Tom Johnson covers mostly websites (e.g., Salon, Talking Points Memo, Daily Kos) for NewsBusters. He blogged frequently for the site from 2005 until 2007 and has been a regular contributor since 2011. From 1989 until 2002, he was an entertainment analyst for the Media Research Center and its spinoff, the Parents Television Council. From July 2004 until June 2005, he monitored National Public Radio for the MRC. He is a graduate of the University of Arizona.

Latest from Tom Johnson
February 5, 2016, 8:42 PM EST

Daily Kos writer Mark E Andersen makes political correctness sound healthy and utterly bland -- the ideological equivalent of plain oatmeal. “Political correctness is nothing evil,” declared Andersen in a Sunday post. “It is not a liberal plot…It is about being a decent human being—period.”

Andersen hinted that some non-decent, anti-PC human beings (i.e., conservatives) are concealing racist and sexist agendas: “Why is it that so many on the right have a problem with this? Is it because they think ‘bimbo,’ ‘nigger,’ ‘kike,’ ‘wop,’ ‘beaner,’ and other slurs are appropriate for everyday conversation?”

February 5, 2016, 12:27 AM EST

Ted Cruz is a quintessential movement conservative and Donald Trump definitely isn’t. Nonetheless, Daily Beast editor-in-chief and CNN commentator John Avlon thinks the two have so much in common politically that he’s given them a portmanteau name: Crump.

In a Wednesday column, the self-consciously centrist Avlon claimed that Cruz and Trump are “different manifestations of the same kind of conservative populism that gets weak-kneed watching a strongman preach with fact-free certainty.” He argued that a “creeping Crump cancer” developed within the Republican party after the GOP “systematically purged” its moderate conservatives.

February 2, 2016, 9:46 PM EST

Much of the left is obsessed with the religious right’s supposed obsession with sex. Exhibit number whatever was Marcotte’s Tuesday piece in Salon about Ted Cruz’s win in Iowa’s Republican caucuses.

Marcotte alleged that Cruz’s supporters in the Hawkeye State featured “a veritable rogue’s gallery of every creepy straight guy who claims he loves Jesus but has his eyes fixed firmly on the crotches of America.” Moreover, she griped that Cruz’s evangelical-driven triumph meant that the GOP “will still have to pay tribute to the nasty crews that use Jesus as a cover to push their lifelong obsession with controlling other people’s sex lives, especially if those people are female or queer.”

February 1, 2016, 10:10 AM EST

The kids in The Family Circus blame their misbehavior on gremlins with names like Ida Know and Not Me. The Week’s Damon Linker believes grown-up conservatives do something similar when they deny what Linker sees as the plain truth: that they run the Republican party.

In a Tuesday column, Linker contended that the right-wing “counter-establishment” that first gained a share of power in 1981 now “simply is the conservative and Republican establishment…[But] because its ideological outlook was formed when it was out of power, this establishment seems incapable of thinking about itself as an establishment.” He charged that "by thinking of themselves as perennially outside the Republican power-structure, members of the counter-establishment conveniently exempt themselves from the need to admit and learn from their own mistakes. It's always someone else's fault.”

January 31, 2016, 12:49 PM EST

Once upon a time, Martin Longman didn’t think Republicans were so bad, but that was before the Tea Party, before the Iraq war, before Fox News became a major force. The Washington Monthly blogger detailed his decades of disillusionment in a Tuesday post.

According to Longman, events which eroded his belief that Republicans were “decent people” included the “excesses of the Gingrich Revolution”; the “giant looting exercise” that GOPers allegedly executed during George W. Bush’s administration; and John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin. He also argued that “Donald Trump actually is an ideological match for the modern conservative movement” given that movement conservatives are motivated less by philosophical principle than by “1) fear 2) hatred 3) greed and 4) a need to be led…Trump encapsulates those almost perfectly.”

January 29, 2016, 9:25 PM EST

E.J. Dionne, the liberal Washington Post columnist, and Garry Wills, the author, scholar, and ex-conservative, disagree on whether the “hard right” has more or less permanent control of the Republican party. Dionne believes that so-called reform conservatives such as Ross Douthat, Ramesh Ponnuru, and David Frum might, in Wills’ words, “ride to the rescue.”

On the other hand, Wills, assessing Dionne’s Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism – From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond in the February 11 issue of the New York Review of Books, contends that the GOP is solidly in the grip of movement conservatives who tend towards paranoia (“to be on the right is to feel perpetually betrayed”); hostility to “reason, facts, science, open-mindedness, tolerance, secularity, modernity”; and indulgence of racism.

January 27, 2016, 12:59 AM EST

Left-leaning pundits worth their salt know that Donald Trump isn’t a movement conservative, but many of them believe nonetheless that his candidacy is, in some social/cultural/emotional sense, a fundamentally righty phenomenon.

That said, Daily Kos founder and publisher Markos Moulitsas, whose lefty credentials are hardly in question, argued in a Friday post that while Trump “happened to land on the Republican side because of Hillary Clinton’s dominance…he could actually [have made] a stronger case for running as a Democrat.” Kos observed that Trump “has no ideological mooring or conviction” and noted that he “advocated for single-payer healthcare…has called for higher taxes on the wealthy…mocked Mitt Romney’s attacks on immigrants…was pro-choice…Oh, and he was a registered Democrat until 2009.”

January 26, 2016, 9:43 PM EST

Calling into question the brainpower of right-wingers is a longstanding practice. John Stuart Mill famously said that even though he didn’t believe conservatives were “generally stupid,” he did maintain that “stupid persons are generally Conservative.” Penn State professor Sophia McClennen followed that tradition in a Monday piece for Salon, and, yes, a certain former governor of Alaska was prominently featured. “It is time to take seriously the role that stupidity is playing in shaping GOP politics,” declared McClennen, “and there is no better figure to help us think about that problem than Sarah Palin.”

January 24, 2016, 11:33 PM EST

“Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” is a well-known tune from the Golden Age of Broadway. A Friday Salon article made it sound as if a song about how today’s conservatives feel could be called “Besieged, Badgered and Beleaguered.”

In a piece pegged to Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump, Andrew O’Hehir opined that the right “has become exactly what it has long accused the left of being, not entirely without justification: a bunch of whiners and perennial victims who never shut up about how much they have suffered at the hands of evil but nebulous enemies.”

January 23, 2016, 3:14 PM EST

Commenting Friday on National Review’s anti-Donald Trump editorial and symposium, The New Republic’s Jeet Heer and New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait agreed that conservatives are responsible for Trump’s Republican frontrunner status, but differed on which unpleasant right-wing trait, “white identity politics” or anti-intellectualism, was the prime mover.

January 22, 2016, 6:37 PM EST

Édouard Manet, Igor Stravinsky, and Sarah Palin: peas in a pod, contended Salon pundit Marcotte in a Thursday post analyzing Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump. “Palin is the vanguard of a new way of right-wing speechifying,” declared Marcotte. “Her methods are the most outrageous, but as with most artistic revolutionaries…what seems iconoclastic now will swiftly become the norm.”

For Marcotte, what made Palin’s speech “brilliant” was its absence of ideas: “Thinking is the enemy of the conservative populist mission. What she wants is to make you feel, to have those feelings of bitterness and misplaced entitlement wash over the crowds until they are screaming for more blood…Her innovation helps Republicans get over the logic and evidence problems that plague them.”

January 21, 2016, 9:01 PM EST

The mainstream media give high marks to Megyn Kelly, but that’s because they’re grading on a curve, believes  Eric Alterman, who fumed recently about Vanity Fair’s February cover story on Kelly.

Alterman contended that writer Evgenia Peretz’s portrayal of Kelly as “a brave truth-teller, a feminist hero and a bit of a liberal” is “complete nonsense. That any of these descriptions are even imaginable is a tribute to Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, and the rest of the far-right media/entertainment complex. They have moved America’s ideological goalposts so far rightward that a person can earn undeserved praise merely for not being the worst of the worst.”

January 20, 2016, 9:01 PM EST

When it comes to battling President Obama, implies Paul Waldman, Republicans should (to borrow a phrase from Sinead O’Connor) fight the real enemy, not the cartoon ideologue of their imaginations.

“If you spend some time investigating what evidence Republicans offer when they call Obama divisive, what you find is not actually evidence at all, but their own skewed interpretations of events," wrote Waldman in a Tuesday column for The Week. “You might think he has been a good president or a bad one. But the idea that blame for the political divisions we confront lies solely or even primarily at his door is positively deranged.”

January 19, 2016, 11:49 AM EST

The Dallas-Fort Worth area is, of course, part of the Bible Belt. Nonetheless, according to Christopher Hooks, another faith flourishes there: “It’s also a place that’s responsible in large part for the rise of the new civic religion built around the worship of the most lethal among us.”

Hooks, an Austin-based journalist, was one of about 30,000 persons who attended last week’s world premiere of 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi at AT&T Stadium, best known as the home of the Dallas Cowboys. He detailed what he saw in a Friday article for Gawker, the gossipy New York website that of late has become much more politics-oriented. Though Hooks found 13 Hours technically accomplished, he asserted that its “moral landscape…is poisonous.”

January 17, 2016, 11:14 AM EST

Five years ago this month, a great many Tea Party Republicans took office in Congress. For some on the left, however, that may not have been the worst political development of January, 2011. This coming Thursday, notes The Washington Monthly's D.R. Tucker, “marks the fifth anniversary of the bitter night…when progressive Americans, and indeed Americans of all political persuasions who value honor, truth, respect, intelligence and decency, were shocked to learn that MSNBC had decided to end Countdown with Keith Olbermann.”

“What Keith Olbermann did for this country was profound,” declared Tucker in a post last Sunday. “He told the truth…He did more than just live up to the highest standards of American journalism. He did more than just stand up when so many around him stood down. Keith Olbermann kept our democracy safe.”

January 16, 2016, 12:07 PM EST

During the 1980s, a favorite talking point of liberals was that President Reagan tended to confuse movies with reality. In a Friday article, Zack Beauchamp accused a current Republican presidential candidate, Ted Cruz, of doing something similar, and alleged that the GOPers who took part in Thursday’s prime-time debate stand for a “view of the world [that] is as much a work of fiction as” Michael Bay's new film, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.

Towards the end of the debate, Cruz touted 13 Hours. Beauchamp commented, “The movie portrays politicians as ‘abandoning’ the Americans in Benghazi. But in reality, that is a conspiracy theory that has been roundly debunked…This moment, Cruz citing a fictitious movie as truth, was of a piece with the debate as a whole. In it, much of conversation about world affairs existed in a make-believe world, and a terrifying one at that, in which the very existence of America is in perilous danger. In other words, it wasn't just Ted Cruz who was living in a fiction last night — it was the entire stage.”

January 15, 2016, 11:15 AM EST

Broadcast-network comedy-talk programs such as The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon took two weeks off over Christmas and New Year’s. Real Time With Bill Maher got a winter break college students would envy (two months -- remember, it’s not TV, it’s HBO) but the show returns Friday night, and to promote it, Maher gave an interview to The Daily Beast. He and the Beast’s Marlow Stern talked mostly about the presidential races, though Maher fulminated a bit about how one of his major hobbyhorses, the Tea Party, allegedly came to be.

January 14, 2016, 11:25 AM EST

Bing West was a Marine infantry officer in the Vietnam war and a frequent embedded reporter in Iraq, yet Drum likens him to a tantrum-throwing kid and lectures him, “It's time to grow up, Bing.” (West is 75 years old.)

After West commented, “The lesson of Iraq is that after American troops achieved stability, Mr. Obama quit, leading to a larger war and more American deaths,” Drum vented, “Jesus, this pisses me off. Are conservatives ever willing to take responsibility for anything?...They're like small children, ruining everything they touch because the world is a big playground that they govern with their guts instead of their brains. Then they throw temper tantrums when the adults come along and try to clean up the messes they've made.”

January 12, 2016, 8:58 PM EST

William Saletan has done a deep dive into Ted Cruz’s statements regarding the Senate’s 2013 debate on immigration reform. Saletan’s conclusion, to adapt a line from Seinfeld, is that Cruz’s shadiness is real, and it’s “spectacular.” He calls Cruz “a passionate, indefatigable liar” and alleges, “For him, truth isn’t a matter of plain meaning. It’s a matter of technicalities.”

In a 3,600-word Sunday article abounding in legislative and linguistic minutiae, Saletan contends that in 2013, Cruz “chose his words exquisitely so that down the road—say, in a future campaign for president—he could position himself on either side of the immigration debate” -- an approach, Saletan suggests, which undermines Cruz’s claim to be a true conservative.

January 10, 2016, 2:15 PM EST

In the present, liberals vehemently oppose what conservatives stand for (and vice versa, of course). But do liberals believe there was a time when conservatism was somewhat reasonable, or at least not appalling? Martin Longman offered an answer in a Friday post: It was “the reaction to FDR’s New Deal” that crystallized the suspicious, radical conservatism of today.

“Conservatism is supposed to revere institutions,” commented Longman. “But what institutions has Movement Conservatism respected?...Not Congress or the federal government. Not the Supreme Court. The Office of the Presidency is respected only when it is in the hands of a conservative…What characterizes the conservative attitude to our institutions isn’t respect but paranoia.”