Fox News Has Completed Its Transformation Into Trump TV

Who needs state-owned propaganda when the president has friends like these?

By Max Boot
August 8, 2017

You would be forgiven for thinking — hoping — that Fox News Channel would improve after the ouster of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, its late founding CEO and biggest star, respectively, in a massive sexual harassment scandal. It’s true that Fox now takes such allegations more seriously — host Eric Bolling was just suspended after being accused of emailing pictures of his penis to female colleagues.

So perhaps Fox is becoming a less hostile environment for women. But its programming is, if anything, more egregious than ever

Fox is ever more firmly entrenched in the official echo chamber of Trump Nation — and ever more divorced from reality. The National Enquirer, owned by Trump friend David Pecker, is Trump’s Pravda (its recent cover story: “Hillary Framed Trump Family! How she set up Donald’s son with dirt file emails!”). Breitbart, once chaired by Trump aide Stephen Bannon, is his Sputnik. Fox is the jewel in the crown — Trump’s own version of RT. “A lot of people wish President Trump was a dictator,” Fox host Jesse Watters said on July 27. Perhaps at Fox “News.”

In fairness, there are solid, straight-down-the-middle reporters at Fox such as Chris Wallace, Bret Baier, and Shepherd Smith, and a few, increasingly marginalized, commentators such as Charles Krauthammer, Ralph Peters, and Steve Hayes who are critical of Trump. But their work is drowned out by the screeching chorus of Trump toadies that dominates Fox’s evening and morning schedule.

While other networks are covering Trump’s myriad setbacks and scandals, Fox presents an alternative reality in which the bumbling president is close to infallible (except when he splits with fellow populist Jeff Sessions), his critics are “snowflakes,” and the biggest threat facing America is, depending on the day of the week, either the Hillary Clinton email scandal, “the war on Christmas,” or “political correctness.” It’s all too reminiscent of the Soviet-era TV stations that ran stories about record grain harvests even as grocery shelves were bare.

Bill O’Reilly’s 8 p.m. time slot has been taken by Tucker Carlson, a smirking preppy with a perpetual look of befuddlement on his face as if he had just misplaced his bowtie. He is even more unpleasant than his blowhard predecessor, as I discovered when I appeared on his show July 12. It was, as I later wrote, like having “a barrel of raw sewage dumped on my head.”

Just before I came on, Carlson and his guest, Mark Steyn, had been chortling over the news that Donald Trump Jr. had eagerly met with Russian representatives promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. Collusion with a foreign power to fix a U.S. election? What a hoot! When I tried to argue that Russia is actually a major threat to America, Carlson replied that it’s not even in the top five. I never did get to find out what he considers a bigger menace than a country with 7,300 nuclear weapons under the command of an anti-American dictator, because Carlson was too busy spewing ad hominem insults against me. I could barely get in a word edgewise. This is Carlson’s standard shtick and it gets ratings, but it makes his show utterly unwatchable for anyone who has not drank the Trump Kool-Aid.

It scarcely seems possible, but Carlson is exceeded in his devotion to Trump by the host of Fox’s 10 p.m. hour: Sean Hannity, the president’s de facto minister of information. Every night Hannity will peddle whatever line serves Dear Leader’s interests, no matter how risible or odious. Lately, for example, he has been accusing Robert Mueller — a decorated Marine combat veteran who is universally revered for his service as a prosecutor and FBI director — of committing crimes that would justify his ouster as the Kremlingate special counsel. Mueller’s biggest sin? Hiring a few prosecutors who donated to Democratic campaigns — even though Trump himself has given four times as much to Democrats as all of Mueller’s lawyers combined.

The official party line, enunciated every night by Comrade Hannity, is faithfully echoed and extended every morning by the blow-dried apparatchiks on Fox and Friends, the president’s favorite morning show.

A vicious feedback loop has developed. Fox airs implausible claims, e.g., speculating that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that was guilty of interference in the U.S. election, or asserting that Russia was really rooting for Hillary Clinton to win. (So Putin helped Trump because he secretly wanted him to lose? Got it!) An inveterate TV watcher, Trump echoes Fox’s fantasies in his own tweets and remarks. Fox, in turn, cites the president as confirmation for its made-up stories. As Dartmouth professor Brendan Nyhan notes, it’s a “perpetual motion machine of bullshit.”

One of the most offensive stories ginned up by this propaganda apparatus concerned a Democratic National Committee staffer named Seth Rich who was murdered in Washington last summer. His case remains unsolved; D.C. police believe that he was the victim of a street robbery. Without an iota of evidence, Hannity and his fellow-travelers at Fox — including business anchor Lou Dobbs and commentator Newt Gingrich — suggested that Rich was bumped off by a DNC hit squad because he, rather than Russian hackers, was the source of leaked DNC emails. These cruel claims inflicted pain and suffering on Rich’s family, and were eventually retracted by Fox. But the purveyors of this fake news suffered no consequences.

Hannity simply moved on to fingering a different fall guy for the DNC leaks: Imran Awan, a Pakistani-American information technology specialist who worked for various members of Congress, including former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. After Awan was arrested on bank fraud charges while trying to flee the country on July 24, Hannity speculated, along with Fox colleagues Geraldo Rivera and Jesse Watters, that he was responsible for stealing and leaking DNC emails. Naturally, Trump then promoted the story on his Twitter feed. The whole world waits with bated breath to find out who Fox’s crack gumshoes will accuse next in their frantic efforts to exonerate Trump and Putin of any wrongdoing.

A window into how FNC (the Fake News Channel) works was provided last week in a lawsuit filed by Rod Wheeler, Fox’s top source for the Seth Rich story. A private investigator, Wheeler was hired to look into the case by a Republican donor and Trump supporter named Ed Butowsky. Now Wheeler has filed a lawsuit contending that the whole scam was cooked up by Fox in collaboration with the White House. According to NPR, which broke the story, “the lawsuit quotes a voicemail and text from Butowsky boasting that Trump himself had reviewed drafts of the Fox News story just before it went to air and was published.”

There is no proof yet of Trump’s personal involvement, but former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer admitted meeting with Butowsky and Wheeler to discuss the case on April 20, a month before the Seth Rich story ran. Yet on May 16, Spicer told reporters that he was unaware of the case. So, Spicer was lying. It’s not far-fetched to assume that the president — who has worked with Fox to spread previous hoaxes such as the claims that Barack Obama wiretapped him and that he wasn’t born in the United States — was also involved.

You know who else was pushing the Seth Rich story? Andrew Feinberg, a former reporter for the Kremlin’s Sputnik news agency, said he was pressured to promote this conspiracy theory by his Russian bosses.

This is far from an isolated occurrence. The media messages emanating from Trumpkins and Putinists has been running in uncanny parallel ever since Trump declared his candidacy. In an Aug. 4 tweet, for example, Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks (a conduit for Russian leaks), rhetorically asked if that Robert Mueller is a “dirty cop” — a slander that echoes what Fox and Trump are saying. So, too, the Kremlin’s propaganda machinery is agitating along with the populists, ranging from Alex Jones to Sean Hannity, for the removal of National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster. The general has offended the far-right by removing several of their champions from the NSC staff and the Russians by urging a stronger line against their aggression.

This is how bad it’s gotten: Fox, a TV network that purports to offer “fair and balanced” reporting, has become a flagrantly unfair and mentally unbalanced mouthpiece for a populist demagogue in the White House and his best friend in the Kremlin. One can only hope that its ratings diminish along with Trump’s popular support, but, sadly, it doesn’t take many dupes to keep this con game afloat.

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USPS’ Pay for Performance System Isn’t Rewarding Top Performing Employees

AP file photo The U.S. Postal Service is failing to reward its top performers under a pay system designed to recognize excellence, according to a new report, instead relying on group metrics that collectively punish employees for the work of their colleagues.

Using the Capital Metro Area as a sample, the USPS inspector general found 30 percent of employees who would have been eligible on their own were denied a pay raise under the agency’s pay-for-performance system due to their teams’ scores. Only the Postal Service’s 48,000 non-bargaining unit Executive and Administrative Schedule employees, who serve in supervisory, technical, administrative and managerial positions, receive performance-based pay.

The findings could send a warning to congressional Republicans and the Trump administration, both of which are looking to change the way federal employees across government are compensated. The Republican Study Committee—of which more than half of House Republicans are members—called for an end to across-the-board pay raises in its fiscal 2018 budget proposal, saying the increases should instead be merit based. The Office of Management and Budget is currently reviewing proposals from every agency in government to maximize employee performance.

Postal stations and branches spread throughout the country have their own goals, the IG said, but their performance scores are lumped together with those of other stations and branches in their units. Individual departments at postal plants also have their own objectives, but are evaluated collectively as one plant. This has led to EAS employees at post offices and headquarters receiving a disproportionate allocation of pay raises, the IG found.

While 30 percent of employees in the Washington, D.C., area who were shut out of raises would have received them based on their own scores, an additional 8 percent who did earn an increase would not have qualified for it on their own. At a processing and distribution center in Sacramento, Calif., the IG found one in four employees would have received a raise if employees were evaluated just within their department rather than on a plant-wide basis.

“Because the [pay-for-performance] process is not consistent for field [Executive and Administrative Schedule] employees, there is an increased risk that employee performance and organizational effectiveness could decrease,” the IG said. “Additionally, employees could become disengaged if they feel management does not recognize the accomplishments of individual units or that the poor performances of others mask their contributions.”

The auditors recommended USPS management improve its communication of the criteria for pay raises to “reduce the risk of negative perception” and disengagement. They also said the Postal Service should reward individual stations, branches and plant departments. Management disagreed with the IG’s findings, saying they failed to consider the drop off in performance if it were not measured collectively. The current system, said Jeffrey Williamson, the Postal Service’s chief human resources officer, helps to “drive collective success.” Taking the IG’s advice would “discourage collaboration” and lead to “less efficient operations,” he added.

The IG found Williamson’s comments “nonresponsive” and “disingenuous.”

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Trump warns North Korea threats ‘will be met with fire and fury’

President Donald Trump warns that threats from North Korea “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
North Korea has successfully created a miniaturized nuclear weapon that can fit in its missiles, according to NBC News and The Washington Post.
Jacob Pramuk | @jacobpramuk
4 Hours
President Trump: North Korea will be met with ‘fire and fury’   8 Hours Ago | 00:27
President Donald Trump on Tuesday warned North Korea about facing “fire and fury” if the isolated nation makes more threats against the United States.

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Trump told reporters, speaking slowly and deliberately with his arms crossed in front of him. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening … and as I said they will be met with fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

Later Tuesday, North Korea’s state media said that the country was considering a strategy to strike the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam with mid- to long-range missiles, according to Reuters.

A spokesman for the Korean People’s Army, in a statement carried by North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency, said the strike plan will be “put into practice in a multi-current and consecutive way any moment” once leader Kim Jong Un makes a decision.

Trump made his remarks while getting briefed on the U.S. opioid epidemic during what he calls a “working vacation” at his New Jersey golf club.

His comments came hours after revelations that Pyongyang has successfully created a miniaturized nuclear weapon designed to fit inside its missiles. While miniaturizing marks a major step in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, it does not necessarily mean the country has an accurate nuclear-equipped intercontinental ballistic missile, yet.

The development raises the stakes for Trump and other world leaders, who already faced difficult and limited options in dealing with North Korea’s aggression. Trump has tried to leverage China, Pyongyang’s only major ally, to get North Korea to change its behavior, but he has lamented a lack of success with Beijing.

The U.N. Security Council on Saturday unanimously put new sanctions on North Korea over its continued missile tests. The country has tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles that landed off the coast of Japan this year. Some analysis has said one of those missiles could potentially reach the mainland United States.

National security advisor H.R. McMaster recently said Trump is “not going to tolerate North Korea being able to threaten the United States.”

Pyongyang has repeatedly vowed retribution against the U.S. following sanctions or other measures meant to deter its nuclear and missile programs. After the U.N. imposed the newest sanctions, North Korea said it would bring “thousands-fold” revenge against the U.S.

It is not clear what actions the U.S. will take in response to the latest developments in North Korea’s nuclear program. Earlier this month, the U.S. tested an intercontinental ballistic missile just days after North Korea’s own test.

A senior congressional Democratic aide and former senior CIA official previously told NBC News they feared the U.S. would consider a limited pre-emptive strike against North Korea.

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