03/23/17

Vetting Trump’s Foreign Policy Team

By: Roger Aronoff | Accuracy in Media

President Donald Trump fared much better in the House Intelligence Committee hearing on Monday than the left-wing, establishment media would have you believe. The American Spectator’s George Neumayr captured the essence of the findings: “…the core claim underlying Trump’s tweets is true: people acting on the authority of Obama opened an investigation into Trump’s campaign, then criminally leaked mention of it to friendly news outlets in an attempt to derail his election. When is Obama going to apologize for that?”

But for weeks now, CNN and MSNBC have been calling Trump a liar, saying that there is no evidence to support his tweets, and demanding that he back down and apologize for his accusations against former President Barack Obama.

But Trump is also taking hits from people who have generally supported him, but who feel he is failing to live up to his promises. One such example is a recent column by Ann Coulter, who criticizes Trump for supporting the Ryan-Trump American Health Care Act as the replacement for Obamacare, and for his slow start on getting control of the illegal alien issue and border security. Coulter says that “This is starting to look like every other Republican administration.” Yes, his administration is just two months old, so maybe it’s too early to judge on those issues.

Another issue that is raising concern is how Trump is doing on foreign policy and national security matters. Does President Trump need additional assistance in vetting his nominees to administration posts? An examination of his national security appointees raises the question of whether his team knows what questions to ask, and if they are properly vetting his staff.

The political activities of former Defense Intelligence Agency director Michael Flynn, who also served a short time as national security advisor to Trump, demonstrate the administration’s inadequate scrutiny. Flynn resigned for “withholding the full story of his communications with Russia’s ambassador,” reported The New York Times. But that wasn’t the end of the conflicts of interest. After leaving office, Flynn retroactively registered as a foreign agent working on behalf of Turkish interests; he had earned $530,000 for that work. If Trump’s team wasn’t aware of this, they should have been, just by paying attention to the public record, including a column that came out on Election Day that read like a paid advertorial for the Turkish government.

Although Flynn’s contract ended in November, the Times reported that a transition lawyer and a White House lawyer told Flynn that it was “up to him” whether to disclose his activities.

Trump’s pick for Defense Secretary, retired Marine General Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis, initially selected as undersecretary of defense for policy Anne Patterson, who inspired Egyptian protests due to her support for the Muslim Brotherhood. “She [Patterson] came under fire for cultivating too close a relationship with the regime and for discouraging protests against it—and White House officials are voicing concerns about those decisions now,” reports Politico. Criticism of Patterson, and an uncertain confirmation process, led Mattis to withdraw this nomination.

Personnel is policy, and Trump ultimately holds the reins of power in the administration—if he does not abdicate that responsibility. Calling on 46 U.S. attorneys to tender their resignation was a good first step, and in keeping with past presidents.

But President Trump has signaled his unwillingness to fill many of his political appointee posts. “A lot of those jobs, I don’t want to appoint, because they’re unnecessary to have,” Trump told Fox News. He continued, “You know, we have so many people in government, even me. I look at some of the jobs and it’s people over people over people. I say, ‘What do all these people do?’ You don’t need all those jobs.”

That’s clearly true, but unfortunately, when key personnel spots go unfulfilled, the administration is ceding power to the bureaucracy, which may, in turn, empower those still loyal to Obama and intent on crippling the Trump presidency. “If you don’t have a philosophy, if you don’t have a view, the risk is extraordinarily high that the bureaucracies at the State Department, the CIA, the Defense Department will co-opt the new secretary, the new head of the agency,” argued former UN ambassador John Bolton, speaking as a guest on the Breitbart News Daily show. “The bureaucracy’s policies will become their policy, and then if the White House doesn’t resist, they’ll become the administration’s policy.”

Lee Smith of The Weekly Standard wrote a much talked about piece last week for The Tablet titled, “Will Obama’s Foreign Policy Wizards Save Trump?” “What’s really bizarre is that the Trump team keeps blaming damaging leaks to the press on Obama holdovers—when the Trump team is hiring Obama holdovers,” writes Smith. “They may have caught Anne Patterson before she got past the velvet rope, but Obama people staff key positions elsewhere, on Israel, Iran, ISIS, and Syria issues. Which makes sense, since the policies they are tasked with carrying out are so far exactly the same as they were under Obama.”

By leaving in place Obama political appointees President Trump risks that these people will work to undermine his stated agenda. For example, Michael Ratney, former U.S. consul to Jerusalem, who Conservative Review describes as “one of John Kerry’s closest confidantes,” now heads “the Israeli-Palestinian portfolio at the State Department.”

Smith describes another Obama holdover, “Yael Lempert, a National Security Council staffer from the Obama administration that the Trump team decided to keep on.” Smith quotes a former Clinton official who said that Lempert “is considered one of the harshest critics of Israel on the foreign policy far left. From her position on the Obama NSC, she helped manufacture crisis after crisis in a relentless effort to portray Israel negatively and diminish the breadth and depth of our alliance. Most Democrats in town know better than to let her manage Middle East affairs. It looks like the Trump administration has no idea who she is or how hostile she is to the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Are these rookie mistakes or does Trump not care if his campaign promises regarding Israel, combating the Islamic jihadis, and ripping up the Iran deal go unfulfilled? On the plus side, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is doing great things to re-define America’s role in that institution, after eight years of Susan Rice and Samantha Power occupying America’s seat at the UN.

Trump’s new national security advisor, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, has stated that he believes that radical Islamic terrorism is a perversion of Islam—not an outgrowth of the principles contained within that religion. The New York Times reports that McMaster “told his staff” that “‘radical Islamic terrorism’ was not helpful because terrorists are ‘un-Islamic.’” That newspaper heralded this as McMaster rejecting “a key ideological view of other senior Trump advisers and signaling a potentially more moderate approach to the Islamic world.” Trump himself doesn’t hesitate to use the term “radical Islamic terrorism.” Shouldn’t they be on the same page?

What this demonstrates, in fact, is McMaster’s blindness toward the roots of Islamic terror. As long as he remains the national security advisor to Trump, his rhetoric should be considered sanctioned by the administration.

Even more disturbing are rumblings that Trump may renege on his promise to “rip [the Iran deal] up.” In an opinion column for CNN, “Why Trump won’t tear up Iran nuclear deal,” David Andelman argues that “you don’t hear that ‘rip it up’ language any longer. And you won’t.” Reuters reports that the Trump administration is using the same messaging to the Board of Governors as used under Obama: “Iran must strictly and fully adhere to all commitments and technical measures for their duration.” Lee Smith pointed out that “former National Iranian American Council (NIAC) staffer Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, Obama’s NSC director for Iran, is now on the policy-planning staff in Trump’s State Department.” NIAC is effectively the Iran Lobby in the U.S.

If Iran is supposed to honor their commitments in the unsigned deal, will Trump also uphold the misguided U.S. political commitments as well? Trump’s pick to head the CIA, former Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS), has called this agreement “nothing more than a press release and just about as enforceable.”

It is the media’s responsibility to hold Trump accountable for keeping his promises to the American people, instead of working to undermine his policies. But Trump needs to do a better job of filling key positions and vetting the people who are making and carrying out his policies. Otherwise, his administration could turn out to be a disaster.


Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi. He can be contacted at [email protected]. View the complete archives from Roger Aronoff.

03/17/17

Self-Appointed Arbiters of Fair and Balanced News

By: Roger Aronoff | Accuracy in Media

A recent Washington Post article by media reporter Paul Farhi raises the alarm that the White House Correspondents’ Association has not once, but twice, assigned a Daily Signal employee, Fred Lucas, to be the pool reporter, i.e., the reporter who serves as the “proxy for the rest of the press corps.” The Daily Signal is the “news and commentary site” founded by the conservative Heritage Foundation, he reports, labeling it an “advocacy organization.”

“In other words,” writes Farhi, “the news that reporters received about the vice president came from a journalist employed by an organization with a vested interest in the direction of White House and federal policy.”

The idea that the so-called mainstream press somehow stands above its own vested interests, or, put another way, against their own agenda, is laughable at best. The distinction between biased advocacy news organizations and the supposedly independent press has not only blurred—it has become obsolete. Organizations such as The Daily Signal and Breitbart are just as capable of speaking truth to power as media outlets such as The New York Times, the Post, ABC, CBS, NBC and MSNBC.

In fact, it is these supposedly impartial news organizations that have continued to lobby for the leftist agenda. When President Obama was in office, they not only worked to legitimize and enhance the Obama legacy, ignoring scandal after scandal, but they even tried to influence the Supreme Court to uphold Obama’s signature legislation, Obamacare.

The deceit of the media didn’t stop there. Under Obama, the media consistently portrayed the economy as recovering even though the labor participation rate remained at abominable levels. A vast number of the jobs supposedly created in the Obama years were part-time, many lasting for just weeks at a time. The unemployment rate dropped to under five percent only because millions of people gave up looking for work, not because the economy was booming. Moreover, Obamacare prevented millions of people from getting a full-time job based on the disincentives built into Obama’s signature program.

A case in point is the coverage of the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) report scoring the proposed Republican legislation intended to replace Obamacare. The headlines and stories focused on the “24 million” people who would “lose health insurance coverage by 2026.” But as The Weekly Standard pointed out, the CBO report doesn’t actually say that. What it does say is that “the total number of individuals insured under the Republican plan would eventually be 24 million fewer than the total insured under Obamacare” by that time.

Ironically, it was just a year ago that The Weekly Standard reported that the CBO had been off on another one of its projections on Obamacare by, you guessed it, 24 million people. That error was the average number of people who would have private insurance during any month in 2016, and it took just three years from the 2013 projection to show that the CBO overestimated it by 24 million. In addition, more than six years after the passage of Obamacare, there were still 29 million people who had no health insurance at all, even though the law required it. The price for not buying insurance is a fine, later re-defined as a tax, in order to have it ruled constitutional.

The point is that the so-called mainstream media will grab onto whatever they can to put Republicans and conservatives on the defensive, so they are forced to explain how they can be so cruel as to cause 24 million people to “lose their insurance.” They rarely offer anything close to the proper context to help people understand what the Republicans are trying to do. How many tens of millions of people have seen their premiums and deductibles skyrocket, or lost their ability to keep their doctors or their policies, or have been unable to find a full-time job because of the employer mandates imposed by Obamacare? Do those numbers matter? Apparently not.

The conservative media also have an agenda, but at least they are generally transparent about it. The leftist, mainstream media pretend to be neutral, biased only for a good story. But they rarely acknowledge that they deceitfully work to cover for the policies and scandals of the Democrats, while working to destroy conservatives and their policies, treating them as cruel and venal.

And in the heat of the 2016 campaign season, WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 revealed the Democrat Media Complex, where reporters would have cocktails with the Hillary Clinton campaign. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos previously worked for the Clintons and later gave donations to their foundation without properly disclosing his actions. This is par for the course with the complicit media. The idea that “independent” news organizations somehow lack conflicts of interest is absurd.

Farhi expresses concern that “The Daily Signal’s inclusion in the pool could set a precedent for other advocacy organizations…” He even goes so far as to suggest that the “slope could become even more slippery if extremist or racist organizations sought similar status.”

It seems preposterous to assume that allowing a foundation’s publication to communicate with other reporters will somehow result in rampant racism and extremism. This is the same type of inflammatory rhetoric used against President Donald Trump and his senior advisor Steve Bannon.

Yet, even Farhi tacitly admits that there is no real need for concern when he writes that “there were no objections to Lucas’s pool reports on [Vice President Mike] Pence” and that Lucas’ reporting merely crossed a “symbolic” line.

The Post isn’t the only paper spewing vitriol about conservative’s newfound influence over the White House press corps. The New Yorker’s Andrew Marantz claims that the press sees the rising influence of conservative reporters, or “far-right sites,” as an “existential threat.”

Marantz writes, “Outlets that have become newly visible under the Trump Administration include One America News Network, which was founded in 2013 as a right-wing alternative to Fox News; LifeZette, a Web tabloid founded in 2015 by Laura Ingraham, the radio commentator and Trump ally; Townhall, a conservative blog started by the Heritage Foundation; the Daily Caller, co-founded in 2010 by Tucker Carlson, now a Fox News host; and the enormously popular and openly pro-Trump Breitbart News Network.” He goes on to quote an anonymous “radio correspondent” as saying, “At best, they don’t know what they’re doing…At worst, you wonder whether someone is actually feeding them softball questions…You can’t just have a parade of people asking, ‘When and how do you plan to make America great again?’”

Under Obama, the press consistently used administration statistics and reports in its friendly, fawning reporting designed to further the Obama legacy. Now that President Trump has taken office, the press has reinvested in oppositional journalism, fact-checking minutiae and claiming that Trump has colluded with Russia. This is a blatant double standard.


Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi. He can be contacted at [email protected]. View the complete archives from Roger Aronoff.

03/10/17

Obama’s Role in Undermining Trump’s Presidency

By: Roger Aronoff | Accuracy in Media

The media continue to publish and broadcast stories about how Donald Trump won the election with the help of the Russians, calling this “collusion,” though no such evidence has surfaced. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has stated that he had “no knowledge of evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.” Assertions of Russian influence have been latched onto by Democrats and a liberal media with the sole intention of delegitimizing the Trump administration.

After all, the media, and Democrats, clearly would prefer to return to the age of Obama. While hearings are planned for March 20 by the House Intelligence Committee to look into the issue of Russian influence in the presidential election, as well as President Trump’s claim that Obama ordered wiretaps and surveillance on parts of his campaign—charges that have repeatedly been called “baseless”—there are other tracks that I have suggested that investigators and journalists should probe.

If Congress is looking for something to investigate, it should perhaps start first with the shadow apparatus that Obama has erected for himself after leaving office. Our former president has set up shop just a couple of miles from the White House, and brought along his top adviser, Valerie Jarrett, who has reportedly moved into the Obama’s new home. Obama is continuing to influence Washington, D.C. and nationwide politics through the mobilization of tens of thousands of volunteers under the umbrella of Organizing for Action (OFA). Oddly, on Twitter, Obama continues to identify himself as president, rather than as a former president.

“Unbeknownst to most Americans, Barack Obama is the first ex-president in 228 years of U.S. history to structure and lead a political organization, a shadow government, for the explicit purpose of sabotaging his successor—duly elected President Donald Trump,” writes Scott S. Powell for American Thinker. Obama’s group, OFA, has been organizing with the Soros-linked Indivisible.

Powell writes that “The modus operandi of OFA comes right out of Obama’s support and sympathy for Marxism and his background as a left-wing community organizer. It’s a combination of agitation and propaganda—much like old-style Soviet agitprop, and Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.”

Indivisible’s tactics are designed to thwart the democratic process. One Louisiana chapter, Indivisible Acadiana, run by James Proctor, attempted to override the input of district residents at a local town hall organized by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA). According to Breitbart, local radio station KPEL captured audio of Proctor saying, “Game plan number one is to fill as many seats as we can, right? If it’s all of us in there and the poor people of Breaux Bridge are sitting behind us, well then tough luck for them.”

“If we can arrange it so he doesn’t hear one sympathetic question—great. That only magnifies our impact,” he said. In other words, the protestors want to drown out local residents’ voices in favor of pushing a radical agenda.

“The [Indivisible] manual…advises protesters to go into halls quietly so as not to raise alarms, and ‘grab seats at the front of the room but do not all sit together,’” writes Paul Sperry for the New York Post. “Rather, spread out in pairs to make it seem like the whole room opposes the Republican host’s positions. ‘This will help reinforce the impression of broad consensus.’ It also urges them to ask ‘hostile’ questions—while keeping ‘a firm hold on the mic’—and loudly boo the GOP politician if he isn’t ‘giving you real answers.’”

OFA endorses similar tactics. According to Powell, “A week before the town halls started, OFA released its ‘Congressional Recess Toolkit;’ a training manual for activists and demonstrators, invoking them to go in groups and get to meeting halls early and ‘spread out…throughout the front half of the room, [which] will make the perception of broad consensus a reality for your member of congress.’”

“So perception drives fake news which is intended to drive reality,” writes Powell. This type of astroturf feeds the liberal media narrative that Trump has no mandate and is opposed by the public.

Although not as serious, these tactics are reminiscent of the “bird-dogging” tactics which Project Veritas connected to Democratic operative Robert Creamer. “Creamer was exposed by James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas as the key figure in a complex scheme involving a tactic called ‘bird-dogging,’ which involved planting trained activists at Donald Trump’s campaign rallies and other Republican events,” reports Breitbart. “The activists were trained to provoke members of the audience into reacting violently, and to provide footage to the media.”

Creamer is a convicted felon, and husband of Democratic congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL). He visited the Obama White House 340 times, including 45 visits with Obama himself. By comparison, and an indication of priorities, Obama’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) director of two years, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (Ret.), never met once with Obama.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) has argued that some of the protesters are being paid to disrupt town halls. “Unfortunately, at this time there are groups from the more violent strains of the leftist ideology, some even being paid, who are preying on public town halls to wreak havoc and threaten public safety,” he said. Politifact ranked this assertion as “false,” but that misses the big picture. Similarly, Politico printed the story, “No evidence town hall protestors are being paid.”

The big picture is that these groups are organizing together, both paid and unpaid.

Politico’s and Politifact’s assertions may not be the whole story. According to a 20-minute documentary by Trevor Loudon, “America Under Siege: Civil War 2017,” Scott Foval, National Field Director for Americans United for Change, said, “I’m saying we have mentally ill people, that we pay to do s–t, make no mistake.”

Similarly, Foval said, “The campaign pays DNC, DNC pays Democracy Partners, Democracy Partners pays the Foval Group, the Foval Group goes and executes the s–t on the ground.”

It is unrealistic, then, to assume that all of the organized protestors are unpaid.

Matthew Vadum, senior vice president at the Capital Research Center, has noted that “At least three of the group’s [Indivisible’s] five principals…have ties to organizations funded by George Soros.”

“He’s [Obama is] working behind the scenes to set up what will effectively be a shadow government to not only protect his threatened legacy, but to sabotage the incoming administration and its popular ‘America First’ agenda,” asserts Sperry of the New York Post.

As the media continue to obsess about the Russians, and what influence they may have exerted during the presidential campaign, few reporters are taking a hard look at Obama’s continued political influence over organized protests meant to undermine Trump. As Loudon explores in his documentary, the protests are being organized by members of the Workers World Party and Freedom Road Socialist Organization. If the press wants to investigate subversion, it should refocus its sights on these organizations, as well as Organizing for Action, not bogus claims about Russian influence.


Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi. He can be contacted at [email protected]. View the complete archives from Roger Aronoff.

03/8/17

Investigate This: Russia, Obama, Trump and Hillary

By: Roger Aronoff | Accuracy in Media

Once again the dominant media narrative has shifted overnight. Last week the media exploded with stories about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ admitted contacts with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., the latest attempt to somehow derail and delegitimize the Donald Trump presidency. It is part of the narrative concocted by the Democrats and their allies in the media to claim that Trump won the election thanks in part to help from Russia. Collusion has been the word of choice, though no evidence has surfaced to support it.

The narrative changed over the weekend when President Trump sent out a series of tweets asserting that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped him “during the very sacred election process,” and that it was “Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

It turns out that the Obama administration, according to reports, did go to the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court to gain permission to spy, or electronically eavesdrop, or wiretap some members or elements of Trump’s campaign. They apparently were turned down back in June, and approved in October, after taking Trump’s name out of the request.

Former federal prosecutor and journalist for National Review Andy McCarthy examined how disingenuous the denial coming from an Obama spokesman was. In essence, it comes down to, “It depends on what the definition of ‘surveillance’ is,” and who is a “White House official.”

The media called foul after Trump’s tweets, and the word of the day became “baseless,” as in baseless accusations by Trump. They said he had “no evidence” to support these very serious charges against his predecessor, Barack Obama.

But the allegations of Russian influence were largely orchestrated by the Obama administration, and were ramped up when Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in November. That is when he decided to impose new sanctions and expel Russian diplomats, which never would have happened if Hillary had won.

Now, using his group Organizing for Action (OFA), Obama intends to continue influencing the political scene with a shadow government apparatus. OFA has been coordinating with groups such as the Soros-linked Indivisible. “Obama is intimately involved in OFA operations and even tweets from the group’s account,” writes Paul Sperry for the New York Post. “Run by old Obama aides and campaign workers, federal tax records show ‘nonpartisan’ OFA marshals 32,525 volunteers nationwide.” It has also raised over $40 million, according to Sperry.

The New York Times recently reported that Obama’s intelligence agencies kept documents related to the alleged Russian influence operation “at a relatively low classification level to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government—and, in some cases, among European allies.’”

In other words, President Obama wanted information potentially damaging to his successor kept at the forefront of the national discussion whenever possible. It could be even better for Obama if there were Congressional investigations; that might distract Trump from rolling back Obamacare or the unsigned Iran deal. The Times also reports that the administration “sent a cache of documents marked ‘secret’ to Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland days before the Jan. 20 inauguration.” These documents were shared with Congressional Republicans, as well.

It should come as no surprise that the Obama administration would be aggressive, since the Obama administration waged a war on leakers, prosecuting more cases than all previous administrations combined, while harassing numerous media figures.

But while Trump appears to have stumbled by not producing evidence to support his claim, in fact his move may result in changing the narrative once again. Now the investigation could include Obama’s and Hillary’s ties to the Russians. After all, the same Russian ambassador who met twice with then-Senator Sessions visited the Obama White House at least 22 times during Obama’s presidency, including four times in 2016. Were any of those meetings about presidential politics? Hillary’s ties to the Russians have been well documented, including the Uranium One deal and Skolkovo, the Silicon Valley of Russia that provided them with dual-use technology and handed millions of dollars to Hillary’s campaign manager, John Podesta.

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) argued on Fox News Sunday this past weekend that based on statements from Trump’s Cabinet appointments, they will be much tougher on the Russians than the Obama administration, including Hillary. Cotton said:

“If you want to know what a pro-Russia policy would look like, Chris, here’s some elements of it. You’d slash defense spending. You’d slow down our nuclear modernization. You’d roll back missile defense systems. You would enter a one-sided nuclear arms control agreement. And you’d try to do everything you could to stop oil and gas production. That was Barack Obama’s policy for eight years. That’s not Donald Trump’s policy.”

He might have added that you empower Russia’s ally Iran with more than $100 billion dollars, and a pathway to becoming a nation with nuclear weapons, to go along with its current status as the number one state sponsor of terrorism.

We at Accuracy in Media find the allegations of Russian interference in the election to be flimsy at best.

And as Andy McCarthy points out in another piece, the new Obama/media narrative that his administration was never surveilling the Trump campaign for ties to Russia, cuts against what they have been arguing for months now:

“Now that we’re supposed to believe there was no real investigation of Trump and his campaign, what else can we conclude but that there was no real evidence of collusion between the campaign and Russia…which makes sense, since Russia did not actually hack the election, so the purported objective of the collusion never existed.”

Monday night’s Nightline on ABC picked up on this theme, with reporter David Wright stating that “It’s important to note that there’s an equally outlandish narrative on the other side [besides Trump’s claim about Obama]. The other narrative, also in the mix, is that the Trump campaign may have colluded with the Russian government to meddle in the 2016 election. Again, allegedly. No proof of that either. No smoking gun of collusion.”

Brian Ross then added that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said he had seen no evidence of collusion when he left the government in January. With the Republicans controlling every committee in Congress, as well as the executive branch, they should be able to shape the scope of the investigations. We hope they are just and honest, as well as tough and fearless.


Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi. He can be contacted at [email protected]. View the complete archives from Roger Aronoff.

03/3/17

AIM Editor on Daily Ledger About Fake News

By: Roger Aronoff | Accuracy in Media

Accuracy in Media Editor Roger Aronoff recently appeared on The Daily Ledger on the One America News Network to discuss how the mainstream media are attempting to delegitimize Donald Trump’s presidency.

The media, along with Democrats, have concocted the story that Russians influenced the election. “So then it became the Russians, the Russians did it,” said Aronoff. “Does anybody believe that if Hillary had won the election, Obama would have expelled 35 Russian diplomats and put these sanctions on? No, of course he wouldn’t have.”

Trump continues to criticize the media for their bias. He recently referred to a Thomas Jefferson quote that “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper.” Along with Trump’s tweets, this has caused the establishment media to claim that Trump is attacking the institution of the free press.

“He is not attacking the institution of the free press, which we all cherish,” said Aronoff. “What he’s pointing out is what we at Accuracy in Media have been pointing out since the 1960s, and that is the liberal, left-wing bias in the so-called mainstream media.”

The Washington Post, in particular, has continued its relentless attacks on President Trump. “You can see it virtually every day reading The Washington Post,” said Aronoff. “It’s quite amazing. I’m still looking for the first story that could be labeled pro-Trump. I’m not even looking for pro-Trump, but just something neutral.”

However, Trump is in part to blame for his use of “imprecise language,” said Aronoff. “So, he [Trump] said ‘last night in Sweden,’ when …what happened last night was that he had seen a story on Tucker Carlson’s show on another network, on Fox News. And what he was referring to was the fact that there is a large crime problem, these no-go zones in Sweden and other places now where police don’t want to go. Many policemen are retiring early because they don’t want to deal with what they’re forced to deal with now. And that’s what Trump was talking about.”

Yet the media harped on the issue for days and called the President a liar.

“The whole idea is to delegitimize Trump and his election, and to make it seem like the only way he won is because his buddies, the Russians, gave it to him,” said Aronoff. “Preposterous.”

You can watch the entire interview here:

02/28/17

Andrew Breitbart, Controversial as Ever Five Years After his Death

By: Roger Aronoff | Accuracy in Media

Wednesday, March 1 marks the fifth anniversary of the death of conservative icon Andrew Breitbart. We think it is important to remember his legacy, as his name is heard often these days, and his influence looms large. For those not familiar with him, Andrew was a larger than life character who figured in the establishment of several prominent media institutions that play significant roles in today’s journalistic landscape. He was first associated with the Drudge Report, famous for scooping Newsweek on its Monica Lewinsky story; The Huffington Post, the very popular leftwing blog; and Breitbart News, from which came the left’s chief bogeyman, and Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon.

Five years after his untimely death, we at Accuracy in Media want to remind people who Breitbart was, and why he is so influential in an age of so much fake news by the mainstream media. AIM presented Andrew with the Reed Irvine Award for Excellence in Journalism in 2010, and he gave an historic speech before a packed room that called out the media for its dishonesty.

“I want to convert these people, not to conservatism,” Breitbart said of the media during his acceptance speech. “[Reporters will] eventually get there if they get to see the facts. I want to hold these people accountable to the standards that they offer at the J school, that is objective journalism.”

Breitbart was greatly concerned about bias in the media. During a 2011 interview on Accuracy in Media’s Take AIM, he spoke extensively about the “Democrat Media Complex.” The extent of cooperation between the media and Democrats was more recently revealed through leaked emails during the 2016 presidential election.

“I’m filling in a void where the mainstream media, the Democrat Media Complex, will not report stories that hurt the Democrat Media Complex,” said Breitbart on Take AIM. “So these are boom times for my site, and the people who are writing for me are passionate citizen-journalists who now realize if Katie Couric’s not going to tell the truth, then we as average citizens—lawyers, doctors and actors, housewives, retired people—can report. They can expose, they can videotape—and it’s the most exciting time in the history of media.”

Matt Gertz of Media Matters, a fringe, left-wing “watchdog” that is really just an attack dog for the Clintons, recently penned a hit job reprinted by Salon about what he sees as the dangers of Breitbart’s legacy.

“Breitbart.com spent years shilling for Trump’s candidacy,” writes Gertz. In particular, in the two years since 2015, “the Republican establishment has been routed by the Breitbart-led forces who pushed Trump to the front of the Republican presidential primary field and supported him at every step of the way,” writes Gertz. “Bannon moved seamlessly from head of Breitbart, to head of Trump’s campaign, to Trump’s top White House aide.”

It is to Breitbart’s credit that left-wing columnists still write reactionary pieces about his movement five years after his death. Media Matters and its founder, David Brock, have come to be viewed as quite an albatross for the Democrats, many of whom would like to see him go away. According to an article last month in The Daily Beast, “Many in the party—Clinton loyalists, Obama veterans, and Bernie supporters alike—talk about the man [David Brock] not as a sought-after ally in the fight against Trumpism, but as a nuisance and a hanger-on, overseeing a colossal waste of cash. And former employees say that he has hurt the cause.”

Breitbart’s enduring legacy is not only the influence that his successors have had on President Trump, but also the influence he has had on the conservative movement as a whole. Breitbart News follows in its founder’s footsteps by offering an incisive alternative to the biased media. Breitbart’s views of the so-called mainstream media certainly belong in today’s discussion about fake news, journalistic bias, and the integrity of reporters. Contrary to Gertz’s negative insinuations, the media’s attempts to delegitimize Trump and his presidency through the use of trivial fact checks, or fake news, must be combatted by new media reporters from organizations such as Breitbart. These conservative writers have the power to push back against the media’s lies and fearmongering.

Andrew was a friend of Accuracy in Media. I conducted what may be the most comprehensive interview covering his background and views of the media. For example, Breitbart contended that “the reason why there are so many default cultural liberals out there is because so few conservatives are willing to go into the liberal world to espouse their point of view.”

“And if you go out there and you fight the fight, you tell the truth, oftentimes you can expose the interviewer—who’s never really been challenged—that he’s a fraud,” Breitbart continued.

“I’m appalled by the Democratic Party as relates to race,” he said during the interview. “For these people, with their track record of enslaving black people, telling them they only have one point of view in this country, while, at the same time, destroying their communities, it’s a crime against humanity—and I’m willing to fight. And if being called a racist for wanting to create a better society where black people have the freedom to think freely, if they want to call me a racist on national TV, I’m going to go there, and I’m going to fight back.”

Ironically, five years later Media Matters is accusing Breitbart reporters of becoming a platform for the alt-right, a code word used by the left to mean racism. Bannon has made clear that he has an entirely different definition for the term. He told The Wall Street Journal, “Our definition of the alt-right is younger people who are anti-globalists, very nationalist, terribly anti-establishment.”

Gertz also criticized Breitbart for his favorable view of Frank Gaffney, head of the Center for Security Policy, calling Gaffney a “paranoid conspiracy theorist.” Accuracy in Media, and the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi members, are quite aware of liberal columnists’ predilection for labeling conservative messages as conspiracy theories. As for Gaffney, Breitbart had it right, as we have demonstrated, and Media Matters is once again peddling fake news.

“An ascendant Breitbart.com and President Trump are truly Andrew Breitbart’s greatest legacy,” writes Gertz. Actually, Breitbart’s legacy is a burgeoning conservative movement ready to take on a mainstream media which has long since abandoned its objectivity and journalistic standards. And we are proud to stand with him, and to remember this great American.


Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi. He can be contacted at [email protected]. View the complete archives from Roger Aronoff.

02/24/17

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Receives Some Unwelcome Answers

By: Roger Aronoff | Accuracy in Media

It is becoming increasingly clear that the often oppositional mainstream media will only promote stories which contain an angle designed to make President Donald Trump look bad. That this is the opposite of how President Barack Obama was treated by the media only exposes reporters’ ongoing double standard.

One press narrative is that Trump intends to weaken NATO and will, therefore, place American security and interests—as well as those of our allies—in jeopardy by undermining our international alliances. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, in his February 20 show “Wolf,” repeatedly attempted to bait the secretary general of NATO into criticizing Trump for his promise to insist that NATO allies must pay their fair share of the “common defense.”

“You were with the vice president when he said that the U.S. commitment to NATO is firm,” said Blitzer, referring to Vice President Mike Pence’s speech in Munich last weekend. “Were you reassured by those words?” Refusing to follow Blitzer’s narrative, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that he was reassured.

“Absolutely, because it is a very consistent message,” Stoltenberg said.

In other words, the secretary general was saying that there is no contradiction between Trump’s campaign promises and his actions now. The Trump administration seeks to strengthen NATO, not undermine it.

Stoltenberg continued, “I have heard from President Trump in two phone calls, from the vice president today in Brussels, but also in Munich on Saturday and in meetings with Secretary Mattis, Secretary Kelly, and phone calls with Secretary Tillerson. And the message from all of them is that the United States is strongly committed to the trans-Atlantic alliance, to NATO, and will continue to support us not only in words but also in deeds. Because we see that the United States is now increasing their military presence in Europe in new forces and more equipment.”

Wedded to his media narrative, Blitzer then aired a segment featuring Trump saying, “The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defense. And if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves.”

“As a candidate for office, President Trump actually called attention repeatedly to the fact that for too long, many of our NATO allies have not been sharing the financial burden,” said White House press secretary Sean Spicer at a February 21 press briefing. “The President looks forward to working closely with NATO to advance our shared objectives. A strong NATO means a safer world.”

In other words, the Trump administration understands the value of NATO, but wants the countries involved to pay their fair share.

But journalists like Blitzer prefer to fearmonger about this administration, and air segments that emphasize the risks of Trump’s actions, rather than the potential rewards of holding other countries accountable. In a related story, The New York Times wrote that “It is a time of great anxiety in Europe, in no small part because of the rise of Mr. Trump, who has brushed aside long-held tenets of American foreign policy.”

It is ironic that the media continually air Trump’s past statements in order to pressure him to either break those promises or recommit to them. Yet Obama was allowed to break his Obamacare promises, most notably his lie that Americans could keep their doctor if they wanted to, and that their costs would decrease for an average family by $2,500 per year.

“But what happens—what happens if they don’t [increase expenditures]?” Blitzer asked Stoltenberg. “You heard the vice president, Mike Pence, say the patience of the American people will not endure forever. What happens, for example, if rich countries, like France, Germany, Italy, Canada, if those countries don’t step up and meet that two percent threshold?”

Stoltenberg replied that his focus “is on ‘what can we do to make sure that we succeed,’” not prepare for the worst. “And we are—it is quite encouraging to see that defense spending has started to increase,” he said. “The picture is still mixed but it’s much better than it was just a year ago.”

After Stoltenberg’s strong performance, Blitzer admitted that NATO countries committing less than two percent of their gross domestic product is “a problem.”

Blitzer appeared stunned and forlorn at these answers. They were clearly not the answers he was expecting to hear. What Blitzer didn’t mention—but Stoltenberg did—is that the 28 member states of NATO committed to spend two percent of their GDP on this alliance back in 2014. So Trump’s policy is to merely hold these countries to the promises that they have already made.

Stoltenberg told CNBC that there had been a four percent increase in European and Canadian spending in 2016. “Meeting the target will take longer for some countries than others, he admitted,” reports CNBC, “and said he was confident all allies will meet the benchmark within a decade, as promised.”

The Cato Institute’s Christopher Preble argues that Trump’s campaign statements may have rattled the NATO members and caused them to “hedge their bets.” In other words, Trump’s tough stance may actually motivate allies to allocate more of their defense budgets to funding NATO—an improvement that would ultimately enhance world security.

Blitzer’s interview with Secretary General Stoltenberg was just another attempt to elicit a soundbite which could be used to embarrass the administration. Members of the media, as they attempt to tarnish Trump’s reputation, fail to consider the ramifications of their bias, and how it might—just as much as Trump’s own potential missteps—harm America’s standing in the world.


Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi. He can be contacted at [email protected]. View the complete archives from Roger Aronoff.

02/23/17

Fact-Checking the Media’s New Passion for Fact Checking

By: Roger Aronoff | Accuracy in Media

While President Barack Obama was in office, the media’s official “fact-checkers” rarely checked Obama administration policies and narratives for truthfulness or accuracy. In fact, they often published stories based almost entirely on administration talking points or press releases, and disregarded obvious evidence that contradicted the administration’s narratives. But now that President Donald Trump has gained office, the media’s fact-checkers have whipped themselves into a frenzy, reporting on each and every minor misstep that our new President might make during his press conferences, rallies, or in his tweets.

For example, Trump recently tweeted that “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” The press was quick to point out that Trump had gone too far in his statement, even suggesting that he was inciting violence.

“And every time that Donald Trump uses this kind of language,” said Game Change co-author John Heilemann on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, “I always worry that it’s an incitement to elements of our country that might go ahead and do something when the President of the United States calls the press the enemy of the people, that they might take that seriously.”

In response to Heilemann’s comments, Joe Scarborough said that “this is very, very dangerous” because there are unbalanced people on the left and the right. In other words, Trump could be blamed for future violence.

But, as Accuracy in Media’s (AIM) chairman Don Irvine notes, Trump is not the first to say that the media are the enemy of the American people. Democratic pollster Pat Caddell made similar comments during our ObamaNation—A Day of Truth conference in 2012: “When they [the media] desert those ramparts and they go to serve—to decide that they will now become active participants—when they decide that their job is not simply to tell you who you may vote for, and who you may not, but, worse—and this is the danger of the last two weeks—what truth that you may know, as an American, and what truth you are not allowed to know, they have, then, made themselves a fundamental threat to the democracy, and, in my opinion, made themselves the enemy of the American people.”

The two weeks Caddell was referring to were those after the attacks in Benghazi, when it was already obvious that the Obama administration was lying about the cause of the attacks, and the media were rolling over so as not to damage Obama’s chances at re-election a few weeks later.

Trump was not referring to the institution of the free press as an enemy, but rather to how biased and one-sided our mainstream media are when it comes to politics and issues of national importance. AIM’s Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi confirmed that, and much more, regarding Benghazi.

The February 20 MSNBC segment also sought to fact check Trump’s quote of Thomas Jefferson about the press, pointing to Post reporting which argued that Trump took Jefferson out of context.

“Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and Abraham Lincoln: many of our greatest Presidents fought with the media, and called them out, often-times, on their lies,” said Trump on February 18 at a rally in Melbourne, Florida. “In fact, Thomas Jefferson said: ‘Nothing can be believed which is seen in a newspaper.’”

The UK Daily Mail ran with the headline that “Trump takes Thomas Jefferson quote out of context to bash the media…” Similarly, the Post’s Fact-Checker, Glenn Kessler, wrote that “Trump selectively quotes from Jefferson here, who, for most of his life, was a fierce defender of the need for a free press.” Jefferson was, at the time he made those comments, Kessler writes, “embittered” about reports of him having relations with his slave. Politifact piled on with “That quote checks out. But it’s not the whole story on Jefferson.” By the way, AIM has fact-checked the stories of Jefferson’s supposed relations with Sally Hemings, and found them to be baseless.

That Trump had taken Jefferson out of context has become an article of faith for the media, as they dig for as many misstatements of Trump’s that they can find. But is Trump really taking Jefferson out of context if he cites a quote that Jefferson actually made? Trump is hardly going to explain the entire history of Jefferson’s thoughts on the media while making a stump speech. This appears to be the media playing little more than a “gotcha” game with the President.

“And, in any event, Jefferson’s saying something different on another occasion does not render Trump’s quotation ‘out of context,’ misleading, or in any way inappropriate,” writes John Hinderaker for Powerlineblog.

The media continue to fact check and mock many of President Trump’s statements. They should fact-check him, and he should make a greater effort to be more precise in his choice of words. If these media outlets had applied the same standard to President Obama, then there might have been some accountability for his administration. But it is clear that it is of no benefit for Trump to lie to the press or to his supporters, for that works against his ability to advance his agenda.

Whether the Trump presidency succeeds will depend on his ability to deliver on his campaign promises regarding border security, jobs, trade deals and Obamacare, to name a few. As long as he keeps those promises, many in the public will likely continue to support him.

By focusing on the trivial, the media undermine their own legitimacy. Take, for example, Politifact’s takedown of Trump’s statement that “Look at what’s happening to every poll when it comes to optimism in our country…It’s sweeping across the country.” Politifact counters with polls on America’s low favorability of our “standing in the world” and Trump’s low approval rating. Polls can be used to show many things. This week, Trump’s approval rating is up two points in the Gallup Poll, to 42 percent, and Rasmussen has Trump down two points to 51 percent approval.

Another example is fact checking Trump’s claim that Meryl Streep is overrated as an actress. That clearly falls into the category of opinion, and is one of four examples cited by Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist in an excellent analysis of the sorry state of media “fact checks.”

We have often pointed out that fact-checking shouldn’t be the domain of a particular columnist in a newspaper, but should be part of every article published. The subjective choices of which comments should or shouldn’t be fact-checked, and what criteria to use, usually end up demonstrating the political bias of the publication or the journalist doing the fact checking.

The media, and fact-checkers, are grasping at straws in their attempts to contradict President Trump and reduce his influence. They tried it all throughout the presidential campaign, and obviously did not succeed. But it may be that the support for Trump will continue to swell: he has momentum, and may just surprise the pollsters again in 2020.


Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi. He can be contacted at [email protected]. View the complete archives from Roger Aronoff.

02/17/17

The Trump Presidency: Four Weeks Down, 412 to Go?

By: Roger Aronoff | Accuracy in Media

The media think they’ve found their Watergate, and it only took them three weeks to get there. The truth may be something altogether different. With retired General Mike Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency under President Barack Obama, and former National Security Advisor under President Donald Trump, now gone from the administration, many questions remain. The media have seized on, “What did Trump know and when did he know it?” It has a nice Watergate ring to it. Daniel Henninger of The Wall Street Journal doesn’t think that we’re quite to that point.

But because the media have maxed out their outrage meter on everything from Dr. Ben Carson’s qualifications to be the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, to the size of the inauguration day crowd, to Kellyanne Conway’s careless but lighthearted remark about plugging Ivanka Trump’s line of merchandise, the questions on the Flynn matter could potentially disappear in the same blizzard of daily outrage. Or, these questions could grow like a cancer on the Trump presidency, in the midst of congressional hearings and a media obsessed with bringing Trump down.

After all, the media spent eight years pretending the Obama administration was scandal free, that Obama never lied to them, that he always acted in a Constitutional manner. We have documented many of his scandals, and the fact that the Supreme Court unanimously overruled his Justice Department a record 44 times. Overall, Obama had the worst record by far of any president of the last half century when it comes to the number of cases lost at the Supreme Court level. Yet when the Trump administration loses one appeal at the Circuit Court level, it is treated as proof that Trump is shredding the Constitution.

The media also acted as though Hillary Clinton’s actions did not rise to the level of scandal, including her use of an unsecured server to traffic in classified material for four years as secretary of state; her pay for play financial dealings benefiting her family fortune, often, ironically enough, benefiting Russia; and of course Benghazi.

The unproven offense by the Trump administration is that Flynn may have told the Russians to hold off on reacting to Obama’s new sanctions imposed on them in his final month in office, as well as the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats. This appears to have been a highly politicized move to bolster the case of his political appointees in the intelligence community (IC) that that Russians hacked the U.S. presidential election with the goal of tipping the scales for Trump, although their report proved nothing of the sort. Obama even claimed that he was aware of this Russian hacking at least a month before the election, but kept his mouth shut because he didn’t want to appear to be trying to overtly help Hillary get elected.

Writing for National Review, Andrew McCarthy has done an outstanding job examining the possible scenarios involving Flynn, and urging Trump to release the tape of Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador. It will eventually come out anyway. In a parting interview shortly before his resignation, Flynn insisted that he crossed no legal lines in his conversations, and urged an investigation into the leaks about him, which he called a “criminal act.”

As to the possible Logan Act violation, i.e., negotiating foreign policy with a foreign power by a private citizen not authorized by the current government, we frankly don’t know at this point. No one has ever been prosecuted under that 1798 law. But what about Obama’s overture to Iran in 2008, in which he sent Ambassador William Miller to tell the Ayatollahs not to make a deal with President George W. Bush, but to wait for his presidency, when Iran would be able to get a better deal? Where was the outrage—and the investigation—when that became known?

And what about the January 23 story in The Washington Post, pointing out that the FBI had picked up Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador? “The FBI in late December reviewed intercepts of communications between the Russian ambassador to the United States and retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn—national security adviser to then-President-elect Trump—but has not found any evidence of wrongdoing or illicit ties to the Russian government, U.S. officials said.” Was the FBI lying back then, still investigating, or what?

And despite a provocative title of The New York Times’ much talked about article this week, “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence,” the article states that the intelligence agencies “sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election,” but according to the officials they spoke with, “so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.”

Michelle Malkin reminds us of several Obama appointees who were forced to withdraw before moving into their appointed positions for a variety of improprieties.

I began writing about politics in 1968, covering the Democratic convention in Chicago and the demonstrations inside and outside the hall for a weekly Jewish newspaper in Texas. I spent the summer of 1972 in Miami Beach, covering both the Democrat and Republican conventions, as well as the demonstrations in the streets that extended throughout the summer. Is this déjà vu all over again?

Nixon, like Trump, was hated by the news media and the left in general. While the left had been actively protesting against Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey over Vietnam, it was nothing compared to how it was amped up after the ’68 election. In 1972, the Democrats nominated George McGovern, a liberal, anti-Vietnam War candidate, who nonetheless had been a distinguished World War II fighter pilot, and unlike Hillary Clinton, had been free of corruption and scandal. Nixon won 301 electoral votes in 1968 to defeat Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace, a Democrat turned independent who won five Southern states. Nixon, in 1972, won the Electoral College vote by a margin of 520 to 17, with McGovern winning only Massachusetts and Washington D.C.

This is Trump’s fourth week in office. If you look at the Tweets of Michael Moore, and comments from other members of the radical left, they smell blood and think this could already be the moment to try to impeach Trump. Dan Rather, the disgraced former CBS News anchor, is comparing this moment to Watergate. The New York Times’ Tom Friedman is comparing Trump’s election to Pearl Harbor and 9/11. The left may get one chance at impeaching Trump, but if they don’t succeed, he will be stronger, and most likely continue on for another 412 weeks. The Republicans have such a favorable lay of the land for 2018—there are 25 Democratic senators up for re-election and only eight Republicans—that if Trump gains his footing, and gets past all of these rookie mistakes, and isn’t dragged down by some genuine scandal, the GOP could end up with a filibuster-proof Senate, and head into 2020 with a great chance for a landslide re-election.

The left is once again overplaying their hand. They can’t help themselves. Michael Wolff seemed to agree in the pages of Newsweek: “The media believes that it speaks for Hillary Clinton’s national ballot box majority, for the millions who have now marched against Trump, for the demographically expanding left wing (although not in the right-wing states) and, as well, for obvious common sense. And the media believes that everybody believes what it believes. How could they not? It’s Donald Trump!

Obama and his operatives are reportedly pulling the strings, attempting to overwhelm the system and shut down the Trump presidency. This is unprecedented by a former president against a sitting president, and should be another area of investigation. The same political forces that swept Trump to victory in 2016 will likely come out again—perhaps in greater numbers—in spite of the riots and protests in the streets, the outrage from most of the news media, and from the likes of Madonna, Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert, Bruce Springsteen, Chelsea Handler and the Obamas. Not only is Trump in good position to win re-election, but next time it could be a real electoral landslide.


Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi. He can be contacted at [email protected]. View the complete archives from Roger Aronoff.

02/11/17

Trump’s Court Battle in Perspective

By: Roger Aronoff | Accuracy in Media

Now that a federal appeals court panel has upheld the freeze on President Donald Trump’s executive order on refugees and immigration, he will likely have his first case before the U.S. Supreme Court in the not too distant future. This may have been an unforced error on the part of the President. While I believe it was wrong and counter-productive for President Trump to belittle the Washington state judge and suggest that even a “bad high school student” would understand the law, the media, in their hyper-hostility toward Trump, are demonstrating their complete double standard. Where was their criticism of Obama when he attacked and pressured the courts to rule in his favor, or condemned them after rulings went against him? The press was missing in action.

President Obama wasn’t shy about criticizing the courts. He did so during his 2010 State of the Union address where he criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United. “With all due deference to separation of powers,” said Obama, “last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that, I believe, will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections.” Justice Samuel A. Alito made news by mouthing “Not true” in response to the president’s comments.

Just “two days before oral arguments” in the Obamacare case known as King v. Burwell, writes Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at South Texas College of Law in Houston, Obama told Reuters, “In our view, [there was] not a plausible legal basis for striking [the IRS rule] down.”

As we reported at the time, a favorable outcome of King v. Burwell could have gutted Obamacare subsidies, but the media predictably “marshaled their forces in defense of Obama and his signature legislation.”

Why did the media, time and again, come to Obama’s aid? It was because the media were generally in support of Obama’s agenda, and more importantly, chose to cover for him and protect his legacy and political viability.

Yet, as Blackman writes, “It is wrong when Trump does it [criticize the courts]. It was wrong when Obama did it.”

Ilya Shapiro of the CATO Institute finds that the Supreme Court decided unanimously against the Obama administration 44 times, nearly 50 percent more than under Bill Clinton or George W. Bush.

In other words, Obama’s attempts to expand the power of the executive branch was widespread and pervasive, and he often could not win favor for his agenda, even from the two Supreme Court justices that he had named to the court. “But the reason Obama was hit with so many more unanimous decisions was because he went rogue early on, asking his staff to look for novel theories that would allow him to move forward with implementing his agenda,” writes Merrill Matthews for Rare. “And if that meant twisting the Constitution—and basic logic—to get it, so what?”

“President Obama…stands alone in his pointed and directed arguments to the Supreme Court,” argues Blackman. “The forty-fourth president, himself a former constitutional law lecturer, has set a new precedent for ex parte arguments [by one side only] to the Supreme Court.”

The media have also continued a double standard in their coverage of presidential executive power. One example of Obama’s executive overreach, although not tied to executive orders, is when he exchanged five high-ranking members of the Taliban held at Guantanamo for deserter Bowe Bergdahl “without following a statutory notice requirement.” Another, the Post writes, is the “job-destroying environmental regulations” created by Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency. And yet another was when Obama unilaterally changed an immigration law by ending the “wet foot dry foot” policy that had “allowed most Cuban migrants who reach U.S. soil to stay and become legal permanent residents after one year.” That was a sop to the communist regime that has gripped Cuba for nearly six decades. Where were the protests then?

On a recent segment of MSNBC’s “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams,” Ali Velshi, formerly of CNN and Al Jazeera, said that “We’re now into our third presidency where executive orders and White House action is deemed more important. George W. Bush, with the help of Dick Cheney, started this with a lot of executive orders. President Obama wasn’t shy about that. He approached it differently with a lot more legal backing to his executive orders. Donald Trump has taken this to a new level.”

Velshi’s statement is false in several ways. First, if Obama failed before the Supreme Court so many times, it is hard to argue that he had more legal backing for his actions.

Second, executive actions have been used more frequently by a number of presidents throughout history—far exceeding the usage by recent presidents. For example, The American Presidency Project at UC Santa Barbara finds that Franklin D. Roosevelt issued approximately 307 executive orders per year, dwarfing Obama’s 35 per year and George W. Bush’s 36 per year. In addition, Bill Clinton issued an average of 46 per year, Ronald Reagan 48 per year and Jimmy Carter 80 per year. President Trump hasn’t had enough time to demonstrate the number of executive orders that he will use over the next four or eight years.

It’s true that it’s not always about the quantity of executive orders, as much as it is about the substance of those orders, as Jonah Goldberg of National Review pointed out: “The entire issue of executive orders amounts to misdirection. The serious complaint is that Obama is abusing executive powers (which he is) not that he’s abusing executive orders (which he may or may not be).” Citing The Washington Post, Goldberg adds: “While Obama issued only 20 executive orders in 2013 (the lowest single-year total in more than a century), that same year he issued 41 presidential memoranda to the heads of departments and agencies, along with nine additional presidential ‘determinations’ designed to serve as the basis for bureaucratic behavior.”

While Trump’s rate of executive overreach is unknown, it is clear that he is not holding back in criticizing the courts. “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” tweeted Trump.

Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, told Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut (D) that he finds criticism in general of a judge’s integrity and independence to be “demoralizing and disheartening.”

This, of course, made major national news. But Obama himself criticized the courts and bullied them to rule in his favor.

This is the state of our news media, which goes to great lengths to protect Democrats and the progressive agenda, and goes on the attack against Obama’s successor. Predictably, the media are unwilling to acknowledge their blatant double standard on executive action and criticism of the courts.


Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi. He can be contacted at [email protected]. View the complete archives from Roger Aronoff.