Fox News host Jenna Lee repeatedly, unequivocally and emphatically smacked down every single attempt by a Donald Trump spokesman to blame Trump’s birther nonsense on Hillary Clinton. But was she really interested in the truth or just giving the Trump campaign some tough love?
We don’t often write about Lee because she’s pretty much a get-along-and-go-along type of host. She has challenged Republicans and she has also helped promote Fox News’ messaging. Usually without making much of a wave.
But Lee was unambiguous and forceful in her efforts today with Trump surrogate Boris Epshteyn. Lee began their interview with tough, serious challenges to Epshteyn’s attacks on Clinton. But then there was this:
EPSHTEYN: Let’s be realistic about the birther movement. It was born out of the Hillary Clinton 2007 campaign.
LEE (interrupting and talking over Epshteyn): OK, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t. It wasn’t. This is not true. It’s not true. It’s not true. It’s not true. It’s not true. … A variety of different fact checking websites, as well as Fox News, has checked that out. That is NOT true. …I’m just telling you, it’s not true.
Here’s what’s going on. If you continue to talk about this, then it continues to be an issue in the campaign. So why do you think it’s going to be successful for Donald Trump to continue to speak about the president who’s now in his last few weeks of office?
Lee also played a clip of political guru Larry Sabato calling birtherism “a real gift to the Democrats and the Clinton campaign.”
Frankly, this whole thing makes me suspicious that Fox (probably with a little help from Roger Ailes who’s now an advisor to both the Trump campaign and to Fox News) is not-so-subtly trying to tell Trump to put birtherism firmly behind him. And never mind that Fox News helped Trump relentlessly hype the bogus conspiracy theory in the first place.
But Lee went on to ask why, given Trump’s changing positions, voters should believe him now.
Epshteyn dodged the question by calling Hillary Clinton “a lifelong liar.”
Lee challenged that, too. She noted that Epshteyn had not answered the question, that Clinton “remains very competitive in the polls” despite a barrage of attacks and then reiterated: “Why should voters believe in him now and what they’re hearing from him now versus what they’ve heard from him in the past?”
But Epshteyn hilariously replied, “On this issue, he’s been very consistent,” and Lee did not push back.
So is Fox really suddenly interested in the truth about birtherism or suddenly concerned that Trump do a better job of reaching out to moderates and African Americans?
I will note that when Megyn Kelly confronted Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson about birtherism last night, it was also within the framework of the campaign. Neither one, for example, asked Trump to reveal the results of his big birther investigation he has boasted about: “I have people that have been studying it and they cannot believe what they’re finding,” Trump told NBC, in 2011.
So, to paraphrase Lee, why should viewers believe Fox now about birtherism, given what we've heard in the past?
Which is not to say that she didn't do a great job here. Watch her below, from the September 16, 2016 Happening Now.
Trump is running a reality show campaign and broadcast media is helping. But that says something more, a fair number of people by into the the glitz and showmanship over substance and knowledge.
Promote any ‘theory’ you have about Trump, Hillary, Obama but when challenged present the empirical evidence and prove your argument. Trump repeatedly lies and if it isn’t intentional Republicans have an even worse problem on their hands. What will they do with their President when he is caught repeatedly lying even if they are innocuous untruths. I guess they will blame Obama that Trump was elected, oh wait he would have been elected because people wanted to take back their country from that socialist Obama.
Now they have Trump, god bless em each and every one.
You’ve heard of people getting “owned”? Well there’s owned and then there’s owned. Don Lemon on CNN as I type this is owning Corey Lewandowski on Trump and Birtherism like I’ve never witnessed. Corey is so desperate to whitewash Trump on this long, sordid history of Birtherism he’s lying his ass off like there’s no tomorrow. Don Lemon, without working up a sweat, is unmercifully and repeatedly smacking him down hard.
Panelist Van Jones is joining in the fun and it’s just one slam dunk after another. The facial expressions of the other 2 panelists is precious.
I’m laughing so hard I’m crying!
Yeah, Fox News needs to keep working on that. ;^)
In navigational terminology, this is what’s known as a course correction. But Roger Ailes did not have his hand on the till! Nor did he coordinate with Faux News. You can just put that out of your head.
Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!!!!
The approach taken on multiple shows today has been to say that yeah, Trump shouldn’t be bringing this up again, but hey, Clinton’s people did it first. How do they justify this? Three specific items, all of which are easily laughed through once you actually look at them.
1. A vile email from Mark Penn from early in the 2008 campaign, wherein he discussed the notion of Obama being foreign but said that this shouldn’t be used as a direct attack. Instead, Penn went with things like the 3am phone call commercial.
2. An interview with Clinton after the idea went public, wherein she said she had no reason to believe that Obama was Muslim but, in the right wing view, wasn’t emphatic enough that she totally, utterly and overwhelmingly repudiated the notion.
3. A tweet today from left winger James Asher saying that Sid Blumenthal told him that he thought Obama was born in Kenya.
One would think that Fox News had just found the key to the BIG STORY. This is incredible stuff, isn’t it? Half-truths and tweets!
So let’s remember the actual facts. The Birther story was born from two different right wing blogs in March 2008. They were willfully being ignorant about a professor’s blog post at that time which posited a hypothetical about someone saying that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the US. (I believe the professor did this in response to people discussing McCain’s eligibility, noting that it was a silly topic to spend any time on.) So it was a right wing invention, period. About a month later, when it became clear that Obama was on his way to take the nomination, a few Clinton supporters, in Texas I believe, decided they were not going to support the winning candidate and declared their group to be called “PUMA”, or “Party Unity My Ass”. They then cited the right wing blog posts about Obama’s possible non-Hawaiian birth, in much the same way that many Sanders supporters this year foolishly cited long-debunked right wing conspiracy theories about Clinton. These people had no credibility, and as seen in that interview, Clinton was frankly surprised to be asked about something as ridiculous as whether Obama was a Muslim or wasn’t an American. Obama went on to win the nomination and two terms as President. In 2011, Donald Trump decided to really fan the flames of the birther idea again, and then crowed when Obama got the state of Hawaii to break its own legal rules to release the long form version of his birth certificate – and even then, the birthers and Trump weren’t satisfied.
We must never forget that Donald Trump also told us that he had investigators in Hawaii “and they can’t believe what they’re finding.” Nobody has ever taken Trump to task on that – I’d love to see someone ask this at one of the debates – “Mr. Trump, what did your investigators find that was so unbelievable in Hawaii?” Nobody calls him on these statements and it’s frankly irritating to watch him continue to get away with it.
But to answer the Fox News and right wing conspiracy memes of the day, let’s dispense with Fox News’ latest attempt to smear Hillary Clinton and her people.
1. Mark Penn made several offensive comments and emails while he was a chief strategist for the 2008 campaign. He was and is a bare knuckles brawler in campaigns. He eventually alienated enough of the staff from his positions that he was removed from his senior position although not from the campaign itself – he was essentially demoted. Not fired, but demoted in a meaningful way. And his nastier ideas about campaigning were never followed. Meaning that Clinton had no interest in going into the gutter – the 3am phone call commercial was about as far as she was willing to go, and to me, that was already too far, given that right wingers have tried to eat out on it for the past 8 years. So Penn wrote a memo that nobody used for strategy, among other fairly nasty writings, and wound up demoted. Not seeing how this means that Hillary Clinton started the Birther movement.
2. It’s funny that the right wingers want to see Hillary Clinton issue a blanket statement of condemnation in an interview, when she was clearly surprised and frankly shocked to be asked about ridiculous assertions. The tone of her answer is clear: “Are you seriously asking me about something like that rather than a real issue? REALLY?” Could she have been more forceful in her denial of the question’s merits? Sure, but she clearly thought she already HAD been from her tone. She wasn’t as appropriately dismissive as she was when Ed Henry tried to gotcha her about her “wiping the server”, but her tone is pretty clear on this. So if the right wing wants to say that she didn’t deny this strongly enough, we could get into all kinds of discussions about GOP candidates and presidents if they really want to go there. This is an obviously silly ruse, and really just meant as a way to smear Clinton as untrustworthy again.
3. James Asher, who is not a friend of the Clintons, says that Sid Blumenthal told him he thought Obama was born in Kenya. Great. Are we supposed to infer that this means that Blumenthal then told Hillary to go to Texas and set off a couple of wingnuts on a bizarre campaign while they refused to support the Democrat nominee? Or maybe we’re supposed to think that the Clintons secretly thought this. Either way, the assertion makes no sense. Maybe Blumenthal did say this to Asher. So what? Even if Blumenthal believed that kind of nonsense, it was NEVER a part of the campaign and NEVER something that Hillary Clinton or any other official in her campaign would litigate in the press.
So once again, we end up with Fox News and the right wing frantically trying to project their own issues onto their opponents. One would think they would take a minute and just look in the mirror.
And just so we’re very clear on this, as Brit Hume tried to dismiss this today. Birtherism IS racism. It’s not a quantifiable thing where you separate out the birthers from the racists. Birtherism was born from the racist sentiment that Barack Obama should not be President, based specifically on his being an “other” and maybe even an African rather than an African-American. The purpose of the implication was always to provide comfort to racists who hated the notion of a black man becoming President since, hey, he’s not really an American anyway. The fact that Brit Hume would even TRY this line of thinking is extremely telling.
Fox News may well be trying to distance Trump from the Birther movement he so lovingly embraced, but they’re not doing so out of any actual concern for the reality of what happened. They really do just want to blame its existence on Hillary Clinton.
Fox squeezes Trump hard enough and out comes The Donald uttering it from his own lips today. After days of mixed messages from his team and Trump doggedly refusing to say when asked directly.
I estimate it’ll take the media like 10 minutes to get over their whip flash, accept his latest ‘policy statement’, get back to normalizing Trump, while savaging Hillary for untrustworthiness.