The New York Times continues to shake up its editorial page after the resignation of James Bennet, the opinion editor who angered many of his former colleagues by publishing an op-ed written by a Republican.
In addition to hiring Charlotte Greensit, former managing editor at the Intercept, the Times announced the promotion of Talmon Smith to the position of staff editor. Smith, who has previously written for Salon, the New Republic, and HuffPost, has a history of what some would describe as blatant partisan bias on social media.
“All I want for Christmas is impeachment,” Smith wrote in November 2017. That was before he started working for the Times, which maintains a strict social media policy under which its journalists “must not express partisan opinions [or] promote political views.” The Times demoted a deputy editor for suggesting on Twitter that big cities (Minneapolis, Atlanta) are not representative of the broader regions (Midwest, Deep South) in which they reside.
Smith even criticized the Times in 2017 for a headline suggesting Trump had a chance to “unify” the country in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. He has also dabbled in failed punditry, asserting in 2018 that former vice president Joe Biden “has an approximate zero percent chance of winning a 2020 primary.”
Smith’s promotion comes as professional newsrooms, and the ornately educated liberal youths who populate them, debate the merits of objectivity in journalism. Restrictive social media policies such as those at the Times have come under fire for limiting the ability of journalists to express their feelings about politically charged issues.
Some outlets, such as Axios, have responded by allowing their employees to take part in public protests. “We trust our colleagues to do the right thing, and stand firmly behind them should they decide to exercise their constitutional right to free speech,” Axios founder Jim VandeHei said in a statement.
That statement, and the willingness to allow journalists to take part in protests, appeared to conflict with the opinion VandeHei expressed in a 2018 column advising media outlets to “ban their reporters from doing anything on social media—especially Twitter—beyond sharing stories.” VandeHei argued that “snark, jokes and blatant opinion are showing your hand, and it always seems to be the left one. This makes it impossible to win back the skeptics.”
This view may be prevalent among media bosses, but it is increasingly under attack by younger journalists who consider their profession a form of political activism.
“What if we built a journalism where instead of judging a reporter’s ability to be fair and accurate based on their tweets, we instead judged them based on their journalism?” tweeted Pulitzer Prize-winning race journalist Wesley Lowery while promoting his widely disseminated (among elite journalists) piece on the media’s “Reckoning Over Objectivity, Led by Black Journalists.”
Smith’s tweets have become more subdued since joining the Times but continue to address controversial topics. For example, he retweeted more than one positive assessment of disgraced editor James Bennet’s humanity and suggested that liberals should stop shaming people for not social distancing following the mass protests in response to the police killing of George Floyd. Smith also tweeted in praise of Dave Chappelle, who some have criticized as anti-transgender, and said he “will happily take a memorial day [part] 2 based on white guilt,” in reference to the recent observance of Juneteenth.
The entire media industry is in the midst of a revolution of sorts. At the very least, it’s a hasty attempt on behalf of white industry leaders to express their opposition to racism and support for left-wing activism. It’s the new normal, for now.
Attorney General William Barr noted America’s slide toward despotism during remarks at the National Religious Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, Wednesday. He highlighted changes in three institutional “bulwarks” that have long preserved liberty: “religion, the decentralization of government power, and the free press.”
Most notable was Barr’s calling out of the “remarkably monolithic” press as a vehicle for pushing Americans toward a secular progressive program and a “soft despotism,” wherein everyone is converted “into 25-year-olds living in the government’s basement, focusing our energies on obtaining a larger allowance rather than getting a job and moving out.” Barr described this progressive dream as a use of the “public purse to … build a permanent constituency of supporters who are also dependents.”
Barr noted the press, having become less like objective journalists and more like political activists, maintains massive influence in directing public opinion to “mobilize a majority” toward progressive goals.
When the media becomes a viewpoint monolith, “Not only does it become easier for the press to mobilize a majority, but the mobilized majority becomes more powerful and overweening with the press as its ally,” Barr said. “This is not a positive cycle, and I think it is fair to say that it puts the press’ role as a breakwater for the tyranny of the majority in jeopardy.”
The relationship among journalists, politicians, and the American people has shifted since 2016 and the run-up to Donald Trump’s presidential election. The president has repeatedly referred to the press as the “enemy of the people” producing “fake news,” for which he has received much criticism. A September 2019 Gallup poll revealed only 41 percent of Americans have “a great deal” or “fair amount” of faith in the mass media. Public mistrust in the press cannot be attributed wholly to Trump, however. The media’s track record speaks for itself: blatant lies over the Russia collusion hoax, Trump’s impeachment, the Jussie Smollett hoax, the Covington Catholic high school students story, and grossly mischaracterized pro-life legislation, among countless other errors. The media has even mocked Trump supporters as “credulous boomer rube[s].”
The press wielding its power in such a way is consistent with the attorney general’s assessment of progressives, however. According to Barr, progressives prop up politics as religion, taking a no-holds-barred approach — including weaponization of the press — to achieve their desired goals, which are “earthly and urgent.”
Totalitarian democracy, says Barr, “requires an all-knowing elite to guide the masses toward their determined end, and that elite relies on whipping up mass enthusiasm to preserve its power and achieve its goals. … [It] is almost always secular and materialistic, and its adherents tend to treat politics as a substitute for religion. Their sacred mission is to use the coercive power of the state to remake man and society according to an abstract ideal of perfection. The virtue of any individual is defined by whether they are aligned with the program. Whatever means used are justified because, by definition, they will quicken the pace of mankind’s progress toward perfection.”
Barr’s Wednesday remarks are reminiscent of his November 2019 speechto the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention, where he said, “[S]o-called progressives treat politics as their religion. … [T]here is no getting around the fact that this puts conservatives at a disadvantage when facing progressive holy war, especially when doing so under the weight of a hyper-partisan media.”
While CNN is now out of the case, Nicholas Sandmann’s lawsuit against the Washington Post and NBC continues, and soon there will be some new defendants, according to his lawyers.
One year after Nicholas Sandmann’s image went viral in one of the biggest mainstream media missteps of the decade, news broke on Tuesday that CNN had agreed to settle the teen’s defamation case.
Sandmann sued CNN, the Washington Post, and NBC last year in a Kentucky federal court, alleging the media powerhouses had defamed him by claiming he had blocked Native American activist Nathan Phillips from ascending the steps of the Washington monument, while he and his Covington Catholic High School classmates surrounded him and chanted “Build the Wall.”
A video snippet of the encounter between Phillips and Sandmann—then a 16-year-old high school junior participating in the annual March for Life protest at the capital—showed the young man in a MAGA hat standing toe-to-toe with Phillips. Without pausing to learn the truth, the media ran that image along with Phillips’ tale that as he started walking toward the moment, “groups of people started separating and separating and moving aside to allow me to move out of the way, or to proceed, this young feller put himself in front of me and wouldn’t move.”
However, a full-length video of the encounter later emerged, proving that Phillips had spun the tale: Contrary to Phillips’ telling, Sandmann had not “put himself in front of” the man and hadn’t blocked his way. Rather, Phillips had marched into the group of kids, who had been waiting for their school bus as directed.
But by the time Phillips’ story had been debunked, Sandmann had been doxed, with his name and image plastered across America as a symbol of bigotry. CNN alone, according to Sandmann’s complaint, made “no less than four false and defamatory television broadcasts, nine false and defamatory internet articles, and four false and defamatory tweets of and concerning Nicholas.”
Among other defamatory statements, Sandmann’s lawsuit pointed to CNN’s January 19, 2019, broadcast opener, “We are hearing from a Native American elder and Vietnam War veteran speaking to CNN after a disturbing viral video shows a group of teens harassing and mocking him in the nation’s capital.”
Sandmann highlighted another broadcast, later published online with the subtitle, “‘SHAMEFUL ACT—VIRAL VIDEO CAPTURES TEENS MOCKING NATIVE AMERICAN VETERAN,” that began, “You’ve probably seen it by now, the viral video sweeping the Internet of a mob of MAGA hat wearing high school students surrounding a Native American chanting and drumming in the nation’s capital at the Indigenous Peoples March.” CNN’s broadcast then added that Phillips and “others were harassed and taunted by students from Covington Catholic High School, a private all boys school in Kentucky.”
With these samplings of CNN’s reporting on the incident, it is no wonder that CNN quickly cut its losses and settled with Sandmann. The details of the settlement are unknown, and when asked about the payout for the teen, Sandmann’s Kentucky-based lawyer, Todd McMurtry had no comment. However, McMurtry told The Federalist, that “the outpouring of support in Northern Kentucky for the settlement with CNN has been overwhelming.”
The support spans more than Sandmann’s home state, with news of the settlement quickly filtering through social media. Conservatives celebrated CNN’s comeuppance, seeing the settlement as not just vindication of the young teen, but as a payback of sorts to the fake news they’ve seen peddled of late by the airport lounge-lizard.
While CNN is now out of the case, Sandmann’s lawsuit against the Washington Post and NBC continues, and soon there will be some new defendants, according to McMurtry. McMurtry told The Federalist his team will soon name Gannett, the owner of the Cincinnati Enquirer, as an additional defendant.
Sandmann’s lawyers are also considering claims against ABC, CBS, The Guardian, Huffington Post, NPR, and Slate, as well as several smaller media outlets. McMurtry noted that during Tuesday’s scheduling conference, Sandmann’s legal team assured the judge that additional defendants would be added in the next 30 – 40 days.
Which defendants Sandmann eventually pulls in will depend on several factors. First, the lawyers will focus on the defamatory statements presiding Judge William Bertelsman held were legally actionable. Those included statements that Sandmann had “blocked” Phillips and “wouldn’t allow Phillips to retreat,” and the assertion that Sandmann or the other students shouted “build that wall” at Phillips or the nearby Black Hebrew Israelites.
After determining which media outlets made or repeated those false statements, the question of personal jurisdiction arises. To sue in a federal court in Kentucky, the court must have “personal jurisdiction” or “power” over the defendants. Generally, speaking that requires the defendants to have “minimum contacts” with the state. For the larger media outlets, that standard is easily met, but questions abound when you consider online-media platforms or smaller outlets. Finally, Sandmann’s lawyers will likely do a cost-benefit-analysis to determine whether it is worth pulling in additional defendants.
On this last point, a unique area of Kentucky law creates some uncertainties. Kentucky is one of few “pure comparative fault” states. In a pure comparative fault state, the plaintiff’s recovery is reduced by his own fault, if any—not relevant to the Sandmann case—and damages are allocated to each defendant based on their relative fault. So, theoretically, if Sandmann’s damages totaled $300 million, each defendant would be liable proportionately to his fault. Some of the smaller media outlets’ responsibility might tally a mere 1 percent of the total culpability, making them not worth the effort to sue.
That is assuming Kentucky’s pure comparative fault statute, KRS 411.182, applies to defamation. It might not: Every false statement of fact impugning the young Sandmann might be considered its own separate wrong—like several separate car accidents, as opposed to a mass collusion.
Judge Bertelsman has not yet definitely decided how Kentucky’s pure comparative negligence law applies in Sandmann’s situation, but his attorneys appear to be playing it safe by looking to add any big players who peddled the same balderdash as CNN, the Washington Post, and NBC. Once all the parties are added, it will be time for the real fun—discovery—because that’s when we may see a glimpse of what the left-leaning media really thinks about conservatives.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe made its way to CNN last week. In a meme tweeted out by the Trump campaign, the character Thanos with the face of Donald Trump snaps his fingers and makes Democratic House leadership wisp away in black ashes. The apples and bananas (more bananas) network was aghast, devoting segment after segment to Thanos.
Meanwhile, a report was released that showed the federal government has been lying for decades about the Afghanistan War, but that didn’t get much coverage at all.
The fireworks began with Don Lemon left speechless by the meme on December 10th. Lemon seems genuinely devastated that a president made a joke about a comic book character.
Between December 11th and the 15th, CNN ran an additional four segments on Thanos totaling more than 8 minutes, sharing the segments widely on social media.
A couple of days later on her afternoon show, Brooke Baldwin had on Jim Starlin, the man who created the character of Thanos, to talk about how upset he was that the president had used his creation in the meme. At one point Baldwin, looking as serious as cancer, says to him, “Explain who Thanos is…” Starlin says he is a genocidal maniac, although as Federalist publisher Ben Domenech has pointed out, he could also be a considered a well-intentioned environmentalist who understands the grave dangers of overpopulation.
On the following day, CNN was still discussing this comic book joke, still horrified by it and now reporting about the “backlash” against it, which seems to exist almost entirely in cable newsrooms because no actual people care about it.
On December 9th, the Washington Post published the bombshell Afghanistan Papers showing that the Pentagon under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama consistently and persistently lied about progress in the Afghanistan War. The war has been waged now for 18 years. In the same five-day period CNN was obsessing over a Thanos meme, the outlet made only one oblique mention of the Afghan Papers.
For any legitimate news outlet this would be absolutely insane, but this is CNN we are talking about, so it makes perfect sense. First, the Afghan Papers don’t involve Trump, meaning they aren’t an opening to trash Trump, so why would CNN care about it? Perhaps more importantly, the papers do implicate the administration of CNN’s patron saint Barack Obama, who as we all know didn’t have a single scandal in his time in office and is the only man ever to be exactly six feet tall.
At a CNN event I covered about two months ago, its President Jeff Zucker was interviewed by its media critic Brian Stelter. Here’s what I wrote at the time: “Asked what he thought was the biggest thing CNN does wrong, Zucker had no answer. When Stelter provided one, namely that they use the term ‘Breaking News,’ too often, he begrudgingly agreed, but basically sloughed it off as something everyone does. That is how blameless he envisions the product he creates. The panel finished with Zucker explaining how important it is to the world that CNN be strong.”
I’d like to nominate obsessing over a meme while ignoring a major scandal involving the longest war in American history as something more wrong than using “Breaking News” too much. Once again, CNN has proven to be a quality source for all the news that fits the narrative and none of the news that doesn’t.
Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear from the Department of Justice’s Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, on the findings of his FISA report. After providing months of wall to wall impeachment coverage, CNN and MSNBC decided not to air the full hearings with Horowitz.
CNN and MSNBC stopped following the IG hearing after about 30 minutes, and both refused to cover the opening statements by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The decision does not align with the recent live hearing coverage standard both networks have held for the last few months, giving endless air time to the impeachment hearings lead by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif, and Rep. Jerry Nadler.
Media personalities are noticing this unfair balance.
CNN is not taking the Senate Horowitz hearing live. Unbelievable. A perfect example of how bias works. It’s not just what they cover. It’s what they don’t cover.33K10:28 AM – Dec 11, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy13.9K people are talking about this
CNN and MSNBC refusing to run Senator Lindsey Graham’s opening statement in the Horowitz hearing. The most blatant form of media bias that I have ever seen. RIP, American journalism.37.4K10:39 AM – Dec 11, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy15.8K people are talking about this
After giving their air time COMPLETELY over to Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff for the past few weeks, CNN IS NOT AIRING the start of the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Horowitz’s IG report. #StopTheMadness
It’s impossible for CNN to claim they’re *not* a propaganda network after refusing to air the IG report when they aired every second of Nadler, Schiff, and Pelosi pushing for impeachment.
They don’t want their audience to be informed on what’s actually happening.3,77410:43 AM – Dec 11, 2019 · Arlington, VATwitter Ads info and privacy1,801 people are talking about this
Ronna McDaniel, the GOP Chairwoman was also upset over CNN’s omission.
“CNN aired everything Schiff and Nadler had to say. Why aren’t they showing Lindsey Graham? Is it because the facts of how the FBI mistreated Donald Trump contradict their coverage over the last 3 years?” McDaniel tweeted.
CNN aired everything Schiff & Nadler had to say. Why aren’t they showing @LindseyGrahamSC? Is it because the facts of how the FBI mistreated @realDonaldTrump contradict their coverage over the last 3 years? https://twitter.com/SteveGuest/status/1204780316101152768?s=20 …Steve Guest✔@SteveGuestAfter giving their air time COMPLETELY over to Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff for the past few weeks, CNN IS NOT AIRING the start of the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Horowitz’s IG report. #StopTheMadness11.2K10:38 AM – Dec 11, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy7,792 people are talking about this
If the IG report proved that the FBI acted perfectly within its boundaries, as the mainstream media claim, then what’s the harm in airing this footage? The truth is, the IG report revealed abuse of power at the highest levels of the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community.
The truth does not fit the CNN and MSNBC agenda, and that is why they refuse to give a platform to it.
For three years many of journalism’s most prestigious news outlets won acclaim for making and repeating claims President Trump and his team had colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election. No accusation, from secret meetings in Prague to tales of prostitutes peeing on beds, was deemed unfit to print. When they wanted to signal to readers that they were conveying claims instead of facts, their hedge words of choice – “unverified” or “not yet proved” were favorites – strongly suggested that confirmation was on the way.
Call it the Trump Standard.
Now those same news outfits are observing a new standard of proof, at least when it involves former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who enjoyed a lucrative relationship with a Ukrainian gas company. This new norm demands that, absent definitive proof, assertions must be labeled as “without evidence” or said to be supported by “no evidence.”
Call it the Biden Standard.
Journalists have been appropriately skittish about appearing to spread Trump talking points – especially his accusation that while serving as vice president Joe Biden demanded a Ukrainian prosecutor be fired because he was investigating the gas company, Burisma, that was paying his son Hunter tens of thousands of dollars a month.
Trump’s allegation has not been proved. But Joe Biden was the Obama administration’s point man on the Ukraine. His son has said Burisma probably hired him because of who his is father and Joe Biden did demand the prosecutor’s firing – because, he says, the prosecutor wasn’t doing enough to root out corruption. Still, the Burisma probe was dropped.
Normally media would greet such an arrangement skeptically, to say the least. A politician’s son making hay in a business over which his father has some sway? That’s the sort of stuff traditionally met with journalistic lectures not only on the evils of conflicts of interest but on the perils of the mere appearance of such conflicts. Instead, in this instance, reporters and editors have read from the same script to diminish and discredit such concerns.
“There is no evidence to support that claim,” stated CBS News. The Hill newspaper hit the same notes: “There’s no evidence that Joe Biden was acting with his son’s interests in mind.” Esquire declared there is “no evidence Joe Biden made any effort to protect his son’s interests as Vice President.”
Reporting on corruption at Burisma, the Wall Street Journal was quick to assure readers “there is no evidence to suggest they [the Bidens] broke any laws.” As for the allegations that Hunter personally profited from his father’s position, Politico seemed to contradict Hunter himself, casting them as “claims for which there is no evidence.”
But none have outdone the New York Times. As far back as May, the Times pronounced “No evidence has surfaced that the former vice president intentionally tried to help his son by pressing for the prosecutor general’s dismissal.” Last month, the Times declared at least half a dozen times that there was “no evidence” of Biden wrongdoing.
There is ample evidence for key parts of the story. Hunter Biden, for example, has publicly admitted he exhibited “poor judgment” in taking money from Burisma. The Obama administration was concerned enough about Hunter Biden’s employment that Marie Yovanovitch was coached on how to answer questions about it in her Senate confirmation hearing to be ambassador to Ukraine.
For those who might find the repeated assertions that there is “no evidence” of Biden wrongdoing overly generous to Hunter Biden, there are good reasons for even them to embrace it in other contexts. Under the Biden Standard, editors would be encouraged to take out their blue pencils and mark unsubstantiated accusations with the simple and obvious acronym.
Jon Marshall is an assistant professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He advocates an even-handed standard of proof that is strict by today’s usual practice. “I think for journalists to count something as ‘evidence,’ there needs to be a reliable, verifiable source of information,” he says. “Examples of what I would count as evidence include court documents, government studies or data, scientific reports, business records, and a reporter’s own investigations to name a few.”
To date, Donald Trump has not enjoyed the benefits of the Biden Standard. When the Christopher Steele “dossier” was made public, the media reaction was to believe it – or at least to entertain it – unless and until it was disproven. Instead of demanding evidence to prove the claims, reporters said the allegations were just as yet “unverified.”
Back in January 2017, when the dossier was new on the scene, NPR called it an “explosive — but unverified – document that alleges collusion between Russia and President-elect Donald Trump.” Under the Biden Standard it would have read that the dossier “alleges without evidence collusion. …”
When the Mueller report finally came out, the New York Times allowed “some of the most sensational claims in the dossier appeared to be false.” And yet the Times was still not prepared to let go of the story of “Mr. Trump’s alleged dalliance with prostitutes” in Moscow, which the Times declared “neither proved nor disproved.” But of course, the “alleged dalliance” could have been proved, and easily: just produce the supposed tape. In the absence of the tape, the Biden Standard should apply. It’s simple: If there isn’t evidence, there isn’t evidence.
Marshall of the Medill School would set the bar even higher: When it comes to the Steele dossier, “I would not have published it, as some news outlets did,” he says, “unless a reliable source substantiated it.”
If it’s important to distinguish true from false allegations about Hunter Biden – and it is – then it is just as important to do so for Donald Trump. That means thinking seriously about what counts as evidence and how to test for counterfeit claims. Most important, it means applying those standards equally.
A case can be made for adopting the Trump Standard or the Biden Standard, but it’s hard to justify switching between the two in what can only be called a double standard.
President Donald Trump announced the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Sunday morning in an address to the nation after a Saturday night raid in northwest Syria.
“He died like a dog, he died like a coward,” Trump said.
Baghdadi’s death marks the execution of the world’s most dangerous terrorist since Osama Bin Laden’s killing in 2011. Baghdadi, the founder of the Islamic State, otherwise known as “ISIS” or “ISIL,” oversaw the extrajudicial killings of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig and Muadh al-Kasasbeh capturing international attention in addition to the slaughtering of hundreds more.
The obituary from the Washington Post however, framed one of the world’s most brutal terrorists as an “austere religious scholar.”
“Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State, dies at 48,” read the initial published headline from one of America’s leading newspapers.
The headline published was actually the second headline picked by the paper, which at first read, “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Islamic State’s ‘terrorist-in-chief,’ dies at 48.”
They had it right the first time.
The Washington Post changed the headline on its Al-Baghdadi obituary from “Islamic State’s terrorist-in-Chief” to “austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State.”
The headline has since been changed to “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, extremist leader of Islamic State, dies at 48.”
While the Post eventually made the headline somewhat better, though they were spot-on the first time, the obituary still reads remarkably well-disposed touting the ISIS leader’s academic credentials and career building his vast terrorist empire responsible for torturing countless innocent people.
The Post, after chronicling Baghdadi’s rise to power, waited until the 40th paragraph of the obituary to mention Baghdadi was also a serial rapist for much of the last decade.
“Later, former hostages would reveal that Mr. Baghdadi also kept a number of personal sex slaves during his years as the Islamic State’s leader, including slain American hostage Kayla Mueller and a number of captured Yazidi women. U.S. officials corroborated the accounts,” the Post wrote.
Linda Greenhouse omits the anti-Catholic bias at the heart of a new case before the Court.
The headline is jolting. “Religious Crusaders at the Supreme Court’s Gates.” Thus starts Linda Greenhouse’s analysis of the actual and potential religion cases before the Court during its October term. Her thesis is that the Court’s relative restraint in its religion cases the previous term represented the justices’ merely “biding their time.” This term the gloves may come off. Now the Court may well “go further and adopt new rules for lowering the barrier between church and state across the board.”
She focuses on an Institute for Justice case that the Court has accepted for review, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. It involves a Montana supreme-court-ordered termination of a state tax-credit scholarship program that “helped needy children attend the private school of their families’ choice,” including religious and nonreligious schools. The precise issue before the Court, in dry legalese, is this: whether the Montana court’s decision “violates the religion clauses or the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution to invalidate a generally available and religiously neutral student-aid program simply because the program affords students the choice of attending religious schools.”
Greenhouse is incredulous. If SCOTUS rules against Montana, then, according to her, “the logical consequence is that a state that once had a program offering financial support to religious and nonreligious schools alike . . . and that subsequently shut down the program entirely can be deemed to have violated a principle of religious neutrality.”
“Can that possibly be the law?” she asks. But her summary isn’t exactly right. She pays short shrift to the key fact of the case. The Montana court’s ruling was based on the state’s Blaine amendment, an artifact of odious 19th-century anti-Catholic bigotry. In fact, the words “Blaine amendment” appear nowhere in her piece.
A brief history lesson is in order. As Mike McShane explained in an instructive Forbes piece last year, in the latter part of the 19th century, America’s public schools were often “nominally Protestant.” They would frequently start their days with prayer, the students would read from the King James Version of the Bible, and they’d sometimes even sing hymns.
So when Senator James Blaine proposed amending the United States Constitution to state that “no money raised by taxation in any State for the support of public schools, or derived from any public fund therefor, nor any public lands devoted thereto, shall ever be under the control of any religious sect; nor shall any money so raised or lands so devoted be divided between religious sects or denominations,” he was not attempting to stamp out public-school religiosity. He was attempting to deny aid to Catholic parochial schools.
Blaine’s federal amendment failed, but his language found its way into 37 state constitutions. As McShane notes, the anti-Catholicism of the amendments is betrayed by the words “sect” or “sectarian.” In the language of the time, Protestant instruction was “nonsectarian.” Catholic instruction was “sectarian.”
Let’s look at the relevant language of the Montana constitution. The section at issue is entitled “Aid prohibited to sectarian schools” and prohibits the use of public funds “for any sectarian purpose or to aid any church, school, academy, seminary, college, university, or other literary or scientific institution, controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination.”
Mr. Blaine, meet your amendment.
So let’s go back to the question posed by Linda Greenhouse. “Could that possibly be the law” that states are prohibited from ending “a program offering financial support to religious and nonreligious schools alike”? Yes, it can possibly be the law. Indeed, it should be the law — when the state ends support because it’s enforcing a legal provision that in purpose and effect engages in blatant religious discrimination.
The twin constitutional pillars of religious liberty in the United States — the free-exercise clause and the establishment clause — don’t just protect liberty by disestablishing religion (by preventing the formation of a state church). They protect liberty by preventing punitive anti-religious policies. They prevent the state from targeting religion for disfavored treatment.
Targeting religion for disfavored treatment is exactly what Blaine amendments do. They were aimed squarely at Catholics. Yet as so often happens with attacks on liberty that are allegedly narrowly targeted, the government expanded its scope. Now the law aimed at Catholics affects all people of faith. When it comes to participation in public programs — programs they bought and paid for with their own dollars — Montana’s religious citizens and religious institutions are entitled to equal treatment under the law.
By Fox News•
The New York Times is outraged that a Trump-affiliated group is exposing old bigoted tweets made by a Times staffer.
Members of the media haven’t thought twice about using past words to cancel the careers of anyone outside their own political world.
They’ll use anything that, by today’s standards, looks “problematic.” But it’s hypocrisy.
When the Times unearths a controversial comment, the newspaper calls it “scrutinizing people in positions of power.”
But return the favor by exposing one of its own journalists for anti-Semitic tweets, and you are “seeking to harass and embarrass anyone affiliated with the leading news organization.”
Ha. They pretend their organization hasn’t been in a position of power for a century, using it and abusing it as they see fit, making billions pushing an ideology that holds you in disdain.
Meanwhile, Huffington Post Editor Lydia Polgreen says that outing public statements “should worry anyone who cares about independent journalism.”
But why? Surely journalists should welcome this scrutiny. Or is this the kind of “speaking truth to power” they hate?
Maybe it’s time to give the gander what it’s been doing to the goose by targeting the hall monitors with their own words. The media are being taught a lesson about ruining the lives of others for ideological spite and sport.
And that maybe forgiveness should be applied to all of us, not just those who work for the Times.
Think corporate suppression of speech isn’t a problem? Think again. Silicon Valley is just getting warmed up in its efforts to shape public opinion for the 2020 elections.
YouTube on Monday banned three more independent commentators: James Allsup, “The Iconoclast,” and “Way of the World.” Their crime? Outspoken defense of Western Civilization, which apparently now is considered “hate speech.” Taken together, the videos posted by these three commentators had been watched more than 100 million times.
The most prominent of the newly banished, James Allsup, had over 450,000 subscribers. Thanks to this latest move by YouTube, America’s de facto Ministry of Truth, nearly a half-million Americans now have less reason than ever to believe their First Amendment rights will be respected, or, by extension, any of their constitutional rights.
Do the masters of YouTube fear “right-wing extremism?” Then they need to stop taking extreme measures that provoke extreme resentment. They need to stop engaging in fascist censorship.
For those of us who have never considered ourselves extremists, and who don’t necessarily agree with everything Allsup and these other banished commentators ever did or said, this is nonetheless a matter of principle. It is intolerable to let private business interests lobotomize our collective consciousness in pursuit of their corporate political agendas. That should not be happening here, in a nation that considers freedom of speech to be one of its fundamental principles.
One independent commentator who hasn’t yet had his tongue ripped out by the YouTube overlords, Vincent James, posted a scathing reaction to this latest act of corporate censorship:
The CEO of YouTube recently came out and talked about how they have an obligation to bring you the news, how they have an obligation to push down fake news and prop up authoritative news sources, and this sounds a lot like a publisher, and not like a platform.
Later in his video, James elaborates:
This is a matter of free speech in a new public town square that is the internet. There is no soapbox in the middle of the town square any longer, “town square” is social media. These social media companies have gotten by far too long with this protection and immunity by the federal government for what their users post.
There’s a whole community of people who smoke meth and film themselves on YouTube. This is illicit material, and those videos aren’t being taken down. If YouTube and Facebook and Twitter and all these different media companies were responsible for the content we post, they would be sued into absolute bankruptcy a long time ago. They have this blanket immunity from the federal government because they promote themselves as platforms, as a blank piece of paper where anyone can post anything as long as it follows the law of the land where they reside.
The law of the land in the United States does not include hate speech, as a matter of fact the supreme court has ruled on this multiple times unanimously. The “hate speech,” the “unpopular speech,” is the speech that needs to be protected the most.
Many free speech advocates may disagree with some of the commentaries Vincent James has offered, but he is absolutely right about the First Amendment, and he is absolutely right about these social media companies. They are either platforms or they are publishers. They cannot be both at the same time. This is a matter that requires executive action, or an urgent court battle, or legislative remedy. Don’t hold your breath.
Silencing online commentators takes many forms. They can be completely terminated, which is something occurring with increasing frequency. But they can also be deboosted, or shadowbanned, where the traffic to their sites is reduced.
Some of the ways this is done are through manipulated search results, removal from “recommended videos,” removal from trending topics, or by throttling down their bandwidth. Sites can also be demonetized, where ads are no longer served onto their pages, or, even more insidiously, partially demonetized, where ads still arrive, just fewer of them.
Unwanted commentators can also be attacked by throwing them off of subscription platforms such as Patreon, or even by expelling them from the payment processors such as PayPal.
Anyone who doesn’t think this is happening, and happening disproportionately to conservatives, is ignoring a mountain of evidence. Here, compiled by Vincent James, is a list of websites that have been censored by the social media companies. Here, published earlier this year by American Greatness, is a similar list of politically incorrect vloggers, and here is a list of politically inconvenient climate information websites.
There are alternative platforms, at least until the SJWs apply enough pressure to those to make them engage in similar censorship. BitChutenow hosts James Allsup, Way of the World, and The Iconoclast. But BitChute is buggy, slow, and has a bad search engine. Its global Alexa traffic ranking is 3,790. Think that’s good? YouTube ranks second, right after Google.
BitChute will improve. But it is a fantasy to pretend these alternative platforms will challenge the monopolistic reach of Google’s search algorithms or YouTube’s videos. They will be stigmatized as a right-wing ghetto, and they will barely show up on search results. As a result, they will not offer the viral, serendipitous discovery to open-minded virtual wanderers.
How many of us found many of these powerful alternative voices by accident? Unless the monopolies, who reach everyone, change their ways, that will never happen again.
When principles as fundamental as the First Amendment are violated, there are consequences. The immediate consequence is a rising fury and potential radicalization of every American who is watching this travesty unfold and sees the injustice, and sees either indifference or active misrepresentation coming from the establishment media and establishment politicians.
The more far-reaching consequence is the fact that if this isn’t stopped, right now, and reversed, moderate conservatives and moderate nationalists will develop increasing sympathies for their more extreme counterparts.
Why wouldn’t they? Every shred of content coming out of the mainstream media and entertainment, social media, corporate marketing, academia, K-12 public education, and nonprofit advocacy groups is globalist pablum. It’s sickening to watch, and now, we are expected to tolerate censorship of alternative voices found online?
An article published last month by the BBC comes embarrassingly close to revealing the motives behind escalating online censorship. Security correspondent Gordon Corera writes: “The more mainstream these narratives become, the greater the tension will be over whether they really are extreme or whether they represent acceptable political discourse, and the views of a substantial number of real people.”
“These narratives.” That is the threat. What if “real people” don’t want open borders? What if they would like the facts, not a bunch of skewed BS, regarding how immigration policies affect the economy and social cohesion? What if they want balanced opinions, or just want to hear the other side for a change, on the issues of multiculturalism, race, feminism, gender “equity” and social justice? What if “real people” sometimes find an unrepentant critic of identity politics to be a breath of fresh air? What if they believe there should be a robust and honest debate over globalism, or over climate change?
Everyone knows what these social media companies are doing. They are trying to influence public opinion in favor of a globalist progressive agenda. No national borders. Anti-racist racism. Anti-sexist sexism. Gender “fluidity.” Corporate socialism. And of course, “Trump is Hitler.”
It’s working. But they must stop. Because if they do not stop, there will be a credible case to be made that the upcoming 2020 election results are not legitimate. Remember how the Democrats made that claim in 2016, because Russian “bots” allegedly swayed a few thousand votes? Determined social media manipulation of the entire online public square will affect millions of votes.
YouTube, and all the rest—back off.
The Democrats clearly don’t need to spend a dime on the 2020 presidential election campaign when they have almost the entire mainstream media doing free infomercials for them, and with just about the same level of authenticity and reliability as you would expect from those ads for Miss Cleo’s Psychic Friends Network.
It’s hard to know why the networks and cable news channels don’t have to declare their in-kind contributions to the Democratic Party when it is so obvious that their No. 1 goal is getting Donald Trump out of office. You can’t really blame the First Amendment because neither you nor I can make unlimited donations to the candidate of our choice or else it’s called (cue the scary music here) “daarrrrrrk money.” Our political speech is not protected by the First Amendment, so neither should the blatantly biased political speech of phony journalists who are less interested in reporting facts than expressing outrage.
Take this example from last week on MSNBC:
“If it’s Tuesday: Divide and conquer. The White House offers up a few changes to the famous Statue of Liberty poem about immigrants, putting the spotlight once again on the president’s campaign to stoke racial division.”
No. If it’s Tuesday, it’s Kasie Hunt making up stuff on “MTP Daily” to hurt President Trump because Chuck Todd is too busy stroking his own ego to do the job. There, I fixed it.
And in case you missed the meme, the new libel on President Trump is that he is a racist. This campaign may not have the traction of the Russian treason libel, which was able to last for three years on the basis of a phony dossier paid for by his political opponents in the Democratic Party, but NBC and the rest of the Democrat cheerleaders in the Fake News Media don’t care. They know they just need the public to buy their lie about Trump being a racist for a little over a year, and with their experience in spreading manure — er, I mean propaganda — they are no doubt confident that they can add Trump’s scalp to their closet of Republican trophies.
So back to the deplorable Kasie Hunt (and I mean that in the original sense of someone loathsome) and her campaign of hate against Trump. Here was how she started her program last Tuesday:
“There is no longer any question about what kind of campaign the president is running. He is staking his reelection on stoking racial division — with megaphones and with dog whistles. After just yesterday announcing a plan to penalize legal immigrants who rely on public benefits like Medicaid or food stamps, a top immigration official suggested a rewrite to the poem on the Statue of Liberty.”
Actually, he didn’t. In response to a question by Rachel Martin on NPR, Ken Cuccinelli agreed that the words “Give me your tired, your poor” are part of “the American ethos,” but he pointed out that we expect immigrants to “stand on their own two feet, and … not become a public charge.”
This is hardly a novel idea. In fact, it has been on the books in one form or another since 1882, when the United States government passed its first comprehensive immigration law. The idea is simple, too. Don’t expect to move to the United States if you can’t support yourself. This seems like a pretty reasonable request from a country with a $22.5 trillion national debt.
It also, by the way, has nothing whatsoever to do with race. It applies to all people without regard to race. If anyone has a campaign “to stoke racial division,” it is MSNBC, which hears a dog whistle every time the wind blows. (By the way, why is it OK to refer to Trump voters as dogs? I never did figure that one out.)
After making her case that President Trump is following a “strategy of stoking racial division” that supposedly worked in 2016, Hunt said, “The question now: Will it work it 2020, and what are Democrats doing to fight against it?”
Cue the all-Democrat infomercial panel to confirm Ms. Hunt’s anti-Trump bias and repeat back to her that Trump is indeed a racist pig, or dog, or some such non-human species. They dutifully responded as expected, but not to be outdone by her guests, Hunt then raised the stakes by stating as a matter of fact that “clearly the president is ready to wage a race war.”
Say what? Did she really just say that? Yep, and if you are like most Americans, this is the point where you turned off MSNBC and asked what planet these people live on! President Trump’s war is against Fake News, not against people of color.
Again, immigration reform has nothing to do with race, and the United States is not obligated to allow entry by everyone who wishes to move here. Indeed, the government has a responsibility to vet those who seek visas and those who seek green cards. To presume otherwise is insane.
When you move to a new country, before you become a citizen you are essentially in the position of a potential tenant hoping to rent a bedroom. That metaphor allows people to see the illogic of the leftist position, which is based on the idea of giving the tenant more power than the homeowner.
If, as a homeowner, you decide to rent out a room in your home, you will commonly ask for references from the prospective tenant, and usually a credit check as well. Why? To make sure that the person can support him- or herself and will not prove to be a drag on you and your family. For peace of mind, it’s also worth checking to see if they’ve ever murdered anyone. That’s called a background check.
To think that the greatest country in the world would do any less to protect the safety and security of its citizens is just plain wrong. Anyone who would invite a stranger into their own home without knowing anything about them is a chump. If you want to pay the stranger’s way, that’s your business — but don’t ask the taxpayers to do it!
There’s no race war, and what’s worse, there’s no outrage at MSNBC for having a host who says there is without evidence. No repercussions, no discipline, no nothing. Crickets. Maybe that’s because everyone already knows that MSNBC isn’t a news organization at all — just a fully owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party.
Democracy dies in arresting genocidal would-be militants
The most amusing part of the Washington Post‘s profile of Representative Ilhan Omar this past weekend was unquestionably the part where they caught her blatantly ripping off classical literature and passing it off as part of her life story. As Omar tells the story, she was once in a courtroom and saw a “sweet, old . . . African American lady” arrested for stealing a loaf of bread to feed her “starving 5-year-old granddaughter.”
The old woman spent two days in jail awaiting trial, and the when the woman was given a fine of $80 that she couldn’t pay, Omar stood up and yelled “Bulls—!” The entire room began to clap. Omar then addressed the judge and said, “And so, Your Honor, you see it’s true, that woman bears no more guilt than you!” Ripping open her jacket, Omar revealed a tattoo on her chest and bellowed “2-4-6-0-1!”
That last part I made up of course, but Omar seriously tried to pretend everything up to and including the loud profanity was true. One wonders how she beat the contempt of court charge. Yet as the Post notes, Omar’s story “echoed the plot of ‘Les Miserables.'” If not entirely fictional, it’s highly embellished; Minneapolis police are not allowed to lock people up simply for shoplifting and the typical sentence is just attending a three-hour class. The Post reports that Omar later acknowledged that “she may have flubbed some facts.”
That was certainly worth a chuckle, but what really threw me for a loop came later on in the piece, when the Post profiled another typical Minnesota Somali-American family. Filsan Ibrahim and her family run a day care, they celebrate Ramadan together, they share jokes around the dinner table, they worked their way through college and graduate school, they got a welcome letter from George W. Bush when they immigrated to the States, they rally behind convicted ISIS terrorists, they lived through the “uncertainty, hope and joy that accompanied her family’s first days in America,” and “have complicated views of their adopted country that mix gratitude, frustration, alienation and pride.”
Wait, what was that one part? About the ISIS terrorists?
A few days later Filsan, her mother and her sisters attended a fundraiser and rally for nine Somalis who had been convicted in 2016 of trying to travel to Syria to fight on behalf of the Islamic State.
Omar had written a letter on behalf of the men on the day she was elected in 2016, urging rehabilitation instead of prison time. “The desire to commit violence is not inherent in people — it is the consequence of systemic alienation,” she wrote the judge. She had known other young men from school who died fighting for al-Shabab, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia.
Since her letter she has kept her distance from the case, which she knew was politically toxic, an easy opportunity for her enemies to paint her as un-American.
Can you imagine? If Omar’s enemies used her public defense of a convicted ISIS terrorist? To “paint her” as un-American?
For Filsan, the trial remained a source of anger and frustration. Her generation of Somali refugees saw America as home, but they lived under a shadow of suspicion. Armed American drones regularly fired missiles into their homeland. In Minneapolis, the FBI was surveilling their mosques and paying off informants.
Filsan had protested the FBI’s “countering violent extremism” program in Minneapolis, which sought to dissuade Somalis from joining terrorism groups, but which she believed stigmatized the Somali community.
Just your average Somali-American family that opposes Obama-created federal programs to peacefully persuade American Muslims to reject radical terrorism and feels “anger and frustration” when radical terrorists are arrested. You’d think the apprehension of nine radical Islamic terrorists in Minneapolis– a hotbed for terror recruitment— would be seen vindication of the FBI’s surveillance and persuasion efforts, but I guess not.
To Filsan, it didn’t make sense. The men on trial had never touched a weapon or left the United States. “I don’t think they knew what they were getting into and I don’t think they need to give up their lives for something that never happened,” she said. “That’s madness.” The heavy sentences, she said, were the product of racism, Islamophobia and the never-ending war on terror.
The men never touched a weapon or left the United States because they were arrested before they went through with their concrete and detailed plan to leave the United States and take up weapons. They knew exactly what they were getting into. Ibrahim surely knows this.
As for the heavy sentences, racism has nothing to do with it. It’s true that the specific terrorist Ibrahim was rallying for, Guled Ali Omar, received 35 years. That was a combination of the fact that he was the ringleader and that he refused to take a plea deal and elected to take his chances at trial. The two other members who refused plea deals got 30 years. Those who took deals got only ten years and those who turned state’s witness got even less prison time. That seems more than fair for plotting to join a genocidal enemy of the state.
About a dozen of Guled’s friends lingered in the parking lot, posing for pictures they planned to post on Instagram. “Fingers up,” someone called out.
Most of the men raised their index fingers, a gesture that symbolizes the oneness of God and has become widely associated with the Islamic State. They flashed the same sign during the trial in 2016, drawing the ire of the prosecutor.
The young Somalis in the parking lot — a mix of men and women — said they didn’t subscribe to the Islamic State’s fanatical interpretation of the Koran. And they certainly didn’t support any terrorist groups. But, on this night, they were trying to send a message — one of Muslim solidarity, alienation and defiance.
You must be kidding.
Imagine this sequence of events: a group of young white, right-wing people attend a rally for, let’s say, the man convicted of threatening to kill Ilhan Omar. In the course of this rally, they tell reporters that they feel anger and frustration at the government’s surveillance of nativist groups and hostility to white nationalism. They downplay the crime– because hey, it’s not like he ever went through with it!– suggest the harsh sentence was politically motivated. Then afterwards, they all head outside and flash the alt-right “okay sign” or grab some tiki torches, but then explain that they don’t subscribe to alt-right beliefs or support alt-right terrorists.
Do you believe, in a million years, that Washington Post reporters would A) credulously parrot the claim they aren’t actually extremists, and B) finish by characterizing it all as a show of “solidarity, alienation and defiance”? Or might they conclude that this rally is at best a hotbed of white nationalist apologists, and more realistically is full of plain old white nationalists?
Alas, the actual extremists and terror sympathizers in questions are part of a liberal constituency, supported by a popular young liberal politician, and are members of a faith group often targeted by the Trump administration. The reporters allowed their biases to blind themselves to reality and the result is absurd: an honest-to-god puff piece of a rally on behalf of convicted terrorists. Take a bow, WaPo.
While the press portrayed Hope Hicks’s silence as all-inclusive, in reality she testified at length and in detail about all aspects of Trump’s presidential campaign.
Following the Thursday release of the transcript from Hope Hicks’s testimony before the Democrat-controlled House Judiciary Committee, the media quickly concentrated on the questions Trump’s former communications director refused to answer. But while the press portrayed Hicks’s silence as all-inclusive, in reality Hicks testified at length and in detail about all aspects of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. And that testimony established yet again that the Russia collusion narrative was a hoax.
One theme of Democrats’ questioning of Hicks concerned the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians. Several times Hicks confirmed the lack of contacts between top Trump campaign members and Russia.
“I’m telling you,” Hicks testified, “I wasn’t aware in the campaign of any contacts with Russian officials.” Later, when asked again what, if any, communications and contacts there were between the Trump campaign and Russian or Russian officials, Hicks noted that during the campaign she wasn’t aware of any but later learned of insignificant contacts, such as Jeff Sessions meeting the Russian ambassador at a foreign policy speech.
Hicks further testified that a Russian official’s post-election comment that Russia was “in constant communication or constant contact with members of Trump’s inner circle throughout the campaign,” “was not true.” “I’m not aware of anybody that regularly interacted with Mr. Trump that was a decisionmaker that advised him on a frequent basis that had, ‘regular contacts’ with any Russian officials,” Hicks stressed.
Hicks, who had previously worked for the Trump organization, also testified that she was not aware of any financial ties between Russia and the Trump Organization during the campaign. Nor did Hicks have any knowledge of any “foreign government providing cash or any other thing of value to Mr. Trump during the campaign,” or of any conversations during the campaign about Trump traveling to Russia (other than for the Miss Universe Pageant), or meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Hicks further told the committee that she only “became aware that the Russian government was attempting to interfere in the 2016 elections” when the story hit the press.
Democrats on the committee nonetheless pushed the Russia collusion narrative by attempting to portray an email Hicks received from the editor-in-chief of the Russian internet newspaper Vzglyad as evidence of a Russian conspiracy. Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse flipped to the much-referenced Robert Mueller report to read the special counsel’s finding that “one day earlier the publication’s founder and former Russian parliamentarian Konstantin Rykov had registered two Russian websites, Trump2016.ru and DonaldTrump2016.ru.”
But Neguse’s attempt to implicate the Trump campaign in Russia’s online efforts to interfere in the election failed badly. “I don’t recall receiving the interview request,” Hicks noted, “I received hundreds of interview requests, sometimes daily.” Because Trump had no intention of participating in the interview, Hicks explained, she was not concerned about the identity of the outlet, and hadn’t even realized until after the fact that the email had come from a Russian.
Concerning the WikiLeaks hacks, Hicks made clear that the only discussion the campaign had was “speculation about if there would be more emails or information released, but that was prompted by things in the media,” and it wasn’t with certainty that more leaks would happen, but “with speculation and skepticism.”
“No,” Hicks stressed, Trump did not talk about WikiLeaks or the hack, nor did anybody else in the campaign, other than what was discussed in the public domain. Hicks also testified that during the campaign she had heard nothing about Roger Stone and his supposed relationship with WikiLeaks or its founder Julian Assange, or about WikiLeaks’ “divulgence of information about the emails of Hillary Clinton and Mr. Podesta,” beyond media coverage.
In short, Hicks stated that during the campaign, Trump never indicated that he knew ahead of time that WikiLeaks was responsible for the Democratic National Committee hacks or that he had knowledge that additional information would be released. Hicks also confirmed that before the election she had not been told that anyone at the Trump campaign had been offered information about Hillary Clinton.
The Trump Tower meeting was another focus of committee questions: Hicks told the committee that she did not know about the Trump Tower meeting or Donald Trump Jr.’s emails about that meeting until after Trump was elected president. She had also never heard “any discussion from any Trump Organization employee or Mr. Trump about an ongoing effort to pursue a potential Trump Tower Moscow at that time,” another thread weaved into the Russia collusion hoax.
Hick’s responses during last week’s hearing also provided fresh insight into Trump’s behind-the-scenes response to news of Russian interference. Hicks noted that the campaign only “became aware that the Russian government was attempting to interfere in the 2016 elections” when the story hit the press. The president’s former confidant added that any conversations she was privy to during the campaign concerning Russia interference in the election mirrored what Trump said publicly.
Then, when asked what specifically Trump said during the campaign about public reports that his team was coordinating with Russia, Hicks relayed that Trump called it “nonsense.” Trump believed that the Russia collusion conspiracy “was something that the Clinton campaign had made up to deflect from the information that they viewed as harmful to their candidate, to their campaign,” Hicks explained.
Hicks also testified that she agreed with his assessment and that the “unsubstantiated claims that [the Trump campaign] were coordinating with Russia was an attempt to distract and deflect.” The former communications director added that the Trump campaign obviously knew there was no collusion, but admitted that had she been working instead for the Clinton campaign, she “probably would have taken a similar strategy.” Hicks further noted that, whether the Russia collusion hoax was being peddled by the “Clinton campaign or speculated about in the media,” her discussions with candidate Trump focused on how to respond to the false claims.
Hicks also shared details of her conversation with Trump following his late-July 2016 off-the-cuff remark: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Hicks explained that she informed Trump that “some in the media had taken the expression quite literally, and that they were concerned he was encouraging foreign governments to, you know, locate those emails, and that that was obviously something that the media felt was extremely inappropriate and demanded a response from Mr. Trump and the campaign as to what exactly he meant by that.”
Hicks stated that, “both from Trump’s remark and her discussion with him after,” she understood the comment as a joke. When pushed about what Trump had said, Hicks conveyed that he noted “it was intended as a light-hearted comment.”
In practice, however, Trump took concerns about Russia’s meddling seriously, Hicks explained. For instance, according to Hicks, after the media began questioning Trump’s campaign chair, Paul Manafort, Trump, not realizing Manafort’s close relationship with Richard Gates, asked Gates to keep an eye on Manafort.
Trump questioned some of Manafort’s “past work with other foreign governments, foreign campaigns,” and stressed that “none of that would be appropriate to be ongoing during his service with the Trump campaign,” Hicks elaborated. He also asked Gates to let him know “if anything led him to believe that was ongoing.”
When, following Trump’s election, then-President Barack Obama raised questions about Michael Flynn to Trump, Hicks explained that warning tainted Trump’s view of Flynn going forward. Trump “was a bit bewildered that, you know, of all the things that the two of them could have been discussing,” it was Flynn that came up. (This detail also raises the question of Obama’s motivation and his efforts to sour the president-elect’s relationship with Flynn.)
Hicks’ testimony also negated several other Democratic and media talking points on Russia interference and collusion. While Democrats attempted to portray Trump as unperturbed by Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, Hicks countered, “I think he was concerned, but I think he was simultaneously concerned that folks with a political agenda were going to weaponize that assessment to try to undermine the legitimacy of this election.”
She similarly exposed how the media misrepresented information to further the Trump-Russia collusion narrative, when Rep. Ted Lieu attempted to do the same during the hearing.
“In 2008, Donald Trump, Jr., was quoted as saying ‘In terms of high-end product influx into the U.S., Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia,’” Lieu quoted to Hicks. Hicks acknowledged that she had spoken with Trump Jr., about this statement, but only to ensure “the media wasn’t misrepresenting the remark or presenting it in any misleading way.”
“And how was the media mischaracterizing Donald Trump, Jr.’s remarks?” Lieu quizzed. The media “made it seem like there was Russian money coming into the Trump Organization in a way that was inappropriate or somehow sinister,” when Trump Jr., was merely “describing the kinds of clientele that were purchasing luxury apartments, both in New York City, Chicago, and in South Florida.”
“They’re a luxury, globally recognized real estate company,” Hick explained, so “it would be odd if [the Trump Organization] weren’t selling to people just because they’re affiliated with Russia.”
By the end of her nearly eight hours of testimony last week, Hicks obliterated many of the Russia-collusion talking points pushed by Democrats and the media for the last three years, even more expertly than Mueller did in his special counsel report. As one Democrat noted during the hearing, Hicks was “with [Trump] every day,” during both the primary and general election. She would have known had the campaign colluded with Russia.
Yet her testimony made clear there was no Russia strategy, significant contact, collaboration, or collusion, which is why when Hicks was asked whether she thought the president “might be angry about [her] testifying before Congress today,” her ready reply punctuated her significant—but unreported—testimony: “I think the president knows that I would tell the truth, and the truth is there was no collusion. And I’m happy to say that as many times as is necessary today.”
Pennsylvania's Guy Reschenthaler says email from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette confirms 'blatant bias'
Republican congressman Guy Reschenthaler says he was inadvertently given a window into the “blatant bias” in the newsroom at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette through an email sent to his staff by one of the paper’s editors.
A staffer for Reschenthaler, a first-term congressman who represents the Pittsburgh area, received the email from news desk editor Steven Sybert in reply to a press release praising the Trump administration’s Affordable Clean Energy rule. Sybert, likely not intentionally, responded to the staffer in all capital letters, writing: “VOTE HIM OUT IN 2 YEARS!”
It’s unclear whether Sybert was referring to Trump or Reschenthaler, but the congressman says the email, shared by his office with the Washington Free Beacon, helped confirm his suspicions of bias.
“Such blatant bias in the newsroom of a major regional newspaper is extremely disappointing, but not at all surprising,” Reschenthaler said.
“This email gives the public an unintended window into the biases that influence much of the news reporting in the mainstream media,” he said. “What we have suspected all along, this email has confirmed in their own words.”
Screenshot of email sent by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editor
Reschenthaler also said the “incident demonstrates just how out of touch reporters and editors have become with the people and the regions they are covering.”
“The mainstream media need to come down from their ivory tower, talk to real people, review their past reporting, and simply admit they are no longer a neutral arbiter of the facts,” Reschenthaler said.
Sybert did not respond to an inquiry into whether the email was sent to Reschenthaler’s office by mistake and, if so, whether the intended recipient was within the Post-Gazette.
Reschenthaler was easily elected in 2018, defeating his Democratic opponent in the newly drawn 14th Congressional District by more than 15 percentage points. He previously represented the area in the state legislature.
Reschenthaler praised Trump in the press release for “putting a stop to the Obama-era war on coal.”
“I am grateful to President Trump for his continued commitment to Pennsylvania coal jobs and the communities they support,” he said in the statement.
By Matthew Continetti • Washington Free Beacon
I used to laugh every time I heard someone like Elon Musk say that we are living in a Matrix-like simulation. These days, not so much.
Don’t call the funny farm just yet. On the major question of the nature of sense experience, I remain with Aristotle and against Bishop Berkeley. Matter is real. But there is also the question of how we perceive “the news”; how established media institutions present and frame information; how we are supposed to respond to the “takes” purportedly expert and knowledgeable voices serve up to us by the second on social media. And here, I’m skeptical.
It’s hard not to be. Think of the headlines we’ve encountered since the beginning of this year. We were told the Covington Catholic boys were smug racist Trump supporters on the basis of a snippet of video. A young man, a private citizen, whose only offense was traveling to Washington, D.C., to march for life, was transformed at light speed into a symbol of hate and systemic oppression. However, just as Nick Sandmann’s reputation as a villain was about to set in stone, additional videos revealed that the students’ encounter with a far-left American Indian activist and the Black Hebrew Israelites was far more complicated than initially reported. The Covington Catholic boys had been smeared. People who cast themselves as agents of professional knowledge, expertise, and moral authority had circulated and amplified a lie in the service of a political agenda. Not for the first nor last time.
We were told Jussie Smollett, a rising gay African-American actor and singer, had been Continue reading