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
May 26, 2016, 6:05 PM EDT

Conservatives who accuse media outlets of liberal bias are a lot like shakedown artists, suggested Salon’s Marcotte in a Tuesday piece. In this context, the targets of the allegations don’t pay protection money; instead, they “bend…over backwards to placate” right-wingers, thereby “injecting conservative bias into the process as journalists, afraid of seeming too ‘liberal,’ hold conservative accusations and claims to a lower standard of scrutiny.”

Marcotte wrote that there’s “no real merit” to claims that Facebook gave short shrift to conservative-friendly news items. Nonetheless, she added, Facebook is seeking to “appease the bad faith ‘concerns’ of conservatives…which was probably the point…of generating this non-scandal in the first place: To pressure Facebook to remove safeguards, so that conservative lies and conspiracy theories can spread widely and quickly.”

May 25, 2016, 10:55 AM EDT

New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait has contempt for both Donald Trump (“his appeal operates…at a sub-intellectual level”) and those who’ve voted for him (“the Republican Party turns out to be filled with idiots”). Still, suggested Chait in a Thursday post, Trump and his supporters have unwittingly clarified something important: the Tea Party movement is not and never was truly conservative, partly because its hostility toward government spending was selective (tea-partiers had no problem with programs they benefited from, but disliked programs perceived as benefiting minorities).

May 22, 2016, 6:25 PM EDT

Damon Linker, a self-described former “conservative intellectual” (he was an editor at First Things) believes that Hillary Clinton’s policy positions are “good enough” to earn the votes of current conservatives, given that a Donald Trump administration would pose a “national threat” and that most right-wing Hillary-hatred “lack[s] any rational connection to reality.”

Take Hillary’s scandals -- please, take them. “Every single accusation is trivial. Petty. Penny-ante,” Linker asserted in a Thursday column for The Week. “Yes, even the business about Clinton's private email server. And especially the septic tank full of hyped-up, conspiracy-laden nonsense that goes by the name of ‘Benghazi.’ (If well-meaning members of the conservative movement want to explore how the Republican electorate ended up hoodwinked by a transparent charlatan-demagogue like Donald Trump, they could do worse than reflecting on their own complicity in publicizing, or at least failing to defuse, this endless, cockamamie ‘scandal.’)”

May 21, 2016, 12:41 PM EDT

Since the concept of political correctness became well-known in the late 1980s, it’s typically been thought of as a left-wing phenomenon, but some liberals claim that conservatives have their own version of it. In a Thursday article, Steve Almond alleged that right-wing PC is “a relentless blaring Persecution Complex” which manifests as “a mindset that reframes its paranoid aggressions as legitimate and necessary forms of self-defense.”

“The conservative PC movement is what allows gun-toting madmen to see themselves as religious martyrs when they gun down human beings whose ‘crime’ is that they provide reproductive health services to poor women,” declared Almond. “At its extreme, it’s what prompts men like Timothy McVeigh to perpetrate acts of mass murder in response to the ‘tyranny’ of the U.S. Government.”

May 19, 2016, 11:39 PM EDT

Even though Donald Trump is “dumb” and “racist,” he might constitute an upgrade in the Republican party’s leadership, suggests Rolling Stone’s Taibbi. That’s because before Trump turned into the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee, the public faces of the party were “mean, traitorous scum.” Republicans, wrote Taibbi in the magazine’s June 2 issue, “dominated American political life for 50 years and were never anything but monsters…Their leaders, from Ralph Reed to Bill Frist to Tom DeLay to Rick Santorum to [Mitt] Romney and [Paul] Ryan, were an interminable assembly line of shrieking, witch-hunting celibates…the kind of people who thought Iran-Contra was nothing, but would grind the affairs of state to a halt over a blow job or Terri Schiavo's feeding tube.”

May 17, 2016, 9:47 PM EDT

Universities have generated countless breakthroughs in science, technology, and medicine. Then there’s the product of higher education that Kevin Drum discussed in a Saturday post: “The first concrete movement toward gender-neutral bathrooms started at universities. Now it's becoming mainstream. Good work, idealistic college kids!"

Drum remarked that some current campus obsessions -- “safe spaces, microaggressions, trigger warnings” -- might be considered “dumb,” but added, “I've always found it hard to get too exercised about this stuff. These kids are 19 years old. They want to change the world. They're idealistic and maybe too impatient with anyone who doesn't want to move as fast as they do. So were you and I at that age. Frankly, if they didn't go a little overboard about social justice, I'd be worried about them.”

May 16, 2016, 9:49 PM EDT

If Facebook discriminated against conservative-friendly news items, mused Brian Beutler in a Friday article, it almost certainly had good reason to do so, given the abundance of nonsense that right-wingers unleash on the Web.

“The differences between mainstream and liberal political content on the one hand, and conservative content on the other, [are] critical,” wrote Beutler. “Facebook reviewers tasked with ‘disregard[ing] junk…hoaxes or subjects with insufficient sources’ are going to ensnare more climate-change denialism, more birther stories, more racist Breitbart agitprop than anything comparably dubious that comes out of the liberal internet. And those dubious stories will come not just from fringe sites or content farms, but from prestige outlets of the online right.”

May 14, 2016, 3:11 PM EDT

Gopnik contended that if Donald Trump became president, his agenda could not be “bounded in by honest conservatives in a Cabinet or restrained by normal constitutional limits.” Therefore, he must lose in November, and toward that end, Gopnik urged “intelligent” conservatives to back Hillary Clinton, opining that their oft-discussed alternatives to Trump -- voting for a third-party candidate or not voting in the presidential election -- are “meaningless.”

“Voting against Trump is an act of allegiance to America,” asserted Gopnik. “Hillary Clinton…was in the White House, once, and helped preside over a period of peace and mostly widespread prosperity. One can oppose her ideology (to the degree she has any), be unimpressed by her record (as contradictory as it may be), or mistrustful of her character. God knows, it is bitterly hard to defer to a long-standing political enemy, but it is insane to equate a moderate, tested professional politician with a crypto-fascist. Doing so is possible only through a habit of hatred so distended that it no longer has any reference to reality at all.”

May 13, 2016, 11:40 AM EDT

A lot of big-time journalists believe they speak truth to power, but according to Esquire’s Charles Pierce, the attitude of the elite media toward presidents and certain presidential nominees is pretty much the opposite: “giddiness in the face of power.” Because of that longstanding state of affairs, suggested Pierce in a Tuesday post, “a fully armed and operational bullshit station” better known as Donald Trump might be the next POTUS.

Pierce conceded that Democrats John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton benefited from credulous and even reverent coverage, but he devoted much more space to how Republicans had been similarly advantaged. He claimed that “the real precedent for the helplessness of the elite political press” was its treatment of Ronald Reagan, stating that Reagan's "constant disengagement from the truth were chalked up to his lifetime as a 'storyteller,' his love for 'parables,' and, very late in his term, his advancing age...The elite political press simply was not prepared to call the man a liar. It would not have been sporting. It would have been against The Rules."

May 11, 2016, 10:17 AM EDT

Last month, a Pew Research Center blog post summarized recent survey data on how Americans’ views of “individualism, the role of government, free expression, religion and morality” differ from those of Europeans. The post prompted Kali Holloway of AlterNet to snark up a storm regarding the supposed cluelessness and backwardness of this country, especially the red states. 

May 9, 2016, 7:25 AM EDT

In a Tuesday post, New York magazine’s Chait suggested that conservatism is driven not by an elite but by its riff-raff. Chait asserted, “Whatever [the] abstract arguments for conservative policy…on the ground, Republican politics boils down to ethno-nationalistic passions ungoverned by reason,” and remarked that Donald Trump’s supporters “have revealed things about the nature of the party that many Republicans prefer to deny.”

During the GOP presidential contest, indicated Chait, the “lunatic theories professed by most Republicans: the theory of anthropogenic global warming is a conspiracy concocted by scientists worldwide; the Reagan and Bush tax cuts caused revenue to increase; George W. Bush kept us safe from terrorism,” have lost ground to Trump’s “entirely different set of crackpot beliefs that lie outside conservative ideology.”

May 6, 2016, 9:52 PM EDT

Some on the left claim that Donald Trump is an ideological descendant of Ronald Reagan, never mind that Reagan was Mr. Conservative and Trump is Mr. Opportunist. Paul Campos, from the University of Colorado, makes a different Trump-as-heir-to-Reagan argument. In a Thursday Salon article, Campos opined that the Reagan revolution was less about right-wing views than “stupidity, celebrity, and plutocracy,” and that Trump is its “natural culmination.”

Campos sniped that “being famous for being famous is a sufficient basis for winning [the] presidential nomination [of] the party of Reagan, the know-nothing B-movie star” and stated that Trump’s electoral success “marks the triumph of plutocracy in its purest form. Ronald Reagan hated government, and loved business, to the point where he helped create our national infatuation with the idea of the heroic businessman…In a culture that worships both stupidity and celebrity, the self-serving lies of famous plutocrats are often swallowed whole.”

May 5, 2016, 9:38 PM EDT

During the upcoming presidential campaign, predicts David Roberts, the media will not acknowledge an inconvenient truth: that the difference in quality between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is comparable to the difference in potability between “Coca-Cola [and] sewer water.”

“The campaign media's self-image is built on not being partisan,” wrote Roberts in a Thursday article. “How does that even work if one side is offering up a flawed centrist and the other is offering up a vulgar xenophobic demagogue?...Going after Clinton will be journalists' default strategy for proving that they're not biased.”

May 4, 2016, 8:37 PM EDT

Not long before Ted Cruz left the presidential race, he inadvertently performed what Salon’s Marcotte suggests was a public service by clarifying that right-wingers are entitled authoritarians who readily inflict pain on kids.

Last weekend at an Indiana campaign rally, a boy in the audience yelled “You suck!” at Cruz, to which Cruz replied, “In my household, when a child behaves that way they get a spanking.” Marcotte asserted in a Tuesday piece that the incident “was one of those moments when the cowardice of the conservative movement was laid bare,” and that “enthusiasm for beating children” may be the best indication of “the toxicity of conservative ideology.”

May 2, 2016, 9:34 PM EDT

In March of 2013, the Republican National Committee issued what soon became known as the “autopsy report,” which discussed how the party might improve its chances of winning presidential elections. Last Thursday in The Atlantic, reform conservative (or former conservative) Frum provided the GOP with a sort of pre-autopsy document that it might consult after Donald Trump’s “almost certain failure in November.”

Frum argued that conservatives need a new approach which avoids both “toxic” Trumpism and “the entrepreneur worship of the past few years.” He mused that “much of the old conservative message is out of date. Not all of it, but much. Yet the people who formed the conservative coalition remain. They’ve misplaced their faith and trust in Donald Trump. But then, it’s not as if their faith and trust were honored by the party’s plutocratic former leadership, either.”

May 1, 2016, 8:57 PM EDT

Several decades ago, there were plenty of right-of-center Democrats and left-of-center Republicans. These days, however, almost everyone agrees that the Democrats have become a distinctly liberal party and the GOP a distinctly conservative party. One who disagrees in part is writer Conor Lynch, who in a Saturday article claimed that Republicans have transitioned out of true conservatism and now are “extreme nihilists” who have “embraced Bolshevism of the right.”

Lynch noted that pundits such as George Will and David Brooks “have widely condemned Donald Trump as a fake conservative, and they’re not wrong. Trump is clearly not conservative—but neither is the Republican Party...[which] has become an increasingly friendly place for…the kind of characters who used to make up the John Birch Society…For the sake of John Boehner’s mental well being, he is lucky he got out when he did.”

April 29, 2016, 9:16 PM EDT

A few months back, some maintained that Ted Cruz was ineligible for the presidency because, in their view, he wasn’t a natural-born citizen of the United States. In a Thursday article, Jeb Lund made an even more extreme argument about Cruz, suggesting that he isn’t even a full-fledged person. Specifically, Lund opined that both Cruz and his would-be running mate, Carly Fiorina, are “spectacular failed approximations of human beings,” and huge liars to boot.

Lund also contended that it’d be futile for Cruz to use Fiorina as attacker-in-chief against Hillary Clinton: “Leave aside institutional opposition to equal pay for equal work, forget opposing the re-signing of the Violence Against Women Act…skip over attacks on reproductive rights and ask who came up with the 25 years of ridicule of Clinton…If a quarter century of that bothered Republican voters, then Carly Fiorina is not the solution, especially when her idea of acknowledging a war on women is claiming that Hillary Clinton invented it…And if a quarter century of sexism and legislative scorn didn't bother Republican voters, then what single thing does she change in the slightest?”

April 28, 2016, 10:22 PM EDT

New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait admires Bernie Sanders’s willingness (eagerness?) to raise taxes so as to “finance the kind of social benefits American liberals would prefer.” That’s why Chait is disappointed that Sanders opposes Philadelphia’s proposed three-cents-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks, revenue from which would fund citywide pre-kindergarten and other programs.

In a Tuesday post, Chait wrote that Sanders “has received justifiable credit for breaking the taboo on middle-class taxation and asking just why it is that Americans must be denied public services taken for granted elsewhere…But where does this leave his opposition to the soda tax? His position is strange and ironic because taxes on specifically defined, unhealthy goods has long been the loophole through which Democrats escape the pressure of their own no-taxes-on-the-middle-class vise…What’s more, the proceeds of the soda tax finance a vital liberal social goal (in this case, early education).”

April 27, 2016, 9:17 PM EDT

Last week, a long Vox essay by Emmett Rensin asserted that “contempt” for supposedly “stupid” blue-collar whites -- in response to the exodus of those voters from the Democratic party -- has become pervasive among liberals. The piece has gotten some pushback from lefty writers, including Slate’s Jamelle Bouie, who thinks that Rensin greatly overestimates the spread and influence of what Rensin called the “smug style in American liberalism.”

“The driving reason working-class whites abandoned the Democratic Party is race,” commented Bouie in a Friday piece. “The New Deal coalition Rensin describes was devoured by its own contradictions, chiefly, the racism needed to secure white allegiance even as the party tried to appeal to blacks…Pressed by those blacks, Democrats tried to make good on their commitments, and when they did, whites bolted.”

April 26, 2016, 5:56 PM EDT

Republican politicians, more than their Democratic counterparts, tend to campaign on anti-Washington themes. That’s kind of odd, suggests Michael Tomasky, given that one of Washington’s quintessential institutions, Congress, helps the GOP by playing a crucial role in obscuring the American people’s fondness for liberal socioeconomic policies.

“If Congress is what you see when you see America,” wrote Tomasky in a Tuesday column, “then you see a place where roughly half—no, more than half—of the people think that raising the minimum wage is radical, or that health care is a privilege you have to earn, or that climate change is a fantasy…Out in the real country, only crackpots think these things…But the crackpot community is dramatically overrepresented in Washington and skews the way all these things are discussed and described on shows like Morning Joe.”