Fox’s Latest Hoax
Plus: Slouching toward a debt disaster.
“Alright, before we go, a little update on a story we brought you this week about homeless vets being displaced from hotels so that illegals could move in. Turns out the group behind the claim made it up. We have no clue as to why anyone would do such a thing, but we’ll bring you any updates should they come.” — Laura Ingraham, making on-air correction.
To which, attorney George Conway replied:
“We have no idea why the lies we incessantly repeated were made up, says the network that paid over three-quarters of a billion dollars for incessantly repeating lies.”
Morning Shots would like to report a homicide.
As the nation teeters toward an objectively insane debt default, it’s worth keeping in mind that this is exactly what the GOP’s leading candidate for president has endorsed:
Mr. Trump suggested on Wednesday night that Republicans in Congress should hold fast against raising the federal debt ceiling without budget cuts, even if it means the country defaults on its debt.
“I say to the Republicans out there — congressmen, senators — if they don’t give you massive cuts, you’re going to have to do a default,” he said.
A growing list of economists and analysts have warned about the potential consequences if Congress does not raise the borrowing limit before the government can no longer pay its bills, including huge job losses, a recession and a nosedive on Wall Street.
Mr. Trump predicted that Democrats would “absolutely cave” when confronted with the choice between accepting spending cuts and defaulting. Still, when asked to clarify if he would endorse a default, he said he would.
This seems relevant, and should probably be mentioned in every story about the debt crisis, don’t you think? (Make sure you read Dennis Aftergut in today’s Bulwark: “Why Trump Wants U.S. to Default on Debt.”)
It also leads to awkward moments like this:
BYRON DONALDS: Trump said the debt ceiling shouldn't be used as a negotiating wedge when he was president, and when asked why he's not saying that now, he said because he's not president.
CHUCK TODD: Do you realize how absurd that sounds?
Putin sucks up to his BFF. Via the NYT: “Russia’s Latest Sanctions on U.S. Officials Turn to Trump Enemies.”
Russia has expanded its list of sanctioned Americans in a tit-for-tat retaliation for the latest curbs imposed by the United States. But what is particularly striking is how much President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is adopting perceived enemies of former President Donald J. Trump as his own.
Among the 500 people singled out for travel and financial restrictions on Friday were Americans seen as adversaries by Mr. Trump, including Letitia James, the state attorney general of New York who has investigated and sued him. Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state of Georgia who rebuffed Mr. Trump’s pressure to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election, also made the list. And Lt. Michael Byrd, the Capitol Police officer who shot the pro-Trump rioter Ashli Babbitt on Jan. 6, 2021, was another notable name.
None of those three has anything to do with Russia policy and the only reason they would have come to Moscow’s attention is because Mr. Trump has publicly assailed them.
Not subtle, comrade.
It’s never good when your own former lawyer says you’re going to jail. Via the Independent: “Trump’s White House lawyer predicts ex-president will end up in jail as Mar-a-Lago probe heats up.”
Ty Cobb, who worked as a White House attorney for the Trump administration from July 2017 to May 2018, told CNN that he believes the evidence against Mr Trump will lead to a conviction and prison time.
And this doesn’t seem to be going well, either. Via Politico: “Former Trump attorney says he left legal team because of infighting.”
If GOP nominates him, 2024 will be a referendum on Trump, not Biden. Via the Wapo: “Concerns about Biden’s reelection swamped by fear of Trump in swing voter focus groups.”
Every single one said they wished Biden and his old Republican foe Donald Trump were not running for reelection. Several offered dire assessments of Biden’s mental and physical capacities, calling him too old or speculating about the possibility of dementia.
But as the focus group moderator steered the conversation to the possibility of a Biden rematch next year with Trump, the mood clearly shifted among these voters, who had all cast a ballot for Trump in 2016 and then Biden in 2020. Nine of the 15 said they would vote again for Biden, three said they would go back to Trump and three said they would either not vote or find a third-party candidate.
Here comes Tim. He’s running. For Something. Via Politico: “Who is Tim Scott? 55 Things You Need to Know About the GOP Presidential Candidate.”
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Just a bit off-Broadway
Come for the “Name that Musical,” stay for my discussion with Tim Miller on Rudy’s medical experiments on himself, Disney’s humiliation of DeSantis, Trump’s legal setbacks in his own hometown, and more. Our live show from NYC.
The anatomy of Fox’s new hoax
Let’s go back to where started in today’s Morning Shots: Laura Ingraham’s awkward attempt at cleaning up Fox’s latest mess.
ICYMI, Fox News went all-in on a story that turns out to have been completely fabricated. For a moment, though, set aside the schadenfreude to ponder what the incident tells us about the right’s media/political doom loop. Via the Daily Beast: “Fox News Stoked Outrage Over Migrants Displacing Homeless Vets. It Was a Hoax.”
The story had all the hallmarks of fueling the maximum amount of right-wing outrage. With migrants being bused into New York City amid an immigration surge at the southern border, upstate New York hotels had supposedly kicked out homeless veterans in order to make room for the influx of asylum seekers.
Unfortunately for Fox, the story was utter and complete bullshit. The network could easily have been discovered the hoax if Fox News was actually in the business of news, as opposed to being a purveyor of outrage porn. So, the flagrant act of journalism was left to an intrepid local outlet.
The story of a group of homeless veterans booted out of a New York hotel to make space for migrants made front-page news: "Vets Kicked Out For Migrants" declared the New York Post's cover.
But it was all a hoax planted by a nonprofit group that promised money to homeless people to pretend to be vets, according to an investigation by Mid Hudson News.
Seven homeless men from New York say they were recruited from a homeless shelter in Poughkeepsie to act as veterans and claim they were forced to move out of a Newburgh hotel because of migrants, Mid Hudson News reported.
But this thorough debunking did not occur before Fox and all the GOP usuals rushed about with their hair on fire.
After right-wing tabloid The New York Post published the sensational report last Friday, Fox News and Newsmax ran wild with it, devoting dozens of segments (and countless online articles) to the indignation of “people who served our country and need a little boost” getting displaced by “illegals,” all while “these hotels are selling their soul for a check.”
Fox News contributor Lisa Marie Boothe said that this was “intentional” from President Joe Biden because “he is a globalist.” Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner added that Biden “doesn’t mean it” whenever he says “God bless the troops” after a speech.
And while House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) called it “shameful” and GOP presidential hopeful Nikki Haley said this was “liberal insanity at work,” other MAGA commentators went even further. “Fuck Democrats & their bullshit policies,” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted, sharing the original [New York] Post story.
And, of course:
Stefanik’s former colleague Adam Kinzinger tweeted out: "Hey [Elise Stefanik] this story is a complete and total lie" in response to another tweet from the congresswoman's personal account. "You should apologize."
Which brings us back to the quotes at the top of today’s newsletter. “Laura Ingraham Issues On-Air Correction For False Story She Covered: 'Turns Out the Group Behind the Claim Made it Up'.”
“We have no clue as to why anyone would do such a thing,” she said.
Irony would weep, if it were not already long dead.
ICYMI: Firing Line
Why The Bulwark?
SYKES: We share the principle that we need to defend democracy, that Donald Trump and what he represents is an existential threat to our society, and that we need to raise that alarm. But we’re also trying to defend the concept of liberal constitutional democracy. And if we’ve learned anything in the last few years, it’s those things are much more fragile than we ever imagined before.
HOOVER: Liberal in a classical sense?
SYKES: Liberal in a classical sense. Yes, exactly. We thought that America was immune from history. We thought that all of our institutions would hold. We thought of all these checks and balances. And so this has been a vertiginous time. A disillusioning time. And we ask ourselves: have we taken the crazy pills? Have we lost our minds? Or is America on the wrong track here?
…When we wrote our first statement of what The Bulwark would be, [we said that we] would be standing athwart history saying, ‘you can’t be serious.’ That was our thing. You can’t be serious. Are you really going to take this seriously? Are you really going to engage in this kind of conduct?
The kiosks will be installed in stores for the benefit of underprivileged community members who are prone to crime like shoplifting, the plan suggests. They will “connect individuals in need to critical government resources and social services.” Adams did not announce any specific constructive action to actually crackdown on shoplifting, although he said there would be a “combination of increased law enforcement efforts and enhanced social service programming and resources to prevent shoplifting, particularly by individuals struggling with substance use disorders, serious mental illness, homelessness, or poverty.”
Ari Schulman, the editor of the New Atlantis sums it all up:
“Install kiosks in stores to connect would-be thieves w/ social service programs”
No other country could so meld therapy culture, McDonald’s self-service, rat-in-cage Maslovian needs-fulfillment, Mad Max dystopian despair, and naive bleeding-heart hope. Pure American sublime.”
1. The GOP Is in an Abusive Relationship with Trump
In this morning’s Bulwark, Sarah Longwell writes that no matter how horrible Trump is to women, Republicans’ opinions are baked in.
Over the course of hundreds of focus groups, I’ve seen female GOP voters rationalize, compartmentalize, and defend Trump’s treatment of women. They say they “[don’t] like his lifestyle and the things he did personally,” but “believed that he could do the things he was saying because of his professional background.”
When it comes to Trump’s conduct, these voters tend to give a lot of leeway. “Does he respect women? No. But can he run the country? Better than Biden,” said Judith, a Michigan retiree who voted for Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020. “If that's all we have to choose from [in 2024]—Biden or Trump—I'm not going to choose Biden.”
2. Why Are “Former Administration Officials” Still Not Speaking Up About Trump?
But there is a group of citizens who know even more keenly how dangerous another Trump term would be: the people who worked for him the first time.
Is it too much to ask that “former administration officials” speak honesty about the danger Trump poses now?
Because it seems that it would be helpful, and important, to hear the truth—ideally in a united, coordinated way—from the following people:
Gen. John Kelly
Gen. Mark Milley
Gen. James Mattis
Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster
That’s a partial list of the most high-profile adults in the room who worked for Trump the first time and clearly understand who and what the man is. There are others from the middle and lower ranks of government who could—and should—join them.
What’s important about this list is that none of these figures has anything to lose. Mike Pence won’t speak honestly about how dangerous Trump is because he thinks he’s running for president. And Mike Pompeo, despite having declined to run for president, is still nursing his own ambitions and so cannot be counted on to do the right thing. No one needs to hear from Bill Barr, who went on a book tour to describe how Trump became “manic and unreasonable and was off the rails” before January 6th and said that “the absurd lengths to which he took his ‘stolen election’ claim led to the rioting on Capitol Hill.” Barr also said he will vote for Trump should he win the nomination.
But the rest of these figures have no such constraints. Jim Mattis is off living his best life—getting married to a physicist he met in a bar at a Vegas ceremony. Rex Tillerson has become Jack Donaghy in winter. Neither Gina Haspel nor Kirstjen Nielsen seem to be doing anything that requires them to be held in the good graces of MAGA voters.
So why won’t these public servants rise, as former Rep. Liz Cheney has, and as Judge J. Michael Luttig has, to testify to what they saw and what they think about the possibility of Trump becoming president again?
Savage vs. Thiessen: A thread that is very much worth your time.