May 18, 2017: Roger Ailes Dies | A Masterstroke? | Show Me the Memo
1. The End of an Era: Roger Ailes Dies
The word transformative is used far too often and is rarely accurate. But you cannot say it is hyperbolic when talking about Roger Ailes.
As we were getting ready to hit the publish button, news came of Ailes’s death. There will be much to say in assessing his legacy and impact on the political landscape in the United States. He built Fox News into a powerhouse of conservative voices. Ailes, of course, was forced to resign last July, from the network he had constructed in his own image, after several women whose careers he had made came forward to say he had demanded sexual favors of them. Only a few weeks ago, the top Fox anchor, Bill O’Reilly, was forced out for similar misconduct.
This morning, anchors on his former network spoke of Ailes only with reverence. There were even tears on Fox & Friends, where the anchor Ainsley Earhardt, her voice breaking at times, mentioned, “Who doesn’t have sins?”:
Many people out there would say that he saved this country by starting the Fox News Channel. Roger gave every single one of us on this couch an opportunity. He put food on our table. And, you know, he went out in such a sad way but who doesn't have sins? We all have our sins, we all have our cross to bear and, Roger, I will love you forever. You gave me an opportunity and I will be forever ever grateful. I know I would not have gotten this job if it weren't for you. Rest in peace, Roger, and I hope you are at peace.
Meanwhile, Sean Hannity @seanhannity tweeted:
Today America lost one of its great patriotic warriors. Roger Ailes. For Decades RA's has impacted American politics and media.— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) May 18, 2017
2. Special Counsel: “A Masterstroke”
So the announcement that the Justice Department appointed a former director F.B.I., Robert Mueller, as a special counsel for an investigation into possible ties between Trump associates and Russia dropped like a bomb late Wednesday.
Perhaps it was the fog of war, but conservative commentators seemed strangely supportive. In fact, a quorum gelled around the idea that a special prosecutor might even be good for Trump, clearing his name or, at least, calming Washington as the investigation could go silent now for months or possibly years.
Roger Stone, the political operative and Trump supporter, immediately appeared on a video for InfoWars, calling the appointment of a special counsel a “masterstroke.” “It proves, Stone explained, that “Donald Trump has no fear of such an investigation and his firing of James Comey had nothing to do with heading off an investigation into the very subject.”
Laura Ingraham @IngrahamAngle, with 1.46 million followers, was similarly supportive.
They have been plotting this since November: "Will Trump Be Impeached?" (Nov. 2016) https://t.co/74Si3dxBJC— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) May 17, 2017
But the editor of the NeoCon magazine Commentary, John Podhoretz @jpodhoretz, with 90k likes, argued that time was on the president’s side:
This is good for Trump in short term. Mueller won't leak. Investigation will go silent. Will take a few years.— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) May 17, 2017
Not everyone was so sanguine, of course. Ann Coulter @AnnCoulter, with 1.5 million followers, attacked Mueller’s character and warned that it would be the Democrats who would suffer from an investigation into election ties to Russia:
At least he doesn't have a history of wasting taxpayer money: Mueller Used FBI Private Jet For Himself https://t.co/QK36Xmdd1T— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) May 17, 2017
People who have most to worry about with appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller: Hillary, Loretta Lynch, John Podesta, Bill Clinton…— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) May 18, 2017
Tip for Special Counsel Robert Mueller: Depose John Podesta FIRST, before he can coordinate with others.— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) May 18, 2017
The Wall Street Journal was also displeased:
“Democrats and their media allies finally got their man. After weeks of political pressure, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein blinked late Wednesday and announced that he has named a special counsel to investigate Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election. These expeditions rarely end well for anyone, and Democrats are hoping this one will bedevil the Trump Administration for the next four years.”
What We’re Watching:
So what will Trump do now in the face of a very serious investigation that will dog his presidency? Quit already was the suggestion from some surprising quarters. Jim Moody, Fox News’s executive editor for news, re-published an opinion article Wednesday that he penned a few weeks back asking if Trump still really wanted to be president.
“President Trump seems hell-bent on courting controversy, if not downright enmity, from the Washington establishment. His vague comments about what he said, or didn’t say, to former FBI Director James Comey, as well as similar questions about what he told Russian diplomats in the Oval Office raise a serious question: does he still want to be president?..........
If he plans to walk away from Washington once he feels he has fulfilled his promise to the American people, he should say so. Both his supporters and his growing list of opponents would probably respect his candor, and might work together to give him what he wants, so he will go away.”
3. Defending the Indefensible
We will say this: Defending Donald Trump in the lead-up to the appointment of the special prosecutor was no easy task -- not with The Washington Postreporting that the president leaked highly classifieded highly classified intelligence to Russian officials and The New York Times’s revelation that Trump asked the recently-fired F.B.I director, James Comey, to ease up on Mike Flynn.
While traditional Republicans like John McCain and The Weekly Standardwere beginning to break into a cold sweat, other voices, like Infowars and Laura Ingraham, were running a vigorous defense of deep state conspiracy theories.
In our estimation, the defense fell into three categories worth mentioning:
A. Show Me the Memo, or Else
Not to put too fine a point on it, but plenty of people who are notparanoid or members of the conservative media do not necessarily trust the reporting of The Post and The Times.
House Speaker Paul Ryan was among those leading the pack saying they’d like to see the Comey memo that revealed Trump’s request for leniency before they turn on the president.
In fairness, there are reasons to be skeptical. As The Intercept, which is hardly conservative, so ably reported in January, The Post has had to walk back some big stories on Trump and Russia:“In the past six weeks, the Washington Post published two blockbuster stories about the Russian threat that went viral: one on how Russia is behind a massive explosion of “fake news,” the other on how it invaded the U.S. electric grid. Both articles were fundamentally false.”
And if the memo turns out to be bogus, there will be hell to pay, say many conservatives. David French wrote in National Review:
“If the memo is real and as damaging as the Times claims, the chaos is likely greater, but don’t underestimate the cultural and political damage if our nation’s most prestigious press outlets run a story of this magnitude based on a malicious fiction. It’s time for facts and documents, not anonymity and allegations. It’s time for the truth.”
B. The Press is Out to Get Trump: The Bezos Connection
Way back in November, the tech site Recode wrote that Jeff Bezos was worried Trump would come after Amazon for anti-trust violations. That article resurfaced on both Drudge and Rush Limbaugh as proof that his news organization, The Washington Post, had a motive to break the president.
C. “Icky” but not illegal
Laura Ingraham has been as loyal to the president as anyone. On Tuesday, her website, LifeZette, defended the president against allegations he leaked to the Russians, saying it was the leakers of the leak who should be prosecuted.
By Wednesday, she was running a defense against the Times Comey story with this headline: “Legal Experts: Trump’s Flynn Advocacy Not Obstruction of Justice. Lawyers across ideological spectrum agree Comey memo 'icky,' but not criminal.”
What We’re Watching:
So who is to blame for the White House spinning out of control? Well, certainly not Trump. Everyone thinks a purge is coming, but Hot Air argues that it is the globalists among the Trump advisers who will finally get their comeuppance:
Good news for nationalists. Last month it looked like Kushner had won the power struggle with Steve Bannon, leaving populism sidelined and globalism set to dominate Trump’s administration. The catch for Kushner and Gary Cohn, leaders of the “Democratic” wing of Trump’s advisors, was that that probably also left them on the hook in Trump’s mind for all of the political misery he’s experienced over the last few weeks, self-inflicted or not.
Either he’ll give Bannon another shot now or he’ll purge everyoneand start fresh with a “dream team” cabinet — Giuliani, Chris Christie, Gingrich, Roger Stone, Corey Lewandowski. Alex Jones for press secretary. Maybe bring back Mike Flynn. Total base strategy. He tried things the establishment’s way. Now it’s his way.
Expect H.R. McMaster to be liquidated in the purge too:
Also Worth Mentioning:
So we are trying to keep on eye on Fox News’s ratings since it lost its big man, Bill O’Reilly. Mike Calderone, a media reporter for The Huffington Post, tweeted yesterday that Fox was suffering, albeit not necessarily from the loss of O’Reilly:
Fox News downplaying/dismissing Comey news in primetime Tues apparently didn't work with viewers. CNN first in demo; MSNBC first in total.— Michael Calderone (@mlcalderone) May 17, 2017
4. The Seth Rich Conspiracy: Attempt to Deflect
Meanwhile, the last few days, the Right has been heavily messaging an old story about Seth Rich, a DNC staffer who was murdered in D.C. The conspiracy is that Rich, not Russia, was the source for the Wikileaks emails that damaged the DNC.
The story was reinvigorated by Fox, which claimed Monday to have new evidence. It read:
Just two months shy of the one-year anniversary of Rich's death, FOX 5 has learned there is new information that could prove these theorists right.
Family's private investigator: There is evidence Seth Rich had contact with WikiLeaks prior to Rod Wheeler, a private investigator hired by the Rich family, suggests there is tangible evidence on Rich's laptop that confirms he was communicating with WikiLeaks prior to his death…
When we asked Wheeler if his sources have told him there is information that links Rich to Wikileaks, he said, “Absolutely. Yeah. That's confirmed.”
Even though, the Rich family objected to Wheeler’s comments and the Metropolitan Police Department stated on Tuesday that “the assertions put forward by Mr. Wheeler were unfounded,” the story continued to circulate.
Liberty News Now ran with Fox’s news yesterday with the headline, “Murdered DNC Staffer Link to Wikileaks Now Confirmed.” The Gateway Pundit also saw conspiracy. It ran with the headline: DEVELOPING: Seth Rich was ALIVE When Police Found Him – But Police Camera Video Went Missing!
At least The Washington Examiner was quick to dismiss Fox’s claims and seemed embarrassed by Fox’s shoddy reporting and its messengers.
“The story that circulated this week about Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staffer who was murdered near his home in Washington, D.C., last year, has fallen apart entirely, leaving nothing but the most faithful conspiracy theorists clinging to a single FoxNews.com anonymous source.”
What We’re Watching:
This week, in particular, it has become easier for the Right to target the Left (and primarily The Washington Post) as “fake news” and to convince supporters that this is the case.
First, there were McMaster’s and Tillerson’s denials of the explosive Post story that Trump had released damaging information to the Russians. This gave the Right ammo to charge “fake news!” Then came the Post’s report that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy had told Republican colleagues a year ago that Trump could be receiving payments from Vladimir Putin. McCarthy provided more ammo for the base, when he tweeted:
The Gateway Pundit and others on the Right bit, gleefully reporting “WAPO Gets Punked.”
What Else We’re Watching:
A Pew Research study from March revealed that only 11% of Republicans trust the mainstream media anyhow.