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Fox News begins broadcasting on US cable television. Fox News provides 24-hour news programming alongside the nation’s only other such cable news provider, CNN. Fox executive Roger Ailes, a former campaign adviser for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush (see 1968, January 25, 1988, and September 21 - October 4, 1988), envisions Fox News as a conservative “antidote” to what he calls the “liberal bias” of the rest of American news broadcasting. Ailes uses many of the methodologies and characteristics of conservative talk radio, and brings several radio hosts on his channel, including Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, to host television shows. (Jamieson and Cappella 2008, pp. 47; Sherman 5/22/2011) Referring to Ailes’s campaign experience, veteran Republican consultant Ed Rollins later says: “Because of his political work, he understood there was an audience. He knew there were a couple million conservatives who were a potential audience, and he built Fox to reach them.” (Sherman 5/22/2011)
Ailes Planned for Fox News as Far Back as 1970 - Ailes began envisioning a conservative news provider to counter what he considers the mainstream media’s “liberal bias” as early as 1970, when he became heavily involved with a Nixon administration plan to plant conservative propaganda in news outlets across the nation (see Summer 1970). In 1971, he headed a short-lived private conservative television news network, Television News Incorporated (TVN—see 1971-1975), which foundered in 1975 in part because of its reporters and staffers balking at reporting Ailes-crafted propaganda instead of “straight” news. Ailes told a New York Times reporter in 1991 that he was leaving politics, saying: “I’ve been in politics for 25 years. It’s always been a detour. Now my business has taken a turn back to my entertainment and corporate clients.” But Ailes misinformed the reporter. He continued to work behind the scenes on the 1992 Bush re-election campaign, providing the campaign with attack points against Democratic contender Bill Clinton (D-AR) and earning the nickname “Deep Throat” from Bush aides. Though Ailes did do work in entertainment, helping develop tabloid television programs such as The Maury Povich Show and heading the cable business news network CNBC for three years, Ailes has continued to stay heavily involved in Republican politics ever since. Ailes became involved in the creation of Fox News in early 1996 after he left NBC, which had canceled his show America’s Talking and launched a new cable news network, MSNBC, without asking for Ailes’s involvement. Fox News is owned by News Corporation (sometimes abbreviated NewsCorp), an international media conglomerate owned by conservative billionaire Rupert Murdoch. When NBC allowed Ailes to leave, Jack Welch, the chairman of NBC’s parent company General Electric, said, “We’ll rue the day we let Roger and Rupert team up.” Murdoch has already tried and failed to buy CNN, and has already begun work on crafting news programs with hard-right slants, such as a 60 Minutes-like show that, reporter Tim Dickinson will write, “would feature a weekly attack-and-destroy piece targeting a liberal politician or social program.” Dan Cooper, the managing editor of the pre-launch Fox News, later says, “The idea of a masquerade was already around prior to Roger arriving.” Eric Burns, who will work for ten years as a Fox News media critic before leaving the network, will say in 2011: “There’s your answer right there to whether Fox News is a conventional news network or whether it has an agenda. That’s its original sin.” To get Fox News onto millions of cable boxes at once, Murdoch paid hundreds of millions of dollars to cable providers to air his new network. Murdoch biographer Neil Chenoweth will later write: “Murdoch’s offer shocked the industry. He was prepared to shell out half a billion dollars just to buy a news voice.” Dickinson will write, “Even before it took to the air, Fox News was guaranteed access to a mass audience, bought and paid for.” Ailes praised Murdoch’s “nerve,” saying, “This is capitalism and one of the things that made this country great.” (Sherman 5/22/2011; Dickinson 5/25/2011)
Using Conservative Talk Radio as Template - In 2003, NBC’s Bob Wright will note that Fox News uses conservative talk radio as a template, saying: “[W]hat Fox did was say, ‘Gee, this is a way for us to distinguish ourselves. We’re going to grab this pent-up anger—shouting—that we’re seeing on talk radio and put it onto television.’” CBS News anchor Dan Rather will be more critical, saying that Fox is a reflection of Murdoch’s own conservative political views. “Mr. Murdoch has a business, a huge worldwide conglomerate business,” Rather says. “He finds it to his benefit to have media outlets, press outlets, that serve his business interests. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s a free country. It’s not an indictable offense. But by any clear analysis the bias is towards his own personal, political, partisan agenda… primarily because it fits his commercial interests.” (Auletta 5/26/2003)
Putting Ideology Over Journalistic Ethics, Practices - Ailes, determined not to let journalists with ethical qualms disrupt Fox News as they had his previous attempt at creating a conservative news network (see 1971-1975), brought a hand-picked selection of reporters and staffers with demonstrable conservative ideologies from NBC, including business anchor Neil Cavuto and Steve Doocy, who hosts the morning talk show “Fox and Friends.” Both Cavuto and Doocy are Ailes loyalists who, Dickinson will say, owe their careers to Ailes. Ailes then tapped Brit Hume, a veteran ABC correspondent and outspoken conservative, to host the main evening news show, and former Bush speechwriter Tony Snow as a commentator and host. John Moody, a forcefully conservative ABC News veteran, heads the newsroom. Ailes then went on a purge of Fox News staffers. Joe Peyronnin, who headed the network before Ailes displaced him, later recalls: “There was a litmus test. He was going to figure out who was liberal or conservative when he came in, and try to get rid of the liberals.” Ailes confronted reporters with suspected “liberal bias” with “gotcha” questions such as “Why are you a liberal?” Staffers with mainstream media experience were forced to defend their employment at such venues as CBS News, which he calls the “Communist Broadcast System.” He fired scores of staffers for perceived liberal leanings and replaced them with fiery young ideologues whose inexperience helps Ailes shape the network to his vision. Before the network aired its first production, Ailes had a seminal meeting with Moody. “One of the problems we have to work on here together when we start this network is that most journalists are liberals,” he told Moody. “And we’ve got to fight that.” Reporters and staffers knew from the outset that Fox, despite its insistence on being “fair and balanced” (see 1995), was going to present news with a conservative slant, and if that did not suit them, they would not be at Fox long. A former Fox News anchor later says: “All outward appearances were that it was just like any other newsroom. But you knew that the way to get ahead was to show your color—and that your color was red.” The anchor refers to “red” as associated with “red state,” commonly used on news broadcasts to define states with Republican majorities. Ailes will always insist that while his network’s talk-show hosts, such as O’Reilly, Hannity, and others, are frankly conservative, Fox’s hard-news shows maintain what he calls a “bright, clear line” that separates conservative cant from reported fact. In practice, this is not the case. Before Fox aired its first broadcast, Ailes tasked Moody to keep the newsroom in line. Early each morning, Ailes has a meeting with Moody, often with Hume on speakerphone from the Washington office, where the day’s agenda is crafted. Moody then sends a memo to the staff telling them how to slant the day’s news coverage according to the agenda of those on “the Second Floor,” as Ailes and his vice presidents are known. A former Fox anchor will later say: “There’s a chain of command, and it’s followed. Roger talks to his people, and his people pass the message on down.” After the 2004 presidential election, Bush press secretary Scott McClellan will admit, “We at the White House were getting them talking points.”
Targeting a Niche Demographic - Fox New’s primary viewership defies most demographic wisdom. According to information taken in 2011, it averages 65 years of age (the common “target demographic” for age is the 18-24 bracket), and only 1.38% of its viewers are African-American. Perhaps the most telling statistics are for the Hannity show: 86% describe themselves as pro-business, 84% believe government “does too much,” 78% are “Christian conservatives,” 78% do not support gay rights, 75% are “tea party backers,” 73% support the National Rifle Association, 66% lack college degrees, and 65% are over age 50. A former NewsCorp colleague will say: “He’s got a niche audience and he’s programmed to it beautifully. He feeds them exactly what they want to hear.” Other polls from the same time period consistently show that Fox News viewers are the most misinformed of all news consumers, and one study shows that Fox News viewers become more misinformed the more they watch the network’s programming.
Ailes's Security Concerns Affect Operations, Broadcasting - Ailes is uncomfortable in his office, a second-floor corner suite in the Fox News building at 1211 Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan. His office is too close to the street for his tastes; he believes that gay activists intend to try to harm him, either by attacks from outside the building or through assaults carried out from inside. He also believes that he is a top target for al-Qaeda assassins. Ailes barricades himself behind an enormous mahogany desk, insists on having “bombproof” glass installed in the windows, surrounds himself with heavily-armed bodyguards, and carries a firearm (he has a concealed-carry permit). A monitor on his desk shows him what is transpiring outside his office door; once, when he sees a dark-skinned man wearing what he thought was Muslim garb on the monitor, he will order an immediate lockdown of the entire building, shouting, “This man could be bombing me!” The man will turn out to be a janitor. A source close to Ailes will say, “He has a personal paranoia about people who are Muslim—which is consistent with the ideology of his network.” A large security detail escorts him daily to and from his Garrison, New Jersey home to his Manhattan offices; in Garrison, his house is surrounded by empty homes Ailes has bought to enhance his personal security. According to sources close to Ailes, Fox News’s slant on gay rights and Islamist extremism is colored by Ailes’s fear and hatred of the groups.
'We Work for Fox' - Sean Wilentz, a Princeton historian and Reagan biographer, will say: “Fox News is totalized: It’s an entire network, devoted 24 hours a day to an entire politics, and it’s broadcast as ‘the news.’ That’s why Ailes is a genius. He’s combined opinion and journalism in a wholly new way—one that blurs the distinction between the two.” Dickinson will write: “Fox News stands as the culmination of everything Ailes tried to do for Nixon back in 1968. He has created a vast stage set, designed to resemble an actual news network, that is literally hard-wired into the homes of millions of America’s most conservative voters. GOP candidates then use that forum to communicate directly to their base, bypassing the professional journalists Ailes once denounced as ‘matadors’ who want to ‘tear down the social order’ with their ‘elitist, horse-dung, socialist thinking.’ Ironically, it is Ailes who has built the most formidable propaganda machine ever seen outside of the Communist bloc, pioneering a business model that effectively monetizes conservative politics through its relentless focus on the bottom line.” Former Bush speechwriter David Frum will observe: “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us. Now we’re discovering that we work for Fox.” (Sherman 5/22/2011; Dickinson 5/25/2011)
Sami al-Arian poses for a picture with George W. Bush and his wife, Laura Bush, while Bush is campaigning for president in Florida. Bush chit-chats with al-Arian’s family and gives his son Abdullah the nickname “Big Dude.” Al-Arian is a former Florida professor and Muslim political activist who has been under investigation for suspected ties to US-designated terrorist groups. (Allen and Leiby 2/22/2003) Al-Arian will later tell friends that he used the occasion to press Bush about overturning the Justice Department’s use of “secret evidence” to deport accused terrorists, which is an issue for many Muslim Americans during the presidential campaign. Newsweek will later comment, “In those pre-9-11 days, Bush was eagerly courting the growing Muslim vote—and more than willing to listen to seemingly sincere activists like al-Arian.” (Isikoff 3/3/2003) At the time, al-Arian is vigorously campaigning for Bush at mosques and Islamic cultural centers in the pivotal state of Florida. In a reference to Bush’s tight margin for victory in Florida which wins Bush the presidential election, al-Arian will later say, “We certainly delivered him many more than 537 votes.” (Clemetson and Naughton 7/16/2001) Author Craig Unger will later comment, “Astonishingly enough, the fact that dangerous militant Islamists like al-Arian were campaigning for Bush went almost entirely unnoticed.” Bush’s speechwriter David Frum will later write, “Not only were the al-Arians not avoided by the Bush White House—they were actively courted.… The al-Arian case was not a solitary lapse… That outreach campaign opened relationships between the Bush campaign and some very disturbing persons in the Muslim-American community.… [We] Republicans are very lucky—we face political opponents too crippled by political correctness to make an issue of these kinds of security lapses.” (Unger 3/15/2004)
David Frum interviews George W. Bush for a biography he is writing on the new president. Some time later, he reviews the notes he took during this interview and is “startled at how much of what would happen over the next year is prefigured” in those notes. Bush’s statements, he says, demonstrated “his focus on the danger presented by Iran [and] his determination to dig Saddam Hussein out of power in Iraq.” (Frum 2003, pp. 26)
A large number of government employees gather at the office of DaimlerChrysler in Washington, DC, after being evacuated from the White House and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, and continue their operations there. (Stoffer 10/8/2001; McBride 9/9/2011) The White House and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to it were evacuated at 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) After they left these buildings, many staffers went north to Lafayette Park, across from the White House, but were unsure what to do.
DaimlerChrysler Manager Wants Staffers to Come to His Building - Anita McBride, the acting director of White House personnel, calls her husband, Timothy McBride, who is vice president of Washington affairs for DaimlerChrysler and works at the company’s office a couple of blocks from the White House. “I knew he would know what to do even more than I,” Anita McBride will later comment, “and his immediate instinct was to bring everybody there” to the DaimlerChrysler building. Anita McBride tells her husband she is on the way to his office. She then gathers together the White House staffers who are around her and heads there. (McBride 9/9/2011; McBride 9/11/2011)
Equipment Set Up for Staffers to Use - Most of the DaimlerChrysler employees are leaving the building as the White House staffers are arriving. But before they go, they set up their computers, phones, televisions, and other resources for the White House staffers to use, and also order food for the staffers. Timothy McBride served as assistant to the president for management and administration during the administration of former President George H. W. Bush and, in that position, was responsible for many emergency procedures. “So I did have the benefit of being able to anticipate some of what the [White House] staff might need to carry on their functions,” he will comment.
Secret Service Secures the Building - After the first staffers arrive, other White House employees learn that their colleagues have assembled at the DaimlerChrysler building and go to join them. (National Journal 8/31/2002) Soon, 72 members of the White House staff have made it to the building, the largest number of White House employees currently gathered in a single location. (McBride 9/9/2011) They include speechwriters, photographers, and people from communications, the National Economic Council, Cabinet affairs, and legislative affairs. (National Journal 8/31/2002) Members of the Secret Service lock down the building and ensure that only people with White House passes are able to gain access. Anita McBride calls the White House Situation Room and lets officials there know who is at the DaimlerChrysler building. Arrangements are then made for a few senior staffers to return to the White House (see (12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001).
White House Employees Continue Their Work - The staffers who remain at the DaimlerChrysler building quickly set up operations and continue their work. The building becomes “a White House annex,” Anita McBride will comment. (McBride 9/9/2011; McBride 9/11/2011) Some of the staffers discuss how the government can continue to function, and put together checklists of the things various federal departments and agencies should do. (Bridgeland 2012, pp. 5) Speechwriters David Frum, John McConnell, Matthew Rees, and Matthew Scully work on a speech for President Bush to deliver from the Oval Office this evening. They are assisted by another speechwriter, Michael Gerson, who is at his home in Alexandria, Virginia, but is able to communicate with them by phone. (Frum 2003, pp. 117, 120; Frum 7/7/2004; Draper 2007, pp. 140)
Officials Consider How Previous Crises Were Managed - Ken Mehlman, the White House political director, instructs Brad Blakeman, the deputy assistant to the president for appointments and scheduling, and Barry Jackson, the director of the Office of Strategic Initiatives, to go on the Internet and research what, if any, significance the date of September 11 has in the Muslim world. Mehlman also instructs Blakeman and Jackson to research how former Presidents Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan responded to crises during their presidencies. And he directs Logan Walters, the president’s personal aide, and Ashley Estes, the president’s personal secretary, to come up with a schedule based on how crises were managed during past presidencies. (Draper 2007, pp. 140-141)
Staffers Stay at Building until Late Afternoon - Secret Service agents periodically brief the White House staffers on what is happening in Washington and elsewhere. The staffers will remain at the DaimlerChrysler building until about 5:30 p.m., after word is received that the president is heading back to Washington. The speechwriters will then go to the White House while the other staffers will go home. (National Journal 8/31/2002; McBride 9/9/2011)
David Frum, a speechwriter for President Bush, spends an hour on the phone with Richard Perle, the chairman of the Defense Policy Board, and Perle tells him the president needs to say he will hold not just terrorists but also the nations that harbor them responsible for the morning’s attacks. (Tanenhaus 7/2003) Frum is currently at the headquarters of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) think tank in Washington, DC, while Perle is at his vacation home in the south of France. (Packer 2005, pp. 40) Frum went to the AEI headquarters after he was evacuated from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). On the way, he was joined by John McConnell, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief speechwriter. After they arrived at the AEI headquarters, sometime after 10:00 a.m., Chris DeMuth, AEI’s president, offered the two men the use of offices, telephones, and Internet connections. (Frum 2003, pp. 115-117)
Frum and Perle Discuss Attacks and How the US Should Respond - Frum therefore talks over the phone with Perle for about an hour. (Tanenhaus 7/2003) “We had a very long conversation,” Frum will later recall, “and touched on a lot of things: where [the attacks] had come from and the mistakes of the past, things to be avoided.” The thing that emerges “most clearly” from the conversation, according to Frum, is how important it is for the president to “make it clear at the start: this was not going to be more law enforcement—they were not going to be indicting these terrorists—that this was to be understood as war.” (Frum 7/7/2004) Therefore, Perle says to Frum, “Whatever else the president says, he must make clear that he’s holding responsible not just terrorists but whoever harbors those terrorists.” (Tanenhaus 7/2003)
Speechwriters Leave AEI to Join Other White House Staffers - Frum and McConnell will subsequently leave the AEI headquarters and head to the DaimlerChrysler building in Washington, where dozens of White House employees go to continue their work. There, the two men will work on a statement for Bush to deliver when he returns to the capital. (Frum 2003, pp. 117-118, 120; McBride 9/9/2011) After he arrives back at the White House, Bush will give a speech to the nation from the Oval Office (see 8:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). (CNN 9/12/2001; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) The speech Frum and McConnell work on, however, will have been discarded, with the president using something different. (Frum 7/7/2004) But Bush will say in his speech that America “will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.” (US President 9/17/2001) Referring to the speech, journalist and author George Packer will comment: “Bush followed Perle’s advice to the word and then expanded on it: The rest of the world was either with America or with the terrorists.” (Packer 2005, pp. 40)
From the White House Oval Office, President Bush gives a seven-minute address to the nation on live television. (Bush 9/11/2001; CNN 9/12/2001; Woodward 2002, pp. 31) He says, “I’ve directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice.” In what will later be called the Bush Doctrine, he states, “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.” (US President 9/17/2001; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) Washington Post reporter Dan Balz will later comment that this “those who harbor them” statement “set the tone for where the administration was going both with Afghanistan and, I think, with Iraq.” Bush’s speechwriter at the time, David Frum, will later say: “When he laid down those principles, I don’t know whether he foresaw all of their implications, how far they would take him. I don’t know if he understood fully and foresaw fully the true radicalism of what he had just said.” Neoconservatives see hope that the words could lead to an invasion of Iraq. Author and former National Security Council staffer Kenneth Pollack will comment, “It does seem very clear that after September 11th, this group seized upon the events of September 11th to resurrect their policy of trying to go after Saddam Hussein and a regime change in Iraq.” (PBS Frontline 2/20/2003) Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived back from Peru too late to influence the content of this pivotal speech (see (Between 7:40 p.m. and 8:40 p.m.) September 11, 2001).
President Bush publicly comments, “The deliberate and deadly attacks which were carried out yesterday against our country were more than acts of terror, they were acts of war.” Bush’s speech writer at the time, David Frum, will later refer to this comment and Bush’s “we will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them” comment from the night before (see 8:30 p.m. September 11, 2001), and say, “Within 48 hours, [Bush] had made the two key decisions that have defined the war on terror. First, this is a war, not a crime. And second, this war is not going to be limited to just the authors of the 9/11 attack but to anyone who assisted them and helped them and made their work possible, including states. And that is a dramatic, dramatic event. And that defines everything.” (PBS Frontline 2/20/2003)
Two prominent neoconservatives, Richard Perle and David Frum, publish a book titled An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror. Both are fellows at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute. In the book, they suggest mobilizing Shi’ites living in eastern Saudi Arabia, where most of the Saudi oil is. They note that the Saudi government has long feared “that the Shi’ites might someday seek independence for the Eastern Province—and its oil.… Independence for the Eastern Province would obviously be a catastrophic outcome for the Saudi state. But it might be a very good outcome for the United States. Certainly it’s an outcome to ponder. Even more certainly, we would want the Saudis to know we are pondering it.” (Dreyfuss 2005, pp. 337-338) At the time, Perle is head of the Defense Policy Board, which advises the Defense Department. In 2002, a Defense Policy Board briefing argued that the US should work to split Saudi Arabia apart so the US can effectively control its oil (see July 10, 2002). Other neoconservatives like Michael Ledeen express similar views. In early 2003, James Akins, former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, mentioned the possibility that Osama bin Laden could take over Saudi Arabia if the US invaded Iraq. “I’m now convinced that that’s exactly what [the neoconservatives] want to happen. And then we take it over.” (Dreyfuss 2005, pp. 338)
Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum, now a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and a frequent guest on news talk shows, writes a brief and angry response to the news that Lewis Libby was convicted of four felony charges (see March 6, 2007). Frum writes, “The man who actually did the leaking continues to earn millions of dollars, go out to dinner, and be respectfully quoted by attentive journalists,” referring to former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (see June 13, 2003). “Scooter Libby is publicly branded an oath-breaker on the basis of diverging recollections. Yet it was the man who set this case in motion, former ambassador Joe Wilson, who was caught in lie after lie by the Senate Intelligence Committee.” Frum is referring to Republican addendums to the committee’s 2004 report on Iraqi WMD, many of which have been proven false (see July 9, 2004). Lashing out further, Frum writes: “Now we remember why Democrats are so much more eager than Republicans to criminalize politics: Because they know that the ultimate power over the lives and liberties of the contestants is held by juries drawn from the most Democratic jurisdiction in the country. Would Scooter have been convicted—would a prosecutor ever have dared to try him—if the capital of the United States were located in say Indianapolis?” Frum concludes with a demand for a presidential pardon, writing: “It all makes you think: President Bush should have pardoned everybody involved in this case on the day Patrick Fitzgerald sent Judith Miller to jail. But it’s not too late: Pardon Scooter now.” (Frum 3/6/2007) The National Review editors issue a similar condemnation of the trial and a demand for a presidential pardon (see March 6, 2007).
The editorial board of the conservative National Review demands that President Bush pardon convicted felon Lewis Libby immediately (see March 6, 2007). The editorial joins an angry demand for a presidential pardon in the magazine’s pages from former Bush speechwriter David Frum (see March 6, 2007). The editors write that Libby was “the target of a politicized prosecution set in motion by bureaucratic infighting and political cowardice,” powered by “liberal partisans” who leapt on the exposure of CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson and adopted her husband Joseph Wilson’s “paranoid persecution theory” (see June 2003, June 3, 2003, June 11, 2003, June 12, 2003, June 19 or 20, 2003, July 6, 2003, July 6-10, 2003, July 7, 2003 or Shortly After, 8:45 a.m. July 7, 2003, 9:22 a.m. July 7, 2003, July 7-8, 2003, July 11, 2003, (July 11, 2003), July 12, 2003, July 12, 2003, July 18, 2003, October 1, 2003, April 5, 2006, and April 9, 2006). A “scandal-hungry media” joined in with the Wilsons to launch unwarranted attacks on the White House, the editors write, which eventually forced the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the Plame Wilson identity leak (see December 30, 2003). The editors blame the CIA, the State Department, Congressional Democrats, and the “liberal media” for forcing the issue, and say the Justice Department was too quick to appoint special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, whom they note is a “close friend” of the person who appointed him, Deputy Attorney General James Comey (see December 30, 2003). The editors insist that Libby’s “imperfect memory” (see January 31, 2006) led to the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, and the testimony of reporters throughout the trial proved that their memories were no better than Libby’s. The editors conclude: “There should have been no referral, no special counsel, no indictments, and no trial. The ‘CIA-leak case’ has been a travesty. A good man has paid a very heavy price for the Left’s fevers, the media’s scandal-mongering, and President Bush’s failure to unify his own administration. Justice demands that Bush issue a pardon and lower the curtain on an embarrassing drama that shouldn’t have lasted beyond its opening act.” (National Review 3/6/2007)
John Boehner (R-OH), the House Minority Leader, calls on the Obama administration to implement a freeze on government spending, and for President Obama to veto a $410 billion spending bill. Boehner says recent spikes in unemployment figures are a sign of a worsening recession, and the only way to address the recession is to freeze government spending until the end of the fiscal year. He calls the spending bill, crafted in December with input from Congressional Democrats and Republicans as well as from the Bush White House, full of wasteful “earmarks” and “pork.” (Associated Press 3/6/2009) Boehner introduces a resolution calling for the freeze in the House; it fails, even though all House Republicans present for the vote and eight Democrats vote for it. (Hair 3/6/2008) Two days after Boehner’s call for a spending freeze, conservative columnist David Brooks calls the proposal “insane” and blames the influence of conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh for the idea. Brooks says that Limbaugh and the Republican Party is fixated on repeating a Reagan-era economic agenda. “The problem with them and the problem with Limbaugh in terms of intellectual philosophy is they are stuck with Reagan,” Brooks says. “They are stuck with the idea that government is always the problem. A lot of Republicans up in Capitol Hill right now are calling for a spending freeze in a middle of a recession/depression. That is insane. But they are thinking the way they thought in 1982, if we can only think that way again, that is just insane. And there are a lot of Republicans like David Frum… who are trying to say Reagan was right for his era, but it is time to move on. And there are just not a lot of them on Capitol Hill right now, and I think the party is looking for that kind of Republican.” (Huffington Post 3/8/2009)
The New York Times profiles Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck, describing him as a “rising star” and “one of the most powerful media voices for the nation’s conservative anger.” Beck’s show typically draws about 2.3 million viewers, putting him third among all cable news hosts behind fellow Fox conservatives Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. Beck describes himself as identifying with Howard Beale, the mad “television prophet” of the 1976 film Network, and particularly Beale’s most famous line, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.” (Stetler and Carter 3/29/2009) (Media pundit Eric Boehlert calls Beck’s attempt to associate himself with Beale “nonsense,” and observes: “Beale’s unvarnished on-air rants… targeted conformity, corporate conglomerates, and the propaganda power of television.… Beale’s attacks were not political or partisan. Beck, by contrast, unleashes his anger against, and whips up dark scenarios about, the new president of the United States. Big difference.”) (Boehlert 4/7/2009)
Apocalyptic Rhetoric - Though he insists he believes every word he says on his TV show as well as on his daily radio broadcast, Beck also calls himself a “rodeo clown” and an “entertainer” who reminds his listeners, “If you take what I say as gospel, you’re an idiot.” (Beck is a former morning show disc jockey who regularly performs stand-up comedy in shows around the country.) The Times writes that Beck “is capturing the feelings of an alienated class of Americans.” He regularly preaches against liberal politicians, hosts segments entitled “Constitution Under Attack” and “Economic Apocalypse,” and sometimes bursts into tears. (Stetler and Carter 3/29/2009) Progressive media watchdog site Media Matters will note in a later article that Beck regularly terms President Obama a Marxist, a socialist, and/or a fascist. (Boehlert 4/7/2009) In a recent week-long segment titled “War Games,” Beck advocated for armed citizen militias to overthrow the government (see February 20, 2009), though he later denied such advocacy. America is “on the road to socialism,” he tells his viewers, and claims, “God and religion are under attack in the US.” He recently accused the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of setting up “concentration camps” for citizen dissenters, presumably conservatives. He has accused the Obama administration of trying to “indoctrinate… your child into community service through the federal government” (Media Matters 3/27/2009) , says America is about to go through “depression and revolution” (Media Matters 2/13/2009) , and, three days after the Times article is published, compares the administration’s actions to those in “the early days of Adolf Hitler.” (Media Matters 4/1/2009) He will accuse the government of being what he calls “a heroin pusher using smiley-faced fascism to grow the nanny state.” (Media Matters 3/31/2009)
Voice of the 'Disenfranchised' - Phil Griffin, the president of Fox News cable rival MSNBC, says of Beck: “That’s good dramatic television. That’s who Glenn Beck is.” Tom Rosenstiel, the director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, says: “There are absolutely historical precedents for what is happening with Beck. There was a lot of radio evangelism during the Depression. People were frustrated and frightened. There are a lot of scary parallels now.” Conservative writer David Frum calls Beck’s success “a product of the collapse of conservatism as an organized political force, and the rise of conservatism as an alienated cultural sensibility.” Beck’s shows are “for people who feel they belong to an embattled minority that is disenfranchised and cut off,” Frum adds. Fox News senior vice president Joel Cheatwood says Beck’s audience is “somewhat disenfranchised,” and adds, “[I]t’s a huge audience.” Author and media professor Jeffrey Jones says that Beck engages in “inciting rhetoric. People hear their values are under attack and they get worried. It becomes an opportunity for them to stand up and do something.” Beck denies inciting attacks on the government or any other citizens, saying that those “who are spreading the garbage that I’m stirring up a revolution haven’t watched the show.” Fellow talk show host Bill Maher recently accused Beck of producing “the same kind of talking” that led Timothy McVeigh to bomb a federal building in 1995 (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995); Beck responded by saying in part: “Let me be clear. If someone tries to harm another person in the name of the Constitution or the ‘truth’ behind 9/11 or anything else, they are just as dangerous and crazy as those we don’t seem to recognize anymore, who kill in the name of Allah.” (Stetler and Carter 3/29/2009) (The Times does not publish Beck’s next line: “There are enemies both foreign and domestic in America tonight. Call it fearmongering or call it the truth.”) (Boehlert 4/7/2009) He describes himself as having to “be… the guy I don’t want to be—the guy saying things that are sometimes pretty scary, but nobody else is willing to say them.” Currently Beck is the voice of the “We Surround Them” movement (see March 3, 2009) and is part of the “Tea Party” or “teabaggers” civil protest project (see April 8, 2009). (Stetler and Carter 3/29/2009)
David Frum, a conservative pundit and former speechwriter for George W. Bush, says that the potential for violence from anti-health care reformer protesters is too high, and protesters must restrain themselves. After noting the instances of protesters bringing guns to health care debates (see August 5, 2009 August 11, 2009) and the threats of gun violence against health care supporters (see August 7, 2009 and August 10, 2009), Frum notes: “[F]irearms and politics never mix well. They mix especially badly with a third ingredient: the increasingly angry tone of incitement being heard from right-of-center broadcasters.… All this hysterical and provocative talk invites, incites, and prepares a prefabricated justification for violence.” Frum goes farther, accusing “some conservative broadcasters” of “lovingly anticipating just such an outcome,” citing instances of Fox News hosts Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity openly advocating violence against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Obama (see August 8, 2009). Frum says: “Hyperbolic accusation and fantasy murder may well serve a talk radio industry facing a collapse in advertising revenues.… As revenues dwindle, hosts feel compelled to intensify the talk radio experience, hoping to win larger audience share with more extreme talk. It’s like the early days of the pornography industry: At first a naked woman is thrilling enough, but soon a jaded audience is demanding more and more, wilder and wilder. For the radio hosts, it’s all mostly a cynical marketing exercise. But the audience? Not all of them know better.… The guns are coming out. The risks are real.” Frum then gives his solution: “It’s not enough for conservatives to repudiate violence, as some are belatedly beginning to do. We have to tone down the militant and accusatory rhetoric. If Barack Obama really were a fascist, really were a Nazi, really did plan death panels to kill the old and infirm, really did contemplate overthrowing the American constitutional republic—if he were those things, somebody should shoot him. But he is not. He is an ambitious, liberal president who is spending too much money and emitting too much debt. His health care ideas are too over-reaching and his climate plans are too interventionist. The president can be met and bested on the field of reason—but only by people who are themselves reasonable.” (Frum 8/13/2009)
David Frum, a New York Times columnist who once wrote speeches for the Bush administration, writes on his personal blog “Frum Forum” that today’s release of President Obama’s “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) should bring to an end “the phony controversy” of “birtherism.” He calls the controversy “poisonous and not very subtly racist” (see January 24, 2007, September 22, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, November 10, 2008, September 14, 2009, March 2011, April 1, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, April 15, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011), and asks how the controversy acquired “such a grip on our conservative movement and our Republican party?” To deny that “birtherism” ever existed as a serious component of Republican rhetoric, Frum writes, is “just wrong.” He cites the recent surge in popularity of billionaire television host Donald Trump as a “serious” presidential contender among far-right and tea party voters, and adds: “[N]ot only did conservative media outlets from Fox to Drudge to the Breitbart sites indulge the birthers—but so also did every Republican candidate who said, ‘I take the president at his word.’ Birthers did not doubt the president’s ‘word.’ They were doubting the official records of the state of Hawaii. It’s like answering a 9/11 conspiracist by saying, ‘I take the 9/11 families at their word that they lost their loved ones.’” Still, Frum writes, the racially fueled allegations persist (see April 27, 2011). Trump is now questioning Obama’s acceptance into Harvard Law School (see April 26, 2011), recycling debunked allegations from 2009 that claimed Obama was “placed” in Harvard through the auspices of a black Islamist radical and a Saudi prince (see July 21, 2009). “The too-faint repudiation of birtherism by regular Republicans has shaped not only the Obama brand, but also the Republican brand,” Frum laments. “It was not only white people who heard the implied message about who counts and who does not count as a ‘real American.’” Frum restates his opposition to virtually every policy and initiative advanced by the Obama administration, and writes: “Republicans should be fighting this president on policy, not winking at those who use race as a weapon.… [T]hose who imagine that they somehow enhance the value of [their] citizenship by belittling the American-ness of their president (see March 2011)—they not only disgrace the politics they uphold, but they do damage that will not soon be forgotten by the voters a revived Republicanism must win.” (David Frum 4/27/2011)
David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, and conservative-libertarian Jacob Sullum, the editor of Reason magazine, condemn recent comments by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh attacking Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke for her position on contraception (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Both speak in interviews with the liberal media watchdog organization Media Matters. Asked if Limbaugh’s comments were “wrong,” Frum responds by email: “Well obviously it was wrong! Appalling! I feel sorry for the young woman, the first time you encounter this kind of large-scale personal attack, of course it hurts. And it’s destructive too, because on the merits—should religious institutions be allowed to follow their consciences in providing health services—Georgetown U is in the right.” Frum is referring to Georgetown’s resistance to pay for contraceptives as part of the university’s health care coverage for students. Sullum, in a telephone interview, says of Limbaugh: “I don’t really listen to his show much. He is deliberately inflammatory, it was stupid and sexist, obviously, all he knows about her is that apparently she has sex.” Limbaugh “wouldn’t say that about a man who had sex, it is gratuitously sexist.” Sullum calls the comments “outrageous, deliberately outrageous” and “needlessly inflammatory.” (Uwimana 3/2/2012)
Columnist and author David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, says that conservatives’ complaints that talk show host Rush Limbaugh is not being treated fairly over the Sandra Fluke controversy (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 5, 2012, and March 3, 2012) are specious. Frum says that conservatives note that while Limbaugh may have said some unacceptable things about Fluke, liberals and Democrats have also said unacceptable things. Frum says that the conflation is irrelevant. He writes: “Even by the rough standards of cable/talk radio/digital talk, Limbaugh’s verbal abuse of Sandra Fluke set a new kind of low. I can’t recall anything as brutal, ugly, and deliberate ever being said by such a prominent person and so emphatically repeated. This was not a case of a bad ‘word choice.’ It was a brutally sexualized accusation, against a specific person, prolonged over three days.” Frum notes that several media figures putatively on the left, including late-night hosts David Letterman and Bill Maher, and liberal MSNBC host Ed Schultz, have said unacceptable things themselves, with conservatives complaining that they faced no consequences. Frum notes that such complaints are not true. Schultz called a female talk show host a “slut” and not only apologized, but was suspended from MSNBC (see May 24-25, 2011). Letterman, after insulting former Govenor Sarah Palin’s daughter, “delivered an abject seven-minute apology” on the air. (Frum notes that Palin refused to accept the apology and insinuated that Letterman was a pedophile.) Maher used a crude sexual epithet against Palin, and to date has refused to apologize for it (see March 27-28, 2011). However, Frum notes, neither Letterman, Schultz, nor Maher has anywhere near the political influence that Limbaugh has. “Letterman is not a political figure at all; and while Maher and Schultz strongly identify as liberals, neither qualifies as anything like a powerbroker in the Democratic Party.… A word of criticism from Limbaugh… will reduce almost any member of the Republican caucus to abject groveling.… I can’t recall anything as brutal, ugly, and deliberate ever being said by such a prominent person and so emphatically repeated. Among TV and radio talkers and entertainers, there is none who commands anything like the deference that Limbaugh commands from Republicans: not Rachel Maddow, not Jon Stewart, not Michael Moore, not Keith Olbermann at his zenith. Democratic politicians may wish for favorable comment from their talkers, but they are not terrified of negative comment from them in the way that Republican politicians live in fear of a negative word from Limbaugh” (see January 28-29, 2009). Frum asks why conservatives are responding to Limbaugh’s tirade against Fluke by finding old instances of liberal misconduct and throwing them into the discussion. “[W]hy the impulse to counter one outrageous stunt by rummaging through the archives in search of some supposedly offsetting outrageous stunt? Why not respond to an indecent act on its own terms, and then—if there’s another indecency later—react to that too, and on its own terms? Instead, public life is reduced to a revenge drama. Each offense is condoned by reference to some previous offense by some undefined ‘them’ who supposedly once did something even worse, or anyway nearly as bad, at some point in the past.” However, he concludes, Limbaugh’s latest transgression “is so ‘piggish,’ to borrow a word from Peggy Noonan (see March 4, 2012), as to overwhelm the revenge drama.… It is the bottom of the barrel of shock talk. And the good news is that from the bottom of the barrel, there is nowhere to go but up.” (Frum 3/5/2012)
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R-MA), considered the leader in the primary race for the Republican presidential nomination, again refuses to comment on the controversy surrounding talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s three-day vilification of Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Romney, like many Republicans, has refused to publicly criticize Limbaugh over his actions (see March 2, 2012 and March 2, 2012). Asked during a campaign stop about his position on Limbaugh, he says, “My campaign is about jobs and the economy and scaling back the size of government and I’m not going to weigh in on that particular controversy.” (Viser 3/6/2012) Some prominent Republicans, such as Romney’s fellow candidate Ron Paul (R-TX—see March 4, 2012), former Bush White House advisor Peggy Noonan (see March 4, 2012), Senators John McCain (R-AZ—see March 5, 2012) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AZ—see March 6, 2012), and former Bush speechwriter David Frum (see March 5, 2012), have condemned Limbaugh’s rhetoric. Two days ago, the former head of a conservative women’s organization predicted that few Republicans would step up to publicly criticize Limbaugh (see March 4, 2012).
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