NPR Touts Poll: Only Biased Republicans Find a Mueller 'Witch Hunt'

December 7th, 2018 2:29 PM

On Friday morning, National Public Radio political editor Domenico Montanaro reported results of a new poll with a typically stacked question: 

Which of the following statements comes closer to your opinion about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible wrongdoing and Russian interference in the 2016 election? "It's a fair investigation" or "It's a 'witch hunt'"?

This resembles stacked polls that ask if the media are the "enemy of the people" or an "important part of democracy." Montanaro says the Republicans went Full Witch (because that's the choice they were given):

The phrase appears to have stuck with his base, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll, but not with others beyond that. Seven in 10 Republicans agree with him, while a majority of independents and 4 in 5 Democrats see the investigation as "fair."

"The base is solidified, but that doesn't get you more than that," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the poll.

In the poll, for the first time, more Americans said they view Mueller more negatively than positively: "29 percent favorable, 33 percent unfavorable. That's a net 7-point decline from the summer, when Mueller was 33 percent positive and 30 percent negative. Mueller's decline is fueled by Republicans — 58 percent have an unfavorable view of him in the most recent polling, up from 46 percent in July." 

(The PBS NewsHour website reported the approval numbers, skipped the "witch hunt" question, and led with 76 percent saying Mueller's entire report should be made public.)

Nowhere in the Montanaro piece was any evidence explaining why Republicans might find the Mueller probe to be unfair -- no listing that 13 of the 17 Mueller prosecutors are Democrats, nine are Democrat donors, and six are Hillary donors. Mueller's deputy Andrew Weissman attending the Hillary "victory" party in 2016. So has NPR ever reported that? Not exactly.

A Republican congressman mentioned it, and NPR anchor Scott Simon tried to rebut it on Weekend Edition Saturday on January 27, 2018: 

SCOTT SIMON: Could you cite a single example of bias?

MATT GAETZ: Sure. Andrew Weissman, the No. 2 member of the Mueller probe, attended the Hillary Clinton election night party. You would think with all the talented prosecutors to be asked throughout the federal system, we could likely assemble a team without having to pick the people who were engaged in the 2016 election to the extent that they would be at one of the candidates' election night parties.

SCOTT SIMON: Well, I mean - A, I don't know that; B, so he attended a party - I mean, public officials, like reporters - for example, I think in many ways, like representatives in Congress, who are supposed to be capable of independent and unbiased judgment when it comes to doing their jobs.

MATT GAETZ: But members of Congress don't end up prosecuting people.

Gaetz also mentioned the hotly political pro-Hillary/anti-Trump text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page at the FBI. Simon insisted that meant nothing: 

SIMON: Well, I've read a lot of those text messages. They have personal opinions. But nothing in those text messages suggests that they were bringing any kind of bias to their official duty, which is what counts.

GAETZ: Well, that's not true. They talked about an insurance policy. And when you talk about, you know, people being an insurance policy against a presidential victory for Donald Trump, that would seem to indicate not only a personal belief but an actual plan to turn that belief into some sort of official action.

SIMON: I thought that was an ironic comment.

Montanaro also failed to explain that Republicans would complain about the Justice Department's original memo, assigning Mueller only to investigate Trump, and not the Clinton campaign, for collusion with Russians.