May 29, 2019

Rep. Eric Swalwell told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, “It really just demeans the conversation” to air a manipulated video to legitimize Donald Trump’s dishonest accusation that “there is something wrong with [Nancy Pelosi’s] health.”

If a candidate is going to appear on Fox, I think he or she should stay on offense and confront its propaganda. And while I’m a fan of Swalwell, I thought he was too timid in this exchange with Wallace on Sunday:

WALLACE: Meanwhile, we have the standoff now between Speaker Pelosi and President Trump. She accused him of a cover-up an hour before she was going to meet with him on infrastructure.No concern that if you continue to pursue this, the subpoenas, the insults, that the allegations of lawbreaking, that you will fail to do the people's business whether it's infrastructure or funding the government or raising the debt limit?

SWALWELL: Donald Trump is not the first president, Chris, to be investigated, but he is the first president to be investigated and not be able to work with Congress. Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, they still had production while there was perceived obstruction.And this president is doing a disservice to the American people by just walking away from our obligation to build roads, green our grid, to work on gun violence. We sent a background check bill over to the Senate and he's missing that opportunity.

That part was perfect. But then Swalwell added this:

SWALWELL: I also want to say, Chris, though, that something that doesn't help this debate is the distortion that we're seeing on Facebook or even by Fox Business News by taking what the president is saying about Nancy Pelosi and distorting and altering videos of her to suggest that there's something wrong with her health. That really just demeans the conversation.

That was good, too. But when Wallace told him to “move on,” I don’t think Swalwell should have let Fox off the hook so easily:

WALLACE: I understand that it's part of moving your bones as a Democrat to attack Fox News. We have you here, we're treating you fairly, let's move on, OK, Congressman?


WALLACE: All right.

SWALWELL: But it distorts the debate and it's something the Russians did in the 2016 election. I just don't think that Facebook and the president should be conducting themselves that way.

Swalwell could have added something like, “I’m sorry, Chris, because you seem like a fair guy. But when Trump’s favorite network airs a distorted video of the Speaker of the House, which he then retweets, that’s a big deal.”

Because the collusion between Trump and Fox is a big deal.

Even in this “fair” interview, a producer put his or her thumb on the scale with lower-third banners Swalwell could not see and rebutt. During the above exchange, the banner read, “SHOULD MORE FOCUS GO TOWARD A LEGISLATIVE AGENDA?”


During the exchange below, as Swalwell explained why the Mueller report did not exonerate Trump of collusion and why he remains troubled by the conduct between the Trump campaign and Russia, the banner blared: “DEMOCRATS’ ACCUSATION OF COLLUSION WERE NOT SUBSTANTIATED.”


WALLACE: Congressman, the special counsel directly contradicts you. Volume one, page five of the report: The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.

Congressman, the Mueller report spent 22 months, looked at all the evidence, says you were wrong.

SWALWELL: It did not say that, Chris. Actually, it laid out 200 pages of contact between the [campaign and Russia], and because a prior Congress had a failure of imagination to specifically articulate a crime of collusion doesn't mean a future Congress shouldn't say we don't want this to happen.

I respect the special counsel's finding that the laws we have today and with the limitations of not being able to look at finances, he could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt conspiracy. I don't accept that this is what we want a president or a candidate to do. And so I've written legislation to put an onus on any campaign family member or candidate if they have this type of outreach they have to tell the FBI.

Still, it’s better to say something than nothing so I give Swalwell props for what he did say. Let’s hope he and Pete Buttigieg have started a trend. If Fox wants Democratic candidates on its network, they should hear what Democrats have to say about Fox.

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