Matthews, Guests Suggest Media Criticism Is ‘Authoritarian,’ ‘Dirt Ball Politics’

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MSNBC’s Hardball pontificated ad nauseam Monday night about the snowflake piece in The New York Times expressing hurt feelings about liberal journalists being held accountable for past statements they’ve made over the years. Host Chris Matthews tag-teamed with Jeremy Peters (co-author of the article) and Mother Jones hack David Corn to go after media criticism as “authoritarian,” “dirt ball politics,” and the kind of thing that will lead to people getting hurt.

Matthews sounded the alarm in a tease by calling out the fact-based operation to put a spotlight on old statements by reporters that are controversial and should be addressed to be “dirt ball politics” of “Trump allies...out unleashing dogs on journalists now, pointing together oppo research and compiling dossiers of potentially embarrassing social media posts all in an attempt to try to discredit, intimidate, whatever, chill reporters.”

 

 

“He wants the media to stop reporting on him objectively. So they’re going after people’s families, people who work for them in their corp — organizations, anything to stop people from reporting on him,” Matthews whined. 

Considering how Chris’s wife Kathleen had long ties to Democratic politics (including a failed run for Congress), perhaps this was a touchy subject for him.

After a break, Matthews went first to Peters:

This is an amazing bit of reporting. How did you get to this story about this guy Schwartz and what they have been up to in terms of intimidating reporters — or trying to do — by uncovering facts about people that aren’t that important in news organizations in terms of editorial content, or family members, or people when they were 15 years old? How are they hurting people’s ability to honestly report?

The article itself was nonsense (which our Clay Waters dissected here), so Peters’s pompous and smug but thin-skinned outrage came out on TV, whining that the “coordinated effort” isn’t being done by people “who are....seeking to hold newspapers to account.”

Instead, Peters alluded that there’s nefarious intent behind it (click “expand”):

[B]ut who are seeking to intimidate and embarrass journalists who do work that is exposing things that the Trump administration is doing, that they disagree with, that they think is unflattering, and that’s what’s so different about what this effort really is. It’s not an effort to, say, we want to hold media accountable. It’s an effort to intimidate and what they’ve done is, they have cast a dragnet here. This is not specific going after individual reporters who have written stories, saying, we take issue with this person or this story. This is saying, we are seeking to discredit your entire organization by finding as many people as we can inside your organization who may have tweeted something 10, 15 years ago that is reprehensible, but we are going to use it to tarnish you all.

Matthews replied that this was “exactly what Joe McCarthy did.” Ah, yes. What a classic name Matthews levels against causes or people he dislikes.

A lead plowman in the Trump-Russia collusion conspiracy theory, Corn argued that such accountability is uncalled for and could lead to someone getting hurt (click “expand”):

This is an intimidation campaign. We’re going after families and it’s, in some ways, not entirely new, in that the right, going back to Richard Nixon’s enemies list, to Jesse Helms going after Dan Rather and CBS, has long looked at the media — as needing to discredit the media in order to preserve political power and this is what we see now with Donald Trump. He’s calling, you know, the media not just the enemy of the people, but he says: I’m asked about at the — at the G7 why people in the media hate America. So he’s already turning us, all of us collectively, into the enemy here, not Vladimir Putin. He’s not the enemy. The media is. So this is going to lead to — you know, we have talked about this before — to, I think, some real dangerous turn of events. I don’t want to be hyperbolic here, but what’s happening[.]

Huh. Dan Rather did end up being a horrible journalist, but no problem as he continued to appear on cable! Same goes for Lyin’ Brian Williams. As it turns out, promoting falsehoods doesn’t get you fired, so anti-Semitic or racist tweets must not count for much.

The three eventually concluded with more hyperbolic nonsense which, again, did nothing to dispute the facts in any of these cases or how The Times is forgiving towards those with old tweets aren’t on the right (click “expand”):

PETERS: [W]hat the President is ultimately doing, what this effort by allies of the President that we uncovered is attempting to do is to discredit legitimate news reporting and legitimate news reporting, unfortunately sometimes for people in power, reveals things that are unflattering about our leaders and President Trump has shown that he has been unable to handle that type of criticism, has been unable to withstand that type of scrutiny, and won’t be held accountable and what he does is try to shame and intimidate and defame the people who end up trying to hold him accountable.

MATTHEWS: David, have you seen any examples of this working, the chilling effect, the fear of somebody in your family did something wrong and they will throw it in the face of the reporter or the organization, or going after somebody, what they wrote when they were 15, like this Egyptian guy in the story that Jeremy reported? Do you think that — does that work anywhere? Have you seen it?

CORN: I haven’t seen it, and I hope it doesn’t work. Right now, the targets of this campaign, as Jeremy noted, have been what you would call maybe mid-level staffers, peoples whose names aren’t known. If they start taking up people with more notoriety, perhaps it will, but this is a Roy Cohn move. You know, if you can’t win on the facts, try to insult, bully and intimidate and right now, it’s not working, and I hope it doesn’t.

At the end of day, the belly-aching here wasn’t about the political motivations of the people who find these past statements. Rather, as we’ve seen in cases ranging in scale (from Brett Kavanaugh to our friend Amber Athey), it’s instead an effort to ostracize and ruin those who think differently.

And because the liberal media believe they and only they can police each other, any outside efforts are deemed to be undesirable and must be eliminated through any means necessary, all under the guise of the First Amendment as if it only pertains to the media.

So, lighten up liberal media. Exposing anti-Semitic, racist, sexist, or other blanketly offensive statements won’t spell doom for American democracy.

To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on August 26, click “expand.”

MSNBC’s Hardball
August 26, 2019
7:15 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Coming up, it gets worse, dirt ball politics. Wait until you catch this. Trump allies are out unleashing dogs on journalists now, pointing together oppo research and compiling dossiers of potentially embarrassing social media posts all in an attempt to try to discredit, intimidate, whatever, chill reporters. He wants the media to stop reporting on him objectively. So they’re going after people’s families, people who work for them in their corp — organizations, anything to stop people from reporting on him.

(....)

7:19 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: President Trump has made no secret about his disdain for the news media, or his fear, rather, frequently labeling them the enemy of the people for his purposes. Well, this weekend, we learned that President Trump’s allies are now escalating his war on journalists. According to The New York Times, “a loose network of conservative operatives allied with the White House is pursuing what they say will be an aggressive operation to discredit news organizations deemed hostile to President Trump by publicizing damaging information about journalists.” Those operatives have already released information about journalists at CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times and one source tells The Times that “operatives have closely examined more than a decade’s worth of public posts and statements by journalists...The research is said to extend to members of journalists’ families who are active in politics, as well as liberal activists and other political opponents of the president.” Arthur Schwartz, an informal adviser to the President’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., is believed to be one of the operation’s leaders. In a note to The New York Times’s staff, publisher A.G. Sulzberger writes: “Unable to challenge the accuracy of our reporting, political operatives have been scouring social media and other sources to find any possibly embarrassing information on anyone associated with The Times. Their goal is to silence critics and undermine the public’s faith in independent journalism. This represents an escalation of an ongoing campaign against free press.” That’s the publisher of The Times talking. For more, I’m joined by Jeremy Peters, reporter and co-author of that piece in The New York Times, and David Corn, Washington bureau chief for the Mother Jones. Thank you so much. Congratulations, Jeremy. This is an amazing bit of reporting. How did you get to this story about this guy Schwartz and what they have been up to in terms of intimidating reporters — or trying to do — by uncovering facts about people that aren’t that important in news organizations in terms of editorial content, or family members, or people when they were 15 years old? How are they hurting people’s ability to honestly report?

JEREMY PETERS: Well, one of the things that struck us initially was looking at who was the target of these exposes, Chris and when we noticed that they were lower-level people, people that often didn’t have anything to do with coverage of Trump or his administration, that made us realize that this is probably a pretty sophisticated effort, an effort that goes back and has looked at years and years, and hundreds, potentially, maybe even thousands of people and what our reporting led us to was the answer that, yes, that’s indeed what’s happened. This is a coordinated effort by President Trump’s allies, people with close ties to President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who are not seeking to hold newspapers to account, but who are seeking to intimidate and embarrass journalists who do work that is exposing things that the Trump administration is doing, that they disagree with, that they think is unflattering, and that’s what’s so different about what this effort really is. It’s not an effort to, say, we want to hold media accountable. It’s an effort to intimidate and what they’ve done is, they have cast a dragnet here. This is not specific going after individual reporters who have written stories, saying, we take issue with this person or this story. This is saying, we are seeking to discredit your entire organization by finding as many people as we can inside your organization who may have tweeted something 10, 15 years ago that is reprehensible, but we are going to use it to tarnish you all.

MATTHEWS: You know, my friend, David, this is exactly what Joe McCarthy did. He didn’t find any significant communists. What he did find was a dentist in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, who had been a member of the Communist Party, a dentist. That’s — was his job in the Army, to be a dentist and he found that this guy was an old lefty, was a member of the party and he used that to make the case that the United States Army had been infiltrated by the reds and that was the whole thing about him and the Army in McCarthy hearings. It was all about that dentist. This sounds like the same tactic.

DAVID CORN: Well, it is. Well, I think — I’m jealous of the story and congratulations to Jeremy and Ken Vogel, who did it and, you know, if someone has a problem with The New York Times, CNN, Mother Jones, MSNBC, the way to deal with it is to say, here are the facts that are different than what you report and challenge them on that basis. That’s not what’s being done here. This is an intimidation campaign. We’re going after families and it’s, in some ways, not entirely new, in that the right, going back to Richard Nixon’s enemies list, to Jesse Helms going after Dan Rather and CBS, has long looked at the media — as needing to discredit the media in order to preserve political power and this is what we see now with Donald Trump. He’s calling, you know, the media not just the enemy of the people, but he says: I’m asked about at the — at the G7 why people in the media hate America. So he’s already turning us, all of us collectively, into the enemy here, not Vladimir Putin. He’s not the enemy. The media is. So this is going to lead to — you know, we have talked about this before — to, I think, some real dangerous turn of events. I don’t want to be hyperbolic here, but what’s happening with this Arthur Schwartz campaign is in synch with what the President is doing and it’s what authoritarians always do, discredit possible critics.

MATTHEWS: As David just said, President Trump continued his assault on the media this weekend, tweeting: “The question I was asked most today” — this is supposed to be an honest statement — “by fellow World Leaders,” the other G7 guys — “who think the [U.S.] is doing so well and is stronger than ever before, happens to be” — this is Trump reporting here. “‘Mr. President, why does the American media hate your country so much? Why are they rooting for it to fail?’” That’s supposedly — that’s Trump’s idea of reporting news and while he provided no evidence to support his claims, Trump said in a follow-up tweet: “In France we are all laughing at how knowingly inaccurate the U.S. reporting of the events conversations of the G7 is. These Leaders, and many others, are getting a major case study of Fake News at its finest.” So, Jeremy, that’s, I think, an example if Donald Trump were our reporter, right? He’s telling us what he said happening over there, as if they’re all coming up to him and feeling sorry for him, and in that — because the media is out to get him. Your thoughts?

PETERS: Right. Well, his version of events is often not reality, Chris. We all know that and what the President is ultimately doing, what this effort by allies of the President that we uncovered is attempting to do is to discredit legitimate news reporting and legitimate news reporting, unfortunately sometimes for people in power, reveals things that are unflattering about our leaders and President Trump has shown that he has been unable to handle that type of criticism, has been unable to withstand that type of scrutiny, and won’t be held accountable and what he does is try to shame and intimidate and defame the people who end up trying to hold him accountable.

MATTHEWS: David, have you seen any examples of this working, the chilling effect, the fear of somebody in your family did something wrong and they will throw it in the face of the reporter or the organization, or going after somebody, what they wrote when they were 15, like this Egyptian guy in the story that Jeremy reported? Do you think that — does that work anywhere? Have you seen it?

CORN: I haven’t seen it, and I hope it doesn’t work. Right now, the targets of this campaign, as Jeremy noted, have been what you would call maybe mid-level staffers, peoples whose names aren’t known.

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

CORN: If they start taking up people with more notoriety, perhaps it will, but this is a Roy Cohn move. You know, if you can’t win on the facts, try to insult, bully and intimidate and right now, it’s not working, and I hope it doesn’t.

MATTHEWS: Well, thank you. I wish they were the only people that have done this. I have seen stuff like this, something like this done in politics in recent American history. I didn’t like it then. I hate it more now. Thank you, Jeremy Peters. Thank you, David Corn.

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