Conservative Media's Place In The Unfolding Impeachment Inquiry

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President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

The role of the conservative media at the outset of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.


Nicole Hemmer, associate research scholar at Columbia University, and a political historian specializing in media, conservatism and the far-right. Author of "Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics." (@pastpunditry)

Kurt Bardella, columnist for USA Today. Former spokesperson for Breitbart News and former chief spokesman for the House Oversight Committee Republicans. He is now a Democrat. (@kurtbardella)

Seth Mandel, executive editor of the Washington Examiner Magazine. (@SethAMandel)

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New York Times: "‘Everything You’re Seeing Is Deception’: How Right-Wing Media Talks About Impeachment" — "Mark Levin, the talk radio host who has been one of President Trump’s most ardent defenders, tried to offer his listeners some reassurance this week as they processed the dizzying developments in Washington. 'There’s a lot of disinformation and misinformation,' he warned. 'I’m here to help us walk through this and defend this nation against a tyranny in our midst.'

"Rush Limbaugh cast himself in a similar light — part fact checker, part coach rallying the team at halftime. 'You’re going to know everything you need to know about this latest faux scandal,' he promised, adding, 'Everything you’re seeing is deception.'

"Even Michael Savage, a conservative host who has been critical of the president at times, joined in circling the wagons. 'There is a war going on right now,' he told his audience this week, adding, 'They haven’t given up trying to destroy us.'

"With the president facing an impeachment inquiry, and a whistle-blower report made public Thursday that raised new questions about whether he tried to cover up his efforts to enlist Ukraine’s help in discrediting a political rival, allies of the White House in the pro-Trump media wasted no time constructing their own version of events."

CNN: "Opinion: Why it's so scary when Trump tweets about civil war" — "President Donald Trump tweeted and retweeted 80 times between Friday and Sunday, a seemingly panicked flurry of activity that showed just how big a threat the Ukraine scandal and impeachment inquiry are. Among those tweets was a quote from Fox News contributor Robert Jeffress, an evangelical pastor from Texas, who warned that if Trump were successfully removed from office, civil war would follow.

"Apocalyptic rhetoric often flows readily from preachers' pulpits and politicians' platforms. Yet this warning of a looming civil war takes on a different meaning when it appears on the President's Twitter feed — not only because of the office he holds, but because he regularly packages his over-the-top doomsaying with specific calls for political violence. He is a president whose words and actions have helped inspire acts of domestic terrorism, like the mass shooting in El Paso in which 22 people were murdered. In an environment in which people have demonstrated a willingness to turn his words into 'war,' this is particularly reckless and threatening.

"Much of the debate around Trump's tweet has centered on whether he is dog-whistling to violent groups who promote white supremacy or is just being sloppy. The burden of the presidency, though, is that it doesn't really matter. When the President invokes violence — as in a civil war — he sends encouragement to supporters already primed to perceive a coming apocalypse.

"In the world of white power, where a civil war is a race war, the President's words have particular resonance. White power activists have long embraced a form of violent nationalism (or violent racism cloaked in nationalism), that is always on the lookout for enemies, from Vietnamese immigrants to black churchgoers to, at times, the federal government itself."

Washington Examiner: "Opinion: Just because the media is liberal doesn't mean conservative media should be biased too" — "For decades, news channels have been known for the bias they exhibit toward each successive president and his administration. When Barack Obama was in office he received continuous, overwhelming, and glowing support from CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, and the like. Frustration with the one-sided media landscape helped to create a marketplace for Fox, not to mention a multitude of online news and commentary sites dedicated to the conservative cause.

"Since his time on the 2016 campaign trail, President Trump has, for the most part, enjoyed the praise and protection of Fox News. Routinely, he criticizes their competitors, the 'fake news media,' for their attacks on him. Often, he'll praise Fox as the only major news channel that dares to place his administration in a positive light. The us vs. them feature of this presidency is hardly surprising given the nature of the man himself. But when long-established personalities on Fox deviate from the expected norm, it can be shocking to both Trump supporters and critics alike.

"Veteran political commentator Chris Wallace's condemnation of the administration over Trump's phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has been treated with disdain by some of the president's tireless defenders. However, this objectivity in the face of documented wrongdoing is not only refreshing, given the intensely partisan climate, but absolutely necessary."

USA Today: "Opinion: Impeachment whine: Trump thinks Republicans weren't tough on Obama. Believe me, we were." — "President Donald Trump started his Saturday morning routine with a tweet: 'Can you imagine if these Do Nothing Democrat Savages, people like Nadler, Schiff, AOC Plus 3, and many more, had a Republican Party who would have done to Obama what the Do Nothings are doing to me. Oh well, maybe next time!'

"Setting aside the appalling use of the word 'savages' to describe two Jewish members of Congress and a woman of color, the president’s 'what if' scenario reveals how ignorant he is of some very recent history. This very decade opened with Republicans launching an investigatory barrage into the presidency of Barack Obama.

"I know, because I was there choreographing it."

This program aired on October 4, 2019.


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David Folkenflik Host, On Point
David Folkenflik is a former host of On Point.


Adam Waller Freelance Producer
Adam Waller is a freelance producer for On Point.



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