The reaction of right-wing media to Michael Wolff’s bombshell new book, Fire and Fury, has been, well, fiery and furious — with most being in denial that there’s anything wrong with Donald Trump, their hero.
For anyone who may have been out of the loop the past couple weeks: The book portrays Trump as an incompetent, unstable, unfocused bully who’s incapable of handling the duties of president. That actually confirms the image many of us, be we left, right, or center, have had of him. Wolff’s credibility has been questioned on this and other projects, but if even half of what’s in the book is accurate, it’s damning.
The far right may have been flummoxed at how to respond to Fire and Fury given that one source it cites frequently is Steve Bannon, who after running Trump’s presidential campaign and working as a White House adviser returned to the post of executive chairman at one of the leading right-wing sites, Breitbart. But it soon became clear that these sites would side with Trump over Bannon — including Breitbart itself, from which Bannon was ousted Tuesday. We’ve kept up with the far right’s coverage so you don’t have to.
Mostly, Breitbart’s coverage of the book ignored Bannon’s role; it announced his departure in a brief post saying he had “stepped down.” A few days earlier, he had gone on Breitbart’s radio show to call Trump “a great man” and say, “I support him day in and day out.” Not quite the tone he took in the book.
But the site’s tone toward Trump has been nothing but admiring. “In just 365 days, Trump has turned around a stagnate [sic] economy, exploded the number of manufacturing jobs; seen black and Hispanic unemployment drop to record lows; opened up two oil pipelines (and all kinds of exploration); enjoyed victory after victory in the Supreme Court in pursuit of his immigration priorities; seated a spectacular Supreme Court justice; negotiated a $250 billion trade deal with China; brought North Korea to the negotiating table from a position of strength; expertly managed the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; untangled us from stupid deals known as TPP and the Paris climate accord, and a whole lot more,” John Nolte wrote recently on Breitbart. These accomplishments, he said, show Trump to be “quite the opposite of a mentally unstable moron.”
Well, a lot of these things are either questionable or not praiseworthy. All presidents like to take credit for good economic times, whether or not they had anything to do with them, and numerous analysts have pointed out that the economy is just continuing the rebound it began when Barack Obama was president. A lot of us oppose the pipeline projects for environmental reasons, don’t approve of Trump’s immigration priorities, don’t think Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch is spectacular, and don’t think pulling out of the Paris accord was such a good idea — and our exit doesn’t take effect for several years. He didn’t manage the Jerusalem issue so expertly — the United Nations certainly isn’t on board with it — and, most important of all, he seems to be moving us closer to war with North Korea than to peace.
But the far right still loves him. Michael Brown, in a column carried at World Net Daily, offered praise similar to Nolte’s. “How can an incompetent fool accomplish so much in one year?” Brown wrote. “How can he do so much good when he is so bad?” Again, those of other political persuasions, even some conservatives, would say a lot of what Trump has done is far from good.
Brown, who said he has no intention of reading the book, thought it wouldn’t change anyone’s mind; those who support Trump won’t believe a word of it, and opponents will find their worst expectations confirmed. He made clear, though, which group he feels has truth on its side. “For many supporters of Trump,” he wrote, “this is not simply an emotional response. It is a rational response.” Yeah, right.
Meanwhile, the conspiracy-minded Alex Jones, on his Infowars site and his eponymous radio show, is squarely in Trump’s corner, and an analysis by liberal watchdog Media Matters (posted before Bannon’s departure from Breitbart) noted that Jones was positioning himself to appeal to disaffected Breitbart readers.
“Nearly a year and a half after Infowars reporter and host Roger Stone bragged that he advised candidate Trump to hire Bannon, Jones is focusing his rage on the beleaguered Breitbart chairman, claiming he ‘stabbed the president and America in the back’ and accusing him of being ‘at the heart of the attempt to take [Trump] down,’” Media Matters reported. “During other comments in the January 4 broadcast of The Alex Jones Show, Jones lobbed insults at Bannon (saying ‘Mr. Dandruff’ has ‘big giant red swollen eyeballs that look like an owl on PCP that you poured 14 bottles of scotch on top of’ and is a ‘pile of feces’) and suggested he be investigated for espionage. On Twitter, he attacked Bannon’s initial lack of response to Trump’s rebuke and praised Trump’s anti-Bannon statement.”
Bannon’s ouster from Breitbart is his second big loss in two months, coming after his candidate, Roy Moore, unexpectedly lost the election for U.S. senator from Alabama. Unfortunately, we probably haven’t heard the last of Bannon — he will likely return like the proverbial bad penny. And Breitbart will continue to be toxic. Media Matters summed it up well:
“Breitbart will be as odious, contemptible, and awful without Steve Bannon as it was with him at the helm,” said a statement released by the group’s president, Angelo Carusone, upon the news of Bannon’s departure. “If anything, Breitbart showed that it is now committed in total devotion to Trump and can be best identified as a mere PR apparatus serving the Mercers' agenda [the Mercers being a wealthy Trump-supporting family]. Without Bannon, Breitbart will remain just as disreputable and disgusting as ever.”
As evidence of how disreputable and disgusting the organization is, its radio show hosted Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, who is anti-Muslim, anti-LGBT, and a proponent of the “birther” theories about Barack Obama, as an expert to discuss transgender people in the military — well, more like why trans people should not be allowed in the military.
Interviewed New Year’s Day, as trans people became eligible to enlist due to courts’ blocking of Trump’s ban, Gaffney said opening the armed forces to them was part of “a radical leftist agenda” and “at its core a wrecking operation run against the United States military.”
He told host Alex Marlow, “The idea was, the president said, we’re not going to bring in more people who have a psychological disorder that is clinically known as gender dysphoria, and it is a problem that can create erratic behavior, I’m told. It is a problem that, at the very minimum, requires lots of medical treatment; that treatment can make people unable to do things like deploy for months and months and months on end, to say nothing of the costs that the Pentagon will have to cover for these medical procedures.”
Actually, not all trans military members will seek gender-confirmation surgery; some would have had it before joining the armed forces, and others do not desire it. Other treatments, such as hormones, do not affect deployability. And the estimate of medical costs cited by anti-trans types is grossly inflated compared to the estimate found in reputable studies. Moreover, trans people have already been serving honorably in the military for years, albeit in the closet.
Another example of Breitbart’s deplorability: It went all out defending Roy Moore on all its platforms, but after the known homophobe and accused pedophile lost the U.S. Senate special election in Alabama, Marlow, who’s also Breitbart’s editor in chief, told CNN he actually believed Moore’s primary accuser, Leigh Corfman (after the site consistently tried to discredit her), and admitted that Moore was a “weak candidate.”
Marlow told CNN’s Oliver Darcy that the powers at Breitbart stood behind Moore in the wake of the accusations because they thought the mainstream media would use Moore’s situation to hold Trump accountable for the sexual misconduct he is accused of committing.
“I think they want to create a standard where President Trump, either from past or future accusations, will not be able to match whatever standard is now in place for who can be a United States senator,” he said. “Based off not any sort of conviction or any sort of admission of guilt, but based off of purely allegations.”
“I think that’s the playbook here,” he added. “And I think it’s part of the reason why it was so important for Breitbart to continue our coverage of the way we covered it ... and for Steve in particular to hold the line the way he did for — I think part of it is because it’s not just about Judge Moore, it is not even just about establishment, anti-establishment. It’s about what’s coming next for President Trump.”
And now, after Oprah Winfrey’s inspiring Golden Globes speech and the “Oprah for president” talk, Breitbart is taking every opportunity to paint her as a clueless liberal dilettante and associate her with Harvey Weinstein. Hey, probably anyone successful in Hollywood has had at least a passing acquaintance with Weinstein. That doesn’t mean they knew he was a sexual predator. But prominent women, like Winfrey and Meryl Streep, are being unfairly portrayed as his enablers, while men don’t come in for the same treatment.
Breitbart’s treatment of Winfrey, however, is pretty mild compared to what she’s been getting from Alex Jones. In addition to associating her with Weinstein, he recently called her a “witch,” a “Nazi,” and a “eugenicist,” the latter apparently because she’s pro-choice on abortion. Not to be outdone, right-wing talker Gavin McInnes — who famously said Wolff’s book can’t be trusted because the author has “gay face” — went on Jones’s show and called her a “slut” and worse, mocked her account of being raped as a child. It’s all been helpfully excerpted by Media Matters, which noted, “Jones’ racially charged and misogynistic vitriol is an indication of how he will react if he feels that Trump’s position as president is remotely threatened by another potential candidate.” We’re steeling ourselves now.
And we’ll be back soon with another reporte from the right-wing fringe media, which we read so you don’t have to.