Friday Talking Points -- Fox On The Run

[ Posted Friday, April 21st, 2023 – 17:53 UTC ]

We admit using that subtitle dates us in a way, since we are indeed old enough to remember the popular song of the same name -- but we couldn't resist, since this week started out with Fox News caving at the last possible moment as a civil defamation trial was set to begin against them. First the trial was delayed a day and then came the bombshell news that Fox had settled with Dominion Voting Systems for a jaw-dropping $787.5 million. To state the patently obvious, you don't settle a case you fully expect to win. Fox knew it was in danger of not just losing the case (Dominion had sued for $1.6 billion, a little more than twice what Fox settled for) but having the network's dirty laundry exposed in even more painful fashion than it already had been (through releases of internal communications between executives and network personalities that were already embarrassing enough). Fox was indeed on the run, to the tune of over three-quarters of a billion dollars.

While Dominion did get a whopping huge amount of money in the deal, there was one thing conspicuously absent: any public statement (on their own airwaves or otherwise) that Fox News had done anything wrong. Or any public statement, for that matter, that it was going to change its ways in the future. But that could be coming in the next act in this play (more on that in a moment).

Fox News is not a reputable news organization -- that was the inescapable uptake from the case. To quote the Talking Heads (which doesn't date us quite as much, but still...), Fox instead is a broadcaster of: "Lies, lies and propaganda." The internal communications revealed by the case show without doubt that what was fundamentally most important to Fox was keeping its viewers happy -- even if that meant blatantly lying to them. That is not what a reputable news organization does, obviously. Fox personalities and executives were worried that broadcasting the truth about the 2020 presidential election (that Joe Biden had won in a free and fair election) would have driven its viewers to its competitors in the rightwing media bubble. Ratings trumped (pun intended) any scintilla of journalistic integrity. If its viewers wanted lies and propaganda, Fox was more than willing to deliver.

The best reaction of the week came from Jake Tapper, over on CNN, who was tasked with reading on the air the statement Fox News put out about the settlement. Which contained the line: "This settlement reflects FOX's continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards." Tapper reacted by cracking up when reading that line, and saying: "I'm sorry, this is going to be difficult to say with a straight face."

That is precisely the correct reaction. Because that is a laughable statement, from Fox.

As mentioned, this isn't the end of the road for lawsuits stemming from the avalanche of lies and conspiracy theories unleashed by Donald Trump after he lost. There are a whole bunch of others out there. Dominion still has six lawsuits pending, against other rightwing media outlets, against Trump lawyers, and against others who prominently spread falsehoods after the election. Fox still faces an even larger lawsuit by another voting machine manufacturer, Smartmatic. And Smartmatic is suing for a whopping $2.7 billion.

The same pressures will be on Fox as the Smartmatic suit progresses, to somehow settle it before their own executives and on-air personalities are forced to submit to cross-examination under oath. But Smartmatic's lawyers are now indicating that they will be demanding as a part of any such settlement an actual apology and admission of wrongdoing by Fox -- preferably read over their own airwaves. And Fox, as we noted, is already on the run. They're between a rock and a hard place. Which is exactly where they deserve to be.

Fox also deserves to be shunned by all the actual news organizations from this point on. They should not be treated as colleagues. They should not be treated as journalists. They should be treated on a par with "reporters" from the tabloid press. They should be sneered at by any who work in the business of actual news reporting.

As a footnote to the Fox settlement, Mike Lindell lost in his own legal comeuppance this week (although it was a smallish sort of comeuppance... but like Fox, there's more to come for him). The "MyPillow guy" had put on a "cyber symposium" where he produced his "evidence" of (supposedly) China tampering with the 2020 election, and then he dared everyone with a formalized "Prove Mike Wrong" contest -- with a whopping prize of $5 million for anyone who could prove that his "data" wasn't actual data from the 2020 election. A computer forensic specialist did so -- he proved that what Lindell released was in no way what he said it was and had absolutely nothing to do with the 2020 election. An arbitration board agreed, so now Lindell's got to pay up the five million.

In other words: the election-denial chickens are coming home to roost. And it's about time!

Moving along to other subjects, we have to admit that this is one of those weeks where we are writing this column while waiting for another shoe to drop. The Supreme Court has a self-imposed deadline of midnight tonight to issue a ruling on an appellate court decision on access to an abortion pill. The trial judge tried to ban the pill nationwide, the appellate court overturned that decision but left in place several restrictions that didn't exist previously, and the Supreme Court has already blown through one deadline this week to figure out what American women will be able to do come tomorrow. We do realize that once the news breaks, all of the rest of what we have written here may seem rather insignificant, but that's just the way the scheduling ball bounces. For now, we're going to ignore the case and the court until some sort of decision is reached. [Editor's Note/Breaking News: For once, SCOTUS actually did the right thing, at least for now... we'll have more to say on this next week.]

The House of Representatives saw some drama this week, as Kevin McCarthy finally issued an actual set of demands for the hostage he wants to take. With perhaps less than eight weeks to go before the United States is forced to default on its public debt, McCarthy has finally figured out what he's going to demand from Joe Biden and the Democrats in order to avert a worldwide economic crisis.

This isn't a budget, mind you. It's not even a budget overview. McCarthy still has yet to produce either of those things -- which is where the negotiations over spending will actually take place. But he finally did get his list together of what the Republicans want in exchange for averting catastrophe. It's a rather vague list, without the level of detail necessary to see exactly which federal programs will be hit the hardest. But it's at least something.

McCarthy swears he's going to bring it to the House floor next week for a vote. But this may prove to be optimistic, as nobody knows at this point whether he'll be able to corral the necessary 218 votes to pass it or not. McCarthy can only afford four defections, so he's got to keep all of the "five families" within his own caucus happy. We'll see next week whether he achieves this or not.

President Joe Biden's reaction was immediate. He went out to a Maryland Union hall to deliver a speech excoriating the Republican budget-cutting. He has already launched a full-throated defense of his spending priorities, and other Democrats really should be paying attention, because he's making some excellent points (some of which we'll be getting to later on).

This is all going to devolve into a very dangerous game of "chicken" between McCarthy and Biden. We'll see which one blinks first, but the first test is going to be if McCarthy can manage to get anything through his own House.

Over in the Senate, Republicans (as expected) successfully blocked a temporary replacement for Senator Dianne Feinstein on the Judiciary Committee. With Chuck Schumer unable to get the necessary 60 votes to do so on the floor, this means that the pressure on Feinstein is going to ratchet up enormously with each passing day. He absence is already causing problems, which is why the Republicans blocked the move in the first place. In the end, the only way out of the impasse may be Feinstein resigning -- assuming she doesn't recover enough physically to travel to Washington and start casting votes again.

In the presidential election contest, Mike Pompeo decided against a run (which we have to admit, did surprise us), while Larry Elder ("Who?") did jump into the Republican primary race. Chris Christie still hasn't made his move yet, but he certainly sounds like he's ready to enter the fray. In frontrunner news, Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis have begun taking potshots at each other in ads, while Trump rises and DeSantis sinks in the polling.

On the Democratic side, Robert F. Kennedy Junior ("Oh, no -- not him again!") will challenge Marianne Williamson for the title of "most forgettable Democrat beaten by Joe Biden in the primaries." It is rumored that Joe Biden will make his own run official next Tuesday (which would be the four-year anniversary of him announcing his 2020 bid), but then again who knows?

Republicans from Jim Jordan to Marjorie Taylor Greene continued to beclown themselves in House committee hearings this week. Greene got so outrageous the Republican chair of the committee agreed to strike some of her remarks from the record (for being disrespectful). The chair was annoyed, and he is now trying to ensure that if she makes unhinged outbursts again that McCarthy will remove her from his committee, which would certainly be entertaining to see.

One interesting footnote from Tennessee -- after voting to expel the "Tennessee Two" for speaking out of turn, a Republican leader in their statehouse was forced to resign this week after it was revealed that he had sexually harassed at least one legislative intern (and "likely two"). Nothing like the ol' "party of family values," eh, folks?

Which brings us to Trump's legal woes of the week. Trump is being sued in New York by E. Jean Carroll, who claims Trump raped her in a department store years ago. The trial will begin next week, but it seems Trump can't even be bothered to show up. His lawyers filed a motion asking the judge to tell the jury that Trump's absence was due to him not wanting to subject New York City to a traffic mess while he's there. Here's what Trump's lawyer urged the judge to tell the jury: "while no litigant is required to appear at civil trial, the absence of the defendant, in this matter, by design, avoided the logistical burdens that his presence, as the former president, would cause the courthouse and New York City." What an altruistic guy! The judge was reportedly not impressed.

But enough wallowing in the filth of the Republican Party. We close today with a story that everyone can smile at, for its absolutely adorable nature. Because it seems there was a creeping (pun intended) breach of security at the White House this week:

A curious toddler on Tuesday earned the title of one of the tiniest White House intruders after he squeezed through the metal fencing on the north side of the executive mansion.

U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division officers, who are responsible for security at the White House, walked across the North Lawn to retrieve the tot and reunite him with his parents on Pennsylvania Avenue. Access to the complex was briefly restricted while officers conducted the reunification. Officers briefly questioned the parents before allowing them to continue on their way.

Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said officers "encountered a curious young visitor along the White House north fence line who briefly entered White House grounds."

"The White House security systems instantly triggered Secret Service officers and the toddler and parents were quickly reunited," he said in a statement.


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We have a smattering of Honorable Mention awards to hand out before the big one this week, starting with President Biden for coming out swinging against the Republican debt-ceiling hostage-taking.

John Fetterman, now back performing his duties as senator once again, had some positive words for marijuana legalization this week (on 4/20, naturally!). He began by tweeting out a photo of him holding up a green flag which read: "It's 420 somewhere" with the message: "It's 4:20 on 4/20. That's the tweet." He followed this up with: "No more Reefer Madness," and: "I always have and always will fight for legal weed & ending the racist War on Drugs." For which we applaud Senator Fetterman and all others in Washington who are fighting to end the insanity once and for all.

The governor of Kansas vetoed two bills designed to target transgender people this week, one a "bathroom bill" and one which would ban gender-affirming healthcare for children and teens. Governor Laura Kelly vetoed both of them, although at least one may make it into law anyway. As HuffPost reports:

The bathroom bill appeared to have the two-thirds majorities needed to override a veto when it passed earlier this month, though the margin was close in the House. The bill on gender-affirming care was well short in the House.

Kudos to Kelly for stopping at least one of them, in a very red state.

But there's a clear winner for the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week -- Senator Patty Murray, from Washington state. Murray set an impressive milestone this week by casting her 10,000th vote on the Senate floor. No woman has ever achieved this mark of longevity before now, not even the longest-serving woman senator of all time, Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein doesn't appear to be far behind -- the only reference we could find put her current number at 9,827 votes. So Murray's not the only one in this range, but she has now gone down in history as the first to watch her personal odometer turn over to five digits.

Only 32 men have achieved this feat, it bears mentioning, in all of American history. The absolute record is going to be tough to beat, as Senator Robert C. Byrd cast a whopping 18,689 votes during his extended stay. Patrick Leahy got close to topping Byrd, coming in at number two with 17,374 votes, but he retired at the start of this year.

Murray and Feinstein were both first elected to the Senate in 1992, which was called "the Year of the Woman." This was after the Anita Hill hearings and there was a backlash which sent -- for the first time ever -- five women to the United States Senate in a single election (one, Barbara Mikulski, was re-elected, but Feinstein, Murray, Barbara Boxer, and Carol Moseley Braun were all elected for the first time). Thirty-one years later, one of them has now cast 10,000 votes and another is less than 200 votes shy of hitting that mark. That is a powerful and historic, and it is why Senator Patty Murray is the easy choice for this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award. We look forward to her casting many more such votes in the future!

[Congratulate Senator Patty Murray on her Senate contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

We've got one (Dis-)Honorable Mention award this week, and one award held in abeyance (for now).

Senator Joe Manchin seems like he's going to run for re-election. Since he's from West Virginia, this means appealing to an electorate which hails from one of the reddest states in the entire country. To do so, he has felt free to buck his own party often. But this week he rather gratuitously took a cheap shot at President Biden, so we've got to at least hand him a (Dis-)Honorable Mention for doing so.

Andrew Gillum, who lost his race against Governor Ron DeSantis in Florida, is now on trial for federal corruption charges and lying to the F.B.I. We can't even say "the jury's out" on this one, as the trial has just begun. But until the verdict is read, we're going to hold off on giving him any more awards, just on "presumption of innocence" grounds.

But the jury (so to speak) is in on Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra. Here's the story:

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra violated a law that restricts political activities of federal employees when he advocated for the election of Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) at a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute event in the fall, the Office of Special Counsel has determined.

In a letter Tuesday relaying the finding to President Biden, Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner said that Becerra had violated the Hatch Act when he spoke "in his official capacity" at the institute's annual awards gala in September.

"The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from using their official authority or influence to affect the outcome of an election," Kerner said. "In delivering his speech, Secretary Becerra impermissibly mixed his personal electoral preference with official remarks. While federal employees are permitted to express support for candidates when speaking in their personal capacity, the Hatch Act restricts employees from doing so when speaking as a government official."

In a response to the findings, Becerra said he regretted what he described as an "inadvertent violation."

"While I did not realize at the time that my off-the-cuff remarks concerning my personal voting intentions were in violation of the Hatch Act, I now understand why they were not permitted," he said.

Becerra added that he had received "additional counseling" on the Hatch Act from his department's ethics division and that he would "work hard to ensure that there are no future violations."

We do take Becerra at his word that this was "inadvertent." And we were pleased to see him not only own up to his mistake but promise not to make the same mistake ever again. Which is important, because the Hatch Act is rather toothless, as the article goes on to point out:

Under most legal interpretations of the Hatch Act, the president in office at the time is the only person who can take action to fire or reprimand his political appointees when they act illegally.

Democrats need to set a higher bar for ethics in politics, to repair the massive damage that Donald Trump did, to be blunt. We lost count of the number of times Trump administration people blatantly violated the Hatch Act on national television (Kellyanne Conway immediately springs to mind, for obvious reasons). And nothing ever happened to any of them, because Trump simply didn't care.

So we have to applaud Becerra for taking responsibility for his error and for promising to do a better job in the future. But we still have to give him this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week for making the error in the first place.

[Contact Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on his official contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 703 (4/21/23)

As we said earlier, we are still waiting to hear what the Supreme Court does on the abortion pill. Because of this, we find ourselves a few short in the talking points we had planned out for today. So in a blatantly lazy act of stenography, we are going to fill the first three talking points with the entirety of a press release handed out by White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, in response to Kevin McCarthy finally putting something on paper.

The debt ceiling fight is guaranteed to be an extended affair. This is going to consume weeks of politics in Washington, and it's only going to get more intense the closer we get to the actual deadline (where the United States government could default on its debt for the first time in history).

So we thought it was important to begin the whole fracas with Joe Biden's position. These are all going to be Democratic talking points we'll all hear for the next two months, most likely (if not longer). And so far, the White House seems to be doing a great job of framing the issue, so rather than reword their points in our own language, we're just going to present theirs verbatim.


   Extreme MAGA wing

Biden's been out front on this since before the midterm elections. And it works -- paint the entire Republican Party with the broad MAGA brush....

Yesterday, Speaker McCarthy sided with the extreme MAGA wing of his conference and released a blueprint to devastate hard-working American families. MAGA House Republicans are holding the American economy hostage in order to take a hatchet to programs Americans rely on every day to make ends meet.


   This is what it really does....

Point out all the real-world consequences of the Republican plan -- as many as you can think of, and as often as you get the chance!

Every House Republican who votes for this bill is voting to cut education, veterans medical care, cancer research, meals on wheels, food safety, and law enforcement. To offshore American manufacturing and kill good-paying jobs. To take health care away from millions of Americans and threaten food assistance for hundreds of thousands of older people. To increase energy bills and raise taxes for hard-working families. To slash programs hard-working Americans depend on even as they protect wealthy tax cheats and continue to push tax giveaways for the wealthiest and big corporations.


   Then present the alternative

OK, gratuitous capitalizations aside (hrrmph!), this clearly presents people with the Democratic alternative to the Draconian Republican agenda.

That stands in stark contrast with President Biden's Budget, which Invests in America, lowers costs for hardworking families, and cuts the deficit by asking the super-wealthy and largest corporations to pay their fair share. House Republicans must avoid default and stop playing economic brinkmanship with the American people's livelihoods and retirements. The American people have made clear which economic vision they support.


   Mint the damn coin, Joe!

Biden's hands aren't completely tied, of course.

"If Joe Biden gets pushed too far, he's got a number of ways to make this entire problem disappear. The 14th Amendment states that, and I quote, 'The validity of the public debt of the United States... shall not be questioned.' Right there in the Constitution is the answer -- debts incurred by passing legally-binding appropriations bills shall not be questioned, period. The entire concept of a debt ceiling -- which didn't exist when this amendment was ratified -- is therefore unconstitutional on its face. Which means Joe Biden and the Treasury Department should just ignore it, and we'll never have to have this hostage-taking standoff again. Or Biden could direct the Treasury to just mint a trillion-dollar coin and deposit it with the Federal Reserve and once again the problem just disappears -- without Congress having to lift a finger. What I would do if I were Joe Biden -- before we get to the do-or-die deadline -- would be to have the Treasury mint the coin, hold a very public ceremony to display it to the public, and then just threaten to deposit it with the Fed. Mint the damn coin, Joe! It's the easy way out of this mess!"


   McCarthy weakest speaker ever?

This taunt might just come in handy in all sorts of future situations (it's a pretty safe bet, at this point).

"Speaker Kevin McCarthy issued his list of demands to release the hostage of the full faith and credit of the United States of America. But there's no guarantee he'll be able to get 218 Republicans to vote for it next week. I'll be looking for any signs of a delay in holding this vote, because it will signal exactly what we all suspect anyway -- that McCarthy is well on his way to becoming the weakest speaker in American history, unable to herd the cats in his own caucus. Remember when Republicans promised that they'd immediately pass some kind of border security bill as their very first action if they took the House? Well, that one's not ready for primetime either. McCarthy talks a good game, but when it comes down to actually whipping votes, we're all going to see next week how strong his position really is."


   GOP enters alternate universe....

This is just bizarre. Sure, it's a welcome development for Democrats (and everyone else, really), but it's still very weird to observe.

"Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis -- the two current frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination -- are beating each other up in ads over who will stand up stronger for Social Security and Medicare. What they gloss over, however, is that they're trying to outdo each other in standing up to their own party. Democrats have always supported and fought hard for these programs, while Republicans have been itching to either kill them outright or slash them to the bone since they were first enacted. So it is rather strange to see championing Medicare and Social Security as a brand-new GOP litmus test. All we as Democrats have to say is: 'Welcome to the party, guys! Glad to see this change of heart in Republicans!'"


   Like a rug

An easy target, this week. And we tried to limit ourselves to not using profanity, just to be polite about it all....

"Fox News, it is now clear, is not an actual news organization. It's just not. They don't seek out the truth and report it to the public. Instead, they lie. Like a rug. Like a dog. Through their teeth. Their pants are ablaze. They speak with forked tongue. They are pathological liars. They are full of bovine excrement. Or full of baloney, if you prefer. You can tell when the people on Fox are lying, because their mouths are moving. They are nothing short of snake-oil salesmen. They are not a news organization, they are the propaganda arm of the Republican Party, plain and simple. And that is the honest truth!"

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground


16 Comments on “Friday Talking Points -- Fox On The Run”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Do we know how many votes were cast by Biden on the Senate floor?

  2. [2] 
    nypoet22 wrote:
  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    I mean, on the one hand i fully support protecting the public from low quality beverages, but intentionally destroying that much beer just seems wrong...

  4. [4] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    well at least they didn't destroy any pie. THAT would have been a tragedy!

  5. [5] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    Re "Debts incurred by passing legally-binding appropriations bills . . "

    It's not passing appropriations bills that incurs debt, it's the borrowing of the money to pay for whatever the gov't is buying that incurs the debt. And even the coining or printing the money (in lieu of borrowing) doesn't incur debt. Paying the gov'ts bills with newly-created money (monetary inflation in economist's terminology) is simply a form of taxation, levied against the purchasing power of all the previously created money.

  6. [6] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Oops, make that TP4, not TP$

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I cannot resist the urge any longer...I'm just not that strong. Besides, it's Sunday evening already, somewhere, right?

    How does this song not rise to better than number 5 in the USA!?

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:
  9. [9] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Do I detect a gradual slide into irrelevance within the land of Weigantia?

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    No, that's just your imagination, running away with you...

  11. [11] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Pie is ALWAYS relevant. beer too, usually.

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I KNOW there's a tune for that ...

  13. [13] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    Looks like that FOX ran right away from Tucker Carlson. Heh...

  14. [14] 
    Kick wrote:

    C. R. Stucki]


    You either got money on the brain or are getting shifty. Heh.

    Re "Debts incurred by passing legally-binding appropriations bills . . "

    It's not passing appropriations bills that incurs debt, it's the borrowing of the money to pay for whatever the gov't is buying that incurs the debt.

    You are absolutely incorrect and definitely confusing the term "debt" with "loan." You need it explained to you? I can do that for you since I'm such a nice guy.


    I recently purchased a brand spankin' new energy efficient tankless water heater under the terms of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, and two things have now occurred:

    (1) I have unlimited hot water.

    (2) The United States is now in debt to me for a $600 credit under the Act whether they borrow the money to pay me or not.

    If somebody performs a (any) service for me (or anyone else), a "debt" is owed to them until they are paid for services rendered... whether I borrow the money to pay them or not. Spoiler alert: I don't borrow the money to pay them.

    So, to recap: One does not have to borrow money in order to incur a debt. This is basic stuff, Stucki, and you're the self-proclaimed "money expert"? Heh. :)

    And even the coining or printing the money (in lieu of borrowing) doesn't incur debt. Paying the gov'ts bills with newly-created money (monetary inflation in economist's terminology) is simply a form of taxation, levied against the purchasing power of all the previously created money.

  15. [15] 
    Kick wrote:


    I inadvertently posted a large chunk of your post without deleting it... so ignore that last paragraph after the recap which was actually part of your post.

    I'm having a nice glass of the finest whiskey in the world and Coca-Cola.

    So, to recap: Blame Canada. :)

  16. [16] 
    Kick wrote:

    C. R. Stucki

    Do I detect a gradual slide into irrelevance within the land of Weigantia?

    Nope. You've been irrelevant since your first post. :)

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