May 8, 2017

We know it's hard to imagine, but once again, we have evidence of questionably 'legal' conduct from both the Trump administration and Fox "News,"

Here's the background, courtesy of Media Matters:

The Justice Department is currently engaged in a wide-ranging investigation of Fox News. The inquiry includes a review of the network’s “settlements made with women who alleged sexual harassment by former Fox News boss Roger Ailes,” as well as “possible misconduct by Fox News personnel” over a period of years...The investigation is complicated by the ongoing relationship between Murdoch and Trump. “The president speaks to Murdoch now almost every day,” with Murdoch advising Trump on an array of foreign and domestic policy issues, according to a report by The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman. According to Haberman, the Fox chief also regularly talks to Trump aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

The situation raises questions about whether Trump or his subordinates are communicating with the Justice Department about the Fox investigation, according to Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis whose specialty is government ethics.

Brian Stelter asked his audience a fairly obvious question on CNN's Reliable Sources, his weekly show that attempts to reveal how the media 'works.'

STELTER: (to the audience) Let me ask you, does this look inappropriate to you? Let's pull up the pictures from last Thursday night. While President Trump's Justice Department is investigating Fox News, here's Trump embracing the man in charge of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch. The two men sang each other's praises at a gala dinner here in New York on Thursday, with Murdoch introducing Trump.

If there's a word to describe the Trump administration's actions, it sure as hell isn't "appropriate." Stelter's panel seemed to affirm this, but with a helping of both-siderism, for easier digestion by the pundit-driven media audience, or so they think.

STELTER: David Zurawik, media critic for "The Baltimore Sun", and David Folkenflik, media correspondent for NPR. Folkenflik is the author of "Murdoch's World: The Last of the Old Media Empires".

Zurawik, when there's a federal investigation of a network, and the network's head honcho is hanging out with the president, does it look inappropriate? Is it inappropriate?

ZURAWIK: Brian, it totally looks inappropriate. This is the style, though, of both of those men -- in your face.

You know, I saw that and I was so angry when I saw it and I thought, you know, Donald Trump, this is what you ran on. The world was not going to be run with winks and nods and secret handshakes by the 1 percent. You were going to stand up for people. And here you are, hugging this guy and saying all these wonderful things about each other at this event. This is exactly -- I was so upset. But you know what? You know what cheered me? Seeing Wigdor and Bloom because those lawyers are not going to let him off. And we can't let him off.

Listen, I think he will try to do any influence he can, and Trump is so vulnerable because he has no friends in the media. Anybody who reports honestly is reporting what a disappointment he is and how erratic his behavior is. So, he's got to be nice to Murdoch in a way.

They are going to try to influence this thing. The only thing that can keep it honest are those attorneys and the press, us, talking about it right now, saying -- pay attention. This is dangerous. These guys are going to try to game the system, rig the stack the deck and rig this outcome.

Right on cue, Stelter reveals his appalling adherence to both-siderism, recalling an incident that had no impact on the integrity of our election, but was harped on mercilessly by those attempting to blame 'both sides' for not 'getting along,'

STELTER: It's reminiscent a little bit of Bill Clinton on the tarmac with former Attorney General Loretta Lynch. That was a huge controversy for good reason.

It was? Well, we know damned well that Hillary Clinton paid dearly for that serendipitous (for Trump/Putin) meeting with Lynch and #42. The fact that a clearly sexist/racist organization like Fox 'News' is acting as the White House's Pravda seems to be of equal consequence to an impromptu conversation between Democratic friends? Apparently so. Stelter also tries to minimize the severity of this alliance.

STELTER: is this getting a little bit conspiratorial? Everyone wondering what's going to happen, with Trump's Justice Department deciding what to do with Trump's favorite network?

ZURAWIK: Brian, I don't think conspiratorial. I think we're being too hard on ourselves. I think we should continue to be skeptical.

STELTER: The other David, what do you think?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, I've got to say, I mean, it seems to me that this is really a two-front war that he's fighting. He's fighting, in some ways, a three-front war. He's fighting the question of the federal inquiry and they're starting to promise full cooperation with the Justice Department in a way that had not been in some ways the stance that you've been hearing, that Paul Weiss is going to present their full findings about the culture for women --

STELTER: The investigator for Fox. Right.

FOLKENFLIK: -- and what they've been learning about women making accusations that had not been promised in the early goings.

They've got the federal inquiry, of course. They've got the lawsuits that we just heard about on this show and they've got the question, as you pointed out, of whether they'll be able to accomplish this $14 billion takeover of Sky Broadcasting which would be, you know, a major coup particularly for James Murdoch, Rupert's son, but that he's wanted back in the fold for decades.

So, this is -- this is something where Murdoch is trying to do a full-court press in two different countries where they have such major stakes, such major holdings. And, you know, they've got a lot of mess. This is not resolved at FOX News. The culture is not significantly enough change that people inside -- the women I talk to inside FOX News are not convinced that they can trust the leadership there at the network yet.

Just in case anyone thinks that CNN is acting too liberally, Stelter plays devil's advocate once again.

STELTER: Are we making too big a deal of the idea that a federal investigation

FOLKENFLIK: I don't think you are at all. If you talk to the lawyers who know this stuff, they would say that in a normal circumstances, this would be about an eight or nine out of ten in terms of -- in terms of legal peril and concern for a corporation trying to deal with questions of culture that may stray into felonious criminal behavior. The wild card, of course, is that we don't know who Donald Trump is going to appoint to be the new U.S. attorney for the Southern District. And we don't know how this Justice Department will act when it involves an ally of the president. Do you really want to take on such an important and influential player in American politics, and particularly American Republican politics?

Thank goodness there are those out there who are seeking the truth, because this is really a big effing deal.

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