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Wednesday, October 09, 2019

The Times gave Peter Schweizer a forum again? What?

by digby

I have held off piling on the New York Times this cycle because nobody is perfect and the paper is important and does good work.
But this is unforgivable:

Peter Schweitzer is a professional right-wing hitman. He is funded by the Mercers and is a Breitbart editor. And they know it.

I wrote this Salon column about it in April 2015.  And then again in 2016:
There are dozens of facets to the Bannon story worth exploring in depth, but one project was particularly important to the election of Republican nominee Donald Trump. Breitbart News surely played its part, but it was Bannon's blandly named Government Accountability Institute that really did the job. Green described as it as a nonprofit organization designed to create indictments against major politicians and then to partner with mainstream media like The New York Times and The Washington Post to achieve wide dissemination.  
Its main contribution to the 2016 campaign was a best-seller by the Government Accountability Institute's president (right-wing propagandist Peter Schweizer) called "Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich," which I wrote about for Salon. The mainstream press cooperated eagerly and the book created the framework for the "Crooked Hillary" theme that dominated the campaign.

And again just last week:

Unlike all the other Ukraine scandals, this Biden conspiracy didn't spring from the right-wing fever swamps, nor did Rudy Giuliani "uncover it" as he likes to brag he did. This one was a professional hit job carried out by the same team that brought you "Clinton Cash," the book about the Clinton Foundation that formed the basis of the "Crooked Hillary" campaign.

This time it was a book called "Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends," by "Clinton Cash" author Peter Schweizer, who is now an editor at Breitbart News and president of the Government Accountability Institute, a nonprofit he founded with Steve Bannon and right-wing billionaire Rebekah Mercer. Its purpose is clear enough: To launder far-right smears and dirty tricks .

I wrote about this gang back in 2015 for Salon when Schweizer gulled the New York Times and the Washington Post into partnering with him on the Clinton story, apparently convincing them that the man who wrote "Architects of Ruin: How Big Government Liberals Ruined the Global Economy and Will Do It Again if We Don't Stop Them" was a straight journalist just looking for a little accountability. The book was a huge success at what it set out to do: Tar Hillary Clinton as a corrupt criminal. Why not do it again with Joe Biden, who everyone knew was likely to run against Trump in 2020?

This time, with the notable exception of a couple of dubious stories in the New York Times, the media didn't bite on the Biden story with quite the same eagerness. Bloomberg's Joshua Green points out in this article on the subject that while it didn't catch on in the mainstream press, it was huge in the conservative media, which apparently bothered Bannon a great deal. After all, the GAI was formed to push its smears into the mainstream. Stories that exist only in the conservative bubble simply don't have the same power to move the broader electorate.

Green notes that because Trump mainlines conservative media, he saw the story as very beneficial to his cause, adding that "what differentiates Trump from other power-consumers of conservative media is that he’s the president and was willing to use his governmental powers to attack a political rival." Indeed he was. And it was a big mistake — it finally got the Democrats off the dime on impeachment.

Schweizer denies working with Giuliani or the White House. But then, he didn't have to. He planted the seeds and then Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and the Trump and Rudy show made it grow. Green writes:
[T]here’s no question the anti-Biden effort has boomeranged on Trump, who is suddenly under siege from the Democrats’ fast-moving impeachment inquiry. ... At this point, no one can say what effect all this will have on the 2020 election. But it looks increasingly like it won’t be the one that Biden’s antagonists, from Trump to Schweizer, were aiming for.
It's possible this will end up hurting Joe Biden, as these smears almost always do. But it's hurting Trump even more. And to be honest, I'm not sure that Schweizer and company care that much. If a pain in the neck like Donald Trump gets caught in the crossfire I doubt they'll lose any sleep over it. Political hitmen aren't sentimental. They just move on to their next assignment.

It's unconscionable to give this character assassin any real estate in the New York Times. I'm stunned that they decided to do it again.