A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer depicted some of his fellow lawmakers as a “conspiracy caucus” and criticized Fox News by name on the Senate floor on Tuesday.
Here are four of the standout quotes from Schumer:
— “The president conjures fictions, buys into baseless conspiracy theories told by known liars on Fox News or somewhere else, and then anyone who contradicts him earns his scorn…”
— “Here in the Senate, certain members of the grand old party are forming their own conspiracy caucus.” He again invoked Fox, saying some of the theories are spread there, and then picked up by senators…
— Regarding Trumpworld’s defense of his conduct vis a vis Ukraine: “They try to create a shiny object, a diversion, and, unfortunately, too many of the news media — on the right — will spend time on that diversion and repeat Trump’s claim that the actual facts are false. This is the beginning of the end of a democracy. When we can’t have truth…”
— Regarding Trump’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov: “What new conspiracies are they cooking up with Lavrov today? I worry…”
Naturally, Fox’s Tucker Carlson played some of these sound bites and ridiculed Schumer on his Tuesday night talk show.
Wednesday’s banner headline
The NYT’s all-caps lead says “IMPEACHMENT ARTICLES SAY TRUMP ABUSED POWER, DAMAGING NATION.”
That’s one way Tuesday will be remembered. Dan Balz and Philip Rucker’s WaPo story is another way. They write: “A day of history accentuates America’s divide and the distortions of truth in the Trump era.” They quote former GOP senator Judd Gregg, who said, “This impeachment process is just significantly increasing the antagonism on both sides, and I don’t see it going anywhere. It’s not settling the matter out. It’s doing the opposite. It’s driving larger and more divisive wedges into the process.”
…So where are the nightly newscasts?
ABC, NBC and CBS have been carrying many of the impeachment hearings live, but their nightly newscasts have been making some head-scratching choices. On Wednesday, as articles of impeachment against a sitting president were presented for only the fourth time in history, all three networks led with the Jersey City shootout before covering impeachment. I’m paying close attention to the Jersey City story, like millions of others, but it’s hard to justify leading a national newscast with anything but the articles of impeachment…
“The case for impeachment” fills the editorial page in Wednesday’s WaPo.
“We believe Mr. Trump should receive a full trial in the Senate,” the editorial board says, “and it is our hope that more senior officials will decide or be required to testify during that proceeding, so that senators, and the country, can make a fair and considered judgment about whether Mr. Trump should be removed from office. We have reserved judgment on that question. What is important, for now, is that the House determine whether Mr. Trump’s actions constituted an abuse of power meriting his impeachment and trial.” And the editors (separate from the newsroom) say the answer is yes…
My contribution to Tuesday’s “AC360:” No, we’re not in a “post-truth world,” but we’re suffering from “truth decay,” in part due to the pro-Trump echo chamber that is barely tethered to reality right now. “Truth decay” was popularized by this RAND report in 2018. We’re well past cavities at this point, we’re at the root canal stage of decay…
Barr’s shocking interview with NBC’s Pete Williams
One of the things that was so shocking: A.G. Bill Barr “essentially dismissed the findings of the Justice Department’s inspector general that there was no evidence of political bias in the launching of the Russia probe, saying that his hand-picked prosecutor, John Durham, will have the last word on the matter,” NBC’s Ken Dilanian wrote.
>> Jeffrey Toobin’s reaction to the interview on CNN: “The attorney general of the United States is a Fox News bot. And it’s an outrage.” He said Barr “keeps demanding investigation after investigation until he gets the results that he wants? That’s something that happens in the Soviet Union, not in the United States…”
>> Laura Ingraham’s reaction to the interview on Fox: “Donald Trump is really fortunate to have that man as Attorney General…”
Brian Lowry emails: I suspect that Pete Williams would have received more criticism from the MSNBC analyst ranks for failing to aggressively challenge William Barr’s false statements if he hadn’t conducted the interview for that network. Instead, most appeared to confine their fire to Barr himself.
Those outside NBC News were less charitable, with Democratic strategist Adam Parkhomenko tweeting that Williams “wasn’t going to say or ask anything that might hurt his precious access…”