May 29, 2017: Jared Troubles | Breitbart Sinks | Portland Murders
1. A Problem Named Jared
In wake of revelations in The Washington Post that Jared Kushner might have requested a “safe and secure” back-door channel to Kremlin, the conservative media have been caught in a bind. The alt-right press in particular has never liked Kushner. It sees him as a globalist undermining its America First agenda. However, with his troubles threatening to paralyze the entire Trump presidency, many were offering a defense -- albeit halfheartedly.
Breitbart argued that press attention to the Kushner investigation just proves the left can never be satisfied. Here Breitbart interviews its own senior editor at large, Peter Schweizer:
"[We] asked if it was surprising to see the media swarm on Kushner when ‘by all accounts, he seems like a guy who agrees mostly with the worldview of the establishment press.’
Schweizer saw it as important evidence against the notion that ‘if you appease the political Left on certain political views, they’re going to leave you alone.’
It doesn’t work that way, because the political Left wants everything,’ he contended. ‘They don’t want something, they want everything, which means they want their people in there. That’s how the game is played’.”
LifeZette theorized that the leaks plaguing the administration were not just from Hillary Clinton leftovers or from the security agencies, as previously argued, but from sources in the West Wing itself:
A government source familiar with the Trump White House's inner circle put it this way: "It is sad there are so many insecure people in the West Wing, who don't care about serving their country or pushing the president's agenda." When pressed about the identity of this "insecure person," the source demurred. "Instead, they are solely focused on themselves and planting false stories, to put targets on other people's backs."
On Twitter, we noticed a certain defeatism in tone spreading among loyalists. Mike Cernovich, a conservative self-proclaimed investigative reporter and conspiracy theorist, with 276k followers, wrote:
If Kushner is fired, Dina Powell becomes more powerful. She is Ivanka's friend and is leaking. Welcome to D.C.
Meanwhile, on Reddit, members of once faithful conservative sites seemed to be expressing doubts. While many disputed the stories on Kushner, saying they were based on fake sources, others were critical:
Kushner should have never been near the Trump administration. Whether this story is true or not, family and politics can not go together for the sake of integrity. Doubt of integrity is enough to lose elections and earn disapprovement because people don't trust you. Especially in this situation, with Trump also being in business. Kushner is probably a good guy, but not a smart politician. Same goes for Flynn.
What We’re Watching:
So the obvious beneficiary of Kushner’s trouble is Steve Bannon, whose importance in the West Wing seems to be on the rise again. As we’ve mentioned before, this has not gone unnoticed on Twitter, where the idea that he is the source of the leaks is gaining traction.
As Olga Lautman @olganyc1211, with 40k followers, wrote:
Wonder is Bannon is leaking the Kushner Info!! He despises him and wants to have full control of Trump. Kushner was in the way#TrumpRussia
2. Fox and Breitbart Plummet
We’ve already reported that Fox News’s ratings have been in the toilet these past few weeks. Some, like The Blaze, blame the firing of the star anchor Bill O’Reilly. Others, like Slate, blame Fox’s failure to face reality by avoiding the big stories of the day (most of the time, Trump-related scandals and mishaps).
The latter theory now gets a boost as Breitbart, too, has seen its online traffic dive. In January, Breitbart seemed to be poised for European expansion and could claim to be the 45th most trafficked site. No longer, according to Vanity Fair:
"Just a few months later, the numbers have a different story to tell. As of May 26, 2017, according to Alexa.com—the same web-ranking analytics company that Breitbart drew its numbers from in January—Fox News is the 64th most-trafficked site in the country. Huffington Post is at 60. Buzzfeed is at 50. The Washington Post, on the strength of a series of eye-popping scoops, is at 41. Breitbart is in 281st place.”
Breitbart is losing ground, of course, despite not having fired any anchors. Still, Fox’s precipitous slide means that all eyes are on Sean Hannity. The anchor has been in trouble for fulminating over the murder of Seth Rich, the DNC staffer who was shot in the street. Hannity had been pushing the conservative conspiracy theory that Rich was the source of the DNC Wikileaks dump (not the Russians). Hannity -- and, more importantly, his advertisers -- has been pounded by the watchdog Media Matters for spreading fake news.
Now conservative outlets have started to turn on him as well. The Weekly Standard ran its own Hannity takedown, which was widely promoted on Twitter not just by its editor at large, Bill Kristol, but also by sympaticos at National Review:
D.C.'s local Fox affiliate and FoxNews.com bear responsibility for publishing such thinly sourced and damaging stories, and Fox owes a better explanation of why it retracted its story. But the news sites and media personalities who regurgitated the story also bear responsibility for promoting it. That includes former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who uncritically repeated it on Fox & Friends on May 21. But perhaps the worst actor of all in this twisted game of telephone is Fox News host Sean Hannity.
At first Hannity promised to stay and fight his critics but on Saturday The Blazetweeted that he had gone “off the grid” while considering a departure from Fox News.
The Conservative radio host Mark Levin wondered if Fox would implode if Hannity left: “Its ratings are cratering. It has zero loyalty to its hosts. And the two lib Murdoch boys are calling the shots. Will its conservative audience put up with this latest abomination, I.e., Fox buckling to a Media Matters boycott of Hannity's advertisers?”
What We’re Watching:
Well, Hannity is not taking all the heat over at Fox. The network’s website has started a new series called “Trumping Your Life: How to be a better, stronger person by being more like the president.” This feature is getting pounded on Twitter for its sycophancy from both sides of the party.
3. Bernie Bros Are White Supremacists, Too
This weekend, many on the Right were quick to point to screenshots uncovered from a social media account of a white supremacist who is accused of killing two men who tried to intervene as he hurled anti-Muslim slurs at two women on a train in Portland, Oregon. (The story made headlines this weekend.) The screenshots revealed that the man, Jeremy Joseph Christian, was a Bernie Sanders supporter. Wrote The Daily Caller:
Jeremy Joseph Christian, the 35-year-old Portland man who allegedly murdered two men and left another critically woundedwhile yelling anti-Muslim slurs in a knife attack on Friday, has been painted by the mainstream media as a “right-wing extremist,” but posts on his Facebook page indicate he was a supporter of socialist Senator Bernie Sanders and Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
A lot of conservatives on Twitter had a field day sharing this news:
Ricky Vaughn @RapinBill with 14.5K followers wrote:
#portlandstabbing Twitter just yanked Portland stabbing from trending when word got out from his Facebook he was a Bernie Sanders supporter.
It is important to note that both The New York Times and The Washington Post were careful to point to a blog post from the Southern Poverty Law Center. It said that “a review of Christian’s Facebook page shows an individual all over the political spectrum but indicates that he holds some racist and other extremist beliefs.”
Meanwhile, another version of the story gaining traction on the Right was spread by Mike Cernovich. According to Cernovich, Trump supporters had reported Christian to the police after he was kicked out of a free speech event hosted by the same Trump supporters. Cernovich says the police ignored the tip.
What We’re Watching:
Speaking of Bernie, those Russians were busy last election. Not only were they talking to Trump aides and promoting fake news, apparently they were trying to get Bernie Sanders fans to vote third party to take votes away from Clinton, according to John Mattes, an investigative journalist who describes himself as a major Bernie supporter. He told his story at a meeting of San Diego Democrats after being cited on “The Rachel Maddow Show.”