The Slatest

Today in Conservative Media: Trump Has Given Americans Plenty, but Republicans Keep Losing Elections. Maybe He’s the Problem?

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 13:  U.S. President Donald Trump answers questions from the media after his firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson before departing from the White House on March 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Trump is traveling to California to view prototypes of a controversial border wall.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Trump answers questions before departing from the White House on Tuesday in Washington. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Today in Conservative Media is a daily roundup of the biggest stories in the right-wing press.

On Tuesday, the family of slain DNC staffer Seth Rich sued Fox News for the network’s reporting that linked the 27-year-old to WikiLeaks, spurring conspiracy theories on the far-right. Rich was shot and killed in Washington, D.C. in 2016 in what police said was a botched robbery, but Fox News published a story in May 2017 that hinted at something far more sinister. The story claimed Rich—who died days after WikiLeaks released 20,000 hacked DNC emails—had passed the emails to WikiLeaks and that federal authorities were involved in a cover-up of some sort. It was quite a story, pushed relentlessly by the highest wattage stars at the network, particularly Sean Hannity; it was also totally false. The network retracted it shortly after, but the damage had been done—to the Rich family and the reputation of Fox News.

In response to the suit, National Review’s David French does the soul-searching that Fox News never appeared to do itself—at least publicly. French laments the undignified fall of the network that once was seen in conservative circles as a breath of fresh air when the network first went live in 1996. “Not every journalist was serious and not every commentator was thoughtful, of course, and the nighttime lineup often veered into populist infotainment, but it represented a necessary, healthy dose of competition to CNN,” French writes. “But as Fox grew into the dominant conservative media outlet—the place where conservative careers were made—something else began to happen. It started to attract a constellation of cranks and grifters, people desperate for Fox hits that could turn into contributor contracts. Contributor contracts could turn into book deals. The fortunate few could even host a show.”

The great grifter infiltration diluted standards and sent the network careening from its original mission, but, French writes, “it was the single-minded, sensationalistic defense of Donald Trump that brought out the worst of the network on-air.” The Pizzagate-like hysteria on the loony fringes, French notes, “believe it or not […] was given media life on Fox, went viral thanks to Fox, and was pumped day after day on Fox through comments by some of its biggest names, including Sean Hannity and Newt Gingrich.”

It’s hard to look at the Seth Rich case and see much evidence of good faith. The complaint makes searing, credible claims that the defendants deceived and exploited a grieving family. There is no doubt that Fox personalities took their deeply flawed reporting and ran with it—causing further harm to parents who had just lost their son. You can’t hide this conduct behind silly claims that you’re merely “asking questions.” The news reports and commentary weren’t just questioning, they were asserting. And they were asserting without foundation.

“Eventually, Fox retracted the story that launched the theory,” French notes, “but immense damage was done.”

In other news

Carl Arbogast at RedState says it’s time to worry for Republicans after the special election in Pennsylvania Tuesday: “Don’t Kid Yourself: Conor Lamb’s Performance Means The House GOP Majority Is In Trouble.”

“[One] consideration to keep in mind is just how toxic Trump’s brand of politics has become for Republicans. Think about it for just a moment. Unemployment is down. GDP is up. The stock market is up. Gas prices are still relatively low. People are paying less in taxes. All of it should amount to approval ratings in the 50’s for President Trump. Instead, he still sits in the low 40’s.

“Maybe, just maybe, that bombastic, off the cuff, shoot from the hip style is not working as well as people think,” Arbogast writes. For more on what the Lamb-Saccone race means the Weekly Standard’s David Byler has a chart you should see in: “One Chart Explains How Vulnerable Republicans Are.

During a speech in India this week, Hillary Clinton irked many on the right with her characterization of Trump voters, particularly women who voted for Trump. “[Democrats] do not do well with white men, and we don’t do well with married, white women,” Clinton said. “And part of that is an identification with the Republican Party, and a sort of ongoing pressure to vote the way that your husband, your boss, your son, whoever, believes you should.” Robert VerBruggen at National Review investigated: “Are White Women Pressured to Vote Republican?” “In the context of making bitter excuses for her loss, Clinton has advanced an interesting theory about political behavior,” he writes. “It’s a theory worth testing,” VerBruggen concludes, but there’s “no evidence it’s actually true.”

Conservative media also devoted coverage to the lawsuit filed by the family of Ahmed Mohamed, the Texas student who brought a homemade clock to school in 2015, but school officials worried that it was a bomb and called police. Mohamed was interrogated and suspended. In the aftermath, Mohamed shot to internet stardom and later filed a discrimination suit against the school district. Conservatives found the suit offensive, as evidenced by Jared Sichel’s Daily Wire piece: “GO AWAY: Federal Judge Again Dismisses ‘Clock Boy’ Ahmed Mohamed’s Cuckoo Discrimination Lawsuit.” “Time is up for ‘Clock Boy’ Ahmed Mohamed and his father Mohamed’s desperate, attention-seeking, discrimination lawsuit,” Sichel writes. Kevin Daley at the Daily Caller covered the suit’s dismissal this way: “Tick, Tick, Tick: Clock Boy’s Lawsuit Just Blew Up.”