosecutor wasn’t even actively pursuing the case. And every investigation into the matter found zero evidence of any wrongdoing by Biden. Nevertheless, Trump pressed this issue repeatedly in the phone call and kept pressing for a meeting with Giuliani and Barr.

If this is Trump’s idea of an exculpatory document, you have to wonder what he considers incriminating. Trump is seen here explicitly abusing his power by recruiting a foreign leader to interfere with an American election. And he is using funds allocated by Congress to extort the illegal results he wants. There is no defense for this criminal behavior. Trump couldn’t even provide one, so he claimed on Wednesday that it should all be ignored because the stock market went up. Really? For the record, the market today is stagnant at best. It’s exactly where it was in January of 2018, a year and a half ago. Trump is also arguing his innocence based on his leading poll numbers. Except that he’s losing to every top Democrat. In fact, a Fox News poll saying just that was released a week before Trump called Zelensky. Coincidence?

Then Trump turned to his goto protectors at Fox News to vainly try to spin this in his favor. He posted (so far) twelve (12!) tweets of Trump-fluffing sycophants that contained no factual refutation of the damning contents of the White House summary phone call. They included:

  • Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway writing that the whistleblower’s attorney worked for Hillary Clinton and “Schuck” Schumer. That was for short internships nearly twenty years ago.
  • Fox host Mark Levin asserting that the is media trying to protect Biden.
  • Sean Hannity interviewing Attorney Joe DiGenova, whose reputation was so bad that he couldn’t be added to Trump’s staff.
  • Tucker Carlson interviewing Jenna Ellis, a member of the Trump 2020 Advisory Board.
  • Sean Hannity interviewing GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, a sellout who once called Trump an idiot and a liar, but who now kowtows to him in the most embarrassing fashion.
  • Lou Dobbs interviewing Harmeet Dhillon from the Republican National Lawyers Association.
  • Sean Hannity (again), this time with Kevin McCarthy, House Republican Leader.
  • Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro, another Fox News host and shameless Trump-fluffer.
  • Yet another Hannity reference saying that the whistleblower has a political bias.
  • Fox and Friends asserting that “Democrats have been talking about Impeaching Donald Trump since before he was inaugurated. @SteveDoocy @foxandfriends”
  • Fox host Bret Baier saying that “You don’t see a direct quid pro quo in this.”
  • Fox’s White House correspondent, John Roberts, saying that there was no quid pro quo in the memo.

Someone who has a good argument for innocence wouldn’t have to resort to a cadre of notoriously biased pundits and Fox News propagandists for legal help. But this is Trump’s whole modus operandi. Remember, his preparation for the presidency was hosting a reality TV game show for fourteen years. His entire reference to his job is tied to television and celebrity. So rather than accumulate knowledgeable defenses from intelligent, reputable people, he leans on dishonest TV personalities talking to partisan hacks. You know, people just like himself.

UPDATE: The whistleblower complaint has been declassified and released. It’s available here with a few redactions.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.