The Slatest

Today in Conservative Media: How “Historic” Is This Whole Impeachment Thing?

Trump, in a winter coat and looking grim, waves.
President Donald Trump heads to Michigan for a campaign rally on Dec. 18 as the House prepares an impeachment vote. Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

In its coverage Wednesday of the vote to impeach President Donald Trump, Breitbart ran a headline complaining that people in the media were taking this whole thing way too seriously. “For Mainstream Media, Everything About Impeaching Trump Has Been ‘Historic,’ ” the headline proclaimed. The problem, the writer explained, was that it “[gave] weight to a process that critics say is purely political and the weakest case ever brought.”

Later in the day, Breitbart ran a livestream of the impeachment hearing, calling it a “historic vote.”

This was reflective of the broader confusion among many in conservative media. There was a split inclination to minimize impeachment and cry out against it as a threat to democracy itself. Still, most outlets did seem to understand that this was important enough to give prominent coverage, and all conservative media were certainly not the same.

The anti-Trump Bulwark, for example, ran several pieces stressing the significance of Trump’s corrupt behavior and the “grim constitutional stakes” that meant Republicans must let go of partisan allegiances: “To look the other way—to pretend as though there is nothing wrong with his conduct—is to welcome the twilight of our American democratic republic.” The National Review similarly warned Congress to treat the process with dignity, doling out scoldings for Democrats (they “ludicrously wrap themselves in the patina of ‘rule of law’ ” but will “be cheerleading for more abuses of the Constitution the next time they win the White House”) and Trump supporters (“inclined to interpret his actions in the most indulgent way possible, even when that requires suspending certain mental faculties” and loyal to a “habitually corrupt” man”) alike. The National Review seems to broadly acknowledge Trump’s badness while also fretting over the idea of such a “drastic” step. “It is not merely whether Trump is guilty but also whether the nation will be better off—now and in the future—if he is put on trial and removed,” Greg Weiner warned.*

Between the extreme (we’ll get to them in a minute) and the Trump-skeptical, there was Fox News.

“PARTISAN STEAM,” the network’s website declared at one point. The site featured a good mix of real news coverage of the impeachment vote, but with a slight tendency to more often quote Republicans complaining about the whole affair. Fox News also pushed an article about a documentary of “when Democrats tried to impeach Ronald Reagan.” (For variety, the site still featured some other standard-issue Fox News stories, like a post about a school changing the lyrics of the song “Away in a Manger.”)

At one point in the day, a snippet from Tucker Carlson’s monologue from the night before was featured prominently on Fox’s website. In it, he promised impeachment would “destroy” Democrats “because impeachment—and there’s really no disagreement about this—is a terrible idea for the country.” And he somehow managed to avoid any mention of Trump’s demand that Ukraine investigate the Bidens:

So, in case you’ve forgotten, what is the crime that undergirds this impeachment proceeding? What is the president accused of doing? Well in case you’ve forgotten, it’s that Donald Trump may have delayed military aid to the government of Ukraine. Now, keep in mind that the only purpose of aid to the government of Ukraine is to antagonize Russia. Keep in mind also that Russia is a country with more nuclear weapons than any other country on the globe.

Then, finally, there’s the more extreme publications. A list of some of the stories featured prominently on their websites or performing best on Facebook:

Breitbart News, which also featured the topic tag “Shampeachment Day”:
• Nancy Pelosi Compares Impeachment to Battle of the Bulge Against Nazi Germany
• Dems Want to Overturn 2016 ‘Because They Know What’s Coming for Them in 2020’
• Dems’ Last-Minute ’Bribery’ Talking Point Because It ’Polled Well’ …
• Schumer Admits Trump Impeached ‘Without the Facts Coming Out’

The Daily Caller, which led with a story about the FISA report instead:
• Trump’s Funeral? Female Dems Are Reportedly Wearing Black To Symbolize ‘Somber’ Impeachment Vote
• This Democratic Congressman Used A Debunked Child Separation Photo In His Impeachment Speech
• ‘I Have Descended Into The Belly Of The Beast’: Republican Delivers Doom And Gloom Floor Speech On Trump Impeachment

The Western Journal, which changed its name after being blacklisted on Google and Apple News:
• Judge Jeanine Says There Is Now Enough Proof ‘That the Deep State Exists’
• Old Documents Show George Washington & Trump Would Have Agreed on Executive Privilege
• Democrats Prepare To Sabotage Impeachment Process Before Senate Even Hears the Case

The Blaze, which somewhat buried the impeachment under a bunch of other posts about abortion and transgender people:
• Latvia was investigating ‘suspicious’ payments to Hunter Biden, Burisma in potential laundering scheme: report

And finally, the Daily Wire, which ran this marvelously unfunny satire:

Democrats are hoping the impeachment of President Trump will distract Americans from a growing scandal among their party: namely the fact that Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren are the frontrunners in the 2020 presidential primaries.

DNC Leader Fuzzy McKnownot says he himself was shocked to hear the news from the campaign trail. In a statement delivered in the stall of a gas station men’s room where he was sitting on the toilet sobbing uncontrollably, Mr. Knownot told the ghost of his late mother, “Our candidates are an old communist, a fake Indian and a guy whose eyeball explodes while he’s talking nonsense. When I said I thought anybody could beat Donald Trump, I meant any reasonably appealing, intelligent person with some actual idea about how to lead the country. I didn’t realize I had to specify that, but I guess I did.”

Correction, Dec. 18, 2019: This post originally misidentified the author of this quote as Jonah Goldberg. It was Greg Weiner.