Fox’s Howard Kurtz, Griff Jenkins and Ben Domenech argued that “selective outrage” over Biden’s eviction moratorium cancels criticism of Donald Trump’s attacks on democracy.
In a chilling article called, “The Trumpist right drifts toward fascism,” Media Matters’ Matt Gertz cited Ben Domenech as his first example:
It’s frustratingly typical for conservatives to fraudulently cloak themselves in the mantle of Abraham Lincoln and the Union. But what Fox News host Ben Domenech did on Tuesday night -- describing the progressive left as “the inheritor” of “slave power” with its “fixation on the hierarchy of race and caste” and his viewers as ideological descendants of the paramilitary pro-Lincoln “Wide Awakes” of 1860 -- wandered perilously close to a call for a new Civil War.
Domenech presented U.S. politics as an existential fight between “the enemies of everything this nation has ever been” and “the patriots, the Americans, the men and women who will do anything to preserve it, because they know what civilization requires.”
The host closed by directly addressing his millions of viewers. “You are the heart of a nation that has slept for so long,” he said. “But now at last, you are wide awake. So now I ask you again: What are you willing to do?” Domenech didn’t give an answer to the question -- but his rhetoric suggests that it isn’t casting votes for candidates who share your values.
On Sunday, Domenech, aka Mr. Meghan McCain, appeared on Fox’s MediaBuzz show. Instead of grilling him about that rhetoric, Kurtz asked for more as he set up guests Domenech and Griff Jenkins (moonlighting from his job as a “straight news” correspondent) to weaponize President Biden’s decision to extend the eviction moratorium.
I’m not a legal expert so I’m not going to defend (or attack) the legal merits of the moratorium. But even assuming it’s wrong, it couldn’t have been more obvious that Kurtz’s goal was to exploit Biden’s maneuver for right-wing political gain – while accusing the left of playing politics.
First, Kurtz set it up with “correspondent” Jenkins:
KURTZ: Griff, I don't want to see a couple million people, you know, kicked out of their homes because of the impact of the pandemic. But the press has been far more interested in the politics. This is a victory for AOC and the left wing of the Democratic Party than the fact that it flies in the face of a Supreme Court ruling.
JENKINS: Listen, it was a week ago today that I went up on the Hill and was the first reporter for any network talking directly to Cori Bush about why she was leading this charge. I told her the president had his hands tied. He can't extend the moratorium because the Supreme Court said it's unconstitutional.
Now, fast forward to what happened this week. Where is the headline, Howie, today, that should read metamorphosis of how Democrats justify unconstitutional governance? It should exist because that's what happened.
And what's amazing, as Ben points out, we stunningly had the president admit that he was going to simply violate the Constitution, if you will, by doing this, knowing full well that it would be immediately challenged. I think you will see some legal hearings. Something will certainly come this week.
Neither cared about why Biden did what he did. He did it to keep people from being evicted in the middle of a pandemic. Right or wrong, it is hardly on a par with, say, trying to overturn a presidential election to keep yourself in power or suggesting that you’ll withhold aid to Ukraine unless it comes up with dirt on an electoral opponent – both actions that got Trump impeached.
But Jenkins went on to suggest that Biden has trampled on the Constitution and democracy at least as badly as Trump:
JENKINS: It just flies in the true face of democracy when you have no shortage, by the way, I should point out, of Democrats who love to point out that Trump subverted democracy himself.
Rather than note the vast differences in the two behaviors; Kurtz helped equate them:
KURTZ: Okay. You set up my next question. By the way, Congresswoman Bush slept on the Capitol steps to protest the lack of action by the White House.
Ben, "The Washington Post" editorial page, to its credit, says what Biden had the CDC do is almost certainly illegal. But when Donald Trump took money from other departments to fund the border wall, the construction part of the wall, the press went haywire, said he had no right to do this, he extended his legal authority. That kind of selective outrage seems to be missing here.
That was the perfect opening for Domenech to take it one step further – to delegitimizing any and all criticisms of Trump’s anti-democratic behavior.
DOMENECH: It's almost like they have a different standard, depending on the person who is on power and whether they agree with them ideologically. It's absurd, Howie, and it's very obvious.
And so I think that what people should take away from this experience is that the next time that you have an entity from the press come out and pound on the table and defend constitutional norms, say that democracy dies in darkness, understand that they're doing that based on their own perspective on the politicians and the decisions they're making and almost never are they actually basing that on an even-handed and fair look at this type of decision and a nonpartisan manner.
This is just the most prominent latest example in part because, as Griff said, the president came out and said those out part loud.
Again, there may be plenty to criticize about Biden but none of these three showed much actual concern for his supposed trampling on the Constitution nor the ramifications thereof. Instead, they put it to use sanitizing Trump (or anyone else coming down the pike) doing something far worse.
You can watch this latest chapter in the Fox/Trumpist push toward fascism below, from the August 8, 2021 MediaBuzz.
Biden’s efforts here are not to subvert the Constitution. He’s dealing with the refusal of angry Right Wing Republicans in Congress and the media to acknowledge the suffering they are deliberately inflicting. We went through this a year ago when the Pence White House and Republican Senators made certain that there would be no extension of the COVID relief, including eviction moratoriums and unemployment assistance for tens of millions of people sidelined due to the pandemic. What we see today is angry Right Wingers petulantly demanding that people suffer, if only to punish them for voting for Joe Biden last year. It is the Right Wing’s intention to increase the problems of tens of millions of Americans, and then to try to game the situation so they can present the GOP as the “solution”.
Biden’s actions may not be upheld by angry Right Wing judges (and we can be assured that Republicans will judge shop to make sure that’s who hears their cases), but the actions are intended to help Americans even when Right Wingers are intentionally hurting them.
The actions of Pence’s childish spokesman over the prior four years, on the other hand, were to repeatedly attack parts of the US population and the international community. When Pence’s childish spokesman wanted to announce that he’d funded a “big beautiful” middle finger structure against Mexico, he defunded whole sections of the Defense Department and tried to move the money over to his ego project. There was no actual Defense purpose to that move – just the ego of Pence’s childish spokesman. When principled judges and others opposed the craven moves of the Pence White House, angry Right Wingers cried foul and shouted at them.
Last summer & fall, when the GOP deliberately blocked COVID relief, the Pence White House similarly raided non-related funds to generate a $300 unemployment supplement. Except that the money they raided was the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund, which was allocated by Congress to deal with Americans whose homes are destroyed by our now-inevitable wildfires and floods every fall. So that fund was badly depleted so Pence’s childish spokesman could crow in public that HE had somehow given people more money if they were unemployed. (This is why the COVID Relief bill passed early this year by the Biden White House and Congress included tens of billions for FEMA – they were repaying the money that Pence’s childish spokesman stole.)
It is important for us to remember the facts and intentions here. Biden may make mistakes (and he will) but he’s genuinely trying to clean up the mess made by the Pence White House and he’s genuinely trying to ease the pain that so many Americans have endured. Pence’s childish spokesman, on the other hand, never cared at all what happened to many Americans, and in fact gloated at their problems when it amused him to do so.