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Things that make you go hmmmm
July 3, 2019

President Trump's comments about homelessness to Fox News host Tucker Carlson befuddled a lot of people, but they weren't the only puzzling thing Trump told Carlson in an interview that aired Monday night. For instance, he claimed Twitter, Google, and Facebook "were totally against me" in 2016 and he's "heard" that "they're fighting me hard right now." He dwelled on Twitter:

If you look at Twitter, I have millions and millions of people on Twitter and it's, you know, it's a very good arm for me. It's great social media. But they don't treat me right. And I know for a fact, I mean, a lot of people try and follow me and it's very hard. I have so many people coming up that they say, "Sir, it's so hard. They make it hard to follow." What they're doing is wrong and possibly illegal. And a lot of things are being looked at right now. [Trump to Fox News]

This isn't the first time Trump has said Twitter somehow makes it hard for people to follow him. In fact, he even reportedly complained about it to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in the Oval Office.

"There's no way to know what the president is exactly talking about as far as, you know, Twitter making it hard for him to follow, because of course Fox News rarely presses him for details or proof of any claims," Anderson Cooper said on CNN Tuesday night. But "the head of Twitter recently had to explain to the president that numbers of followers sometimes drop when spam and bot accounts are deleted from his favorite source of virtual applause."

If you would prefer an attempt at fact-checking Trump's claims without the snark and Melissa McCarthy clips, Daniel Dale does his best in the video below, along with a reminder that whenever Trump starts a story with "Sir," take it with an unhealthy heaping of salt. Peter Weber

June 6, 2019

Sean Hannity noted on his Fox News show Thursday night that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly told top House Democrats on Tuesday night that she doesn't favor impeaching President Trump because "I don't want to see him impeached, I want to see him in prison." And the nation's highest Democrat calling for a political opponent to be locked up, despite any proven crimes, was beyond the pale for Hannity, one of Trump's biggest boosters.

If a political leader was encouraging or engaging in such behavior — maybe by cheering on chants to that effect at a political rally or major party nominating convention or baselessly accusing law enforcement leaders of the capital crime of treason — it would be "beyond despicable behavior," and "they would literally turn, in many ways, the U.S.A. into a country we would no longer recognize," Hannity said. "That happens in banana republics."

Irony: 1502-June 6, 2019. Requiescat in pace. Peter Weber

May 3, 2019

Rep. Steve Cohen's (D-Tenn.) chicken-themed antics at Attorney General William Barr's no-show House testimony on Thursday was so over-the-top that Stephen Colbert's Late Show kicked off Thursday night's show by poking fun at him.

Friday morning's Fox & Friends hosts mocked Cohen a little harder, focusing on his KFC breakfast — Barr was "chicken" for not showing up to face Democrats' questions — but when they asked contributors Diamond & Silk for their reaction, things got a little ... strange.

Cohen and Barr are both white, and making eating fried chicken about race seems a little ... racially insensitive? Peter Weber

March 20, 2019

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a Monday afternoon phone briefing on his trip to the Middle East and "international religious freedom." But the one member of the State Department press corps invited to participate in the call was "un-invited after RSVPing," told the call was for "faith-based media only," CNN reports. The State Department said it won't release a transcript of the call or a list of participating outlets, and "officials would not answer questions about whether a range of faiths was included."

On Tuesday, Religion News Service listed some of the participants in the call: Jewish Telegraphic Agency (Jewish), Algemeiner (Jewish), World Magazine (evangelical Christian), America Magazine (Catholic), The Leaven (Catholic — Kansas City archdiocese), and Religion News Service ("a secular news service that covers religion, spirituality, and ethics").

A participant in the call shared a transcript with reporters on Tuesday evening, showing that "Pompeo faced questions about the Israeli election, terrorism, and the omission of the word 'occupied' when describing the Golan Heights and the West Bank," CNN reports. In a subsequent briefing with the traveling press corps, CNN says, Pompeo "was asked similar questions and provided similar responses."

Former State Department spokesman Jack Kirby told CNN it's "inappropriate and irresponsible" not to release the transcript of "any on-the-record interview in which a Cabinet official participates," and excluding "beat reporters from something as universally relevant as religious freedom in the Middle East strikes me as not only self-defeating but incredibly small-minded."

The Trump administration is expected to unveil its long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan after Israel's election, and earlier this month the White House hosted a group of evangelical Christian leaders "to reassure them about the plan," Axios reported. Pompeo declined to comment on the White House's outreach in Monday's call, RNS reports, but he said a "broad base of people" will be briefed, and "as an evangelical Christian myself, I've always understood the centrality of that place." Peter Weber

February 20, 2019

CNN has hired Sarah Isgur, a longtime Republican political operative and recent Justice Department spokeswoman, as a political editor helping to steer the network's 2020 campaign coverage. The hire, first reported by Politico, caught CNN's editorial staff by surprise, not just because her résumé is full of partisan advocacy but also because it contains no experience in journalism or managing a TV news operation. She has also publicly disparaged the news media, including CNN. "It's extremely demoralizing for everyone here," one CNN editorial staffer told The Daily Beast.

CNN officials said Isgur will be one of several editors directing coverage of the Democratic primary and President Trump's re-election campaign at the network, reporting to political director David Chalian, and she'll also occasionally offer analysis on air. She will apparently not be involved in coverage of the Justice Department. TV networks often hire political operatives and politicians as analysts and program hosts, but it is very rare to bring them on to direct political news coverage.

Before joining the Trump administration as the top spokeswoman for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Isgur served as a political adviser to Ted Cruz and Mitt Romney, was deputy communications director at the Republican National Committee, and served as deputy campaign manager for Carly Fiorina's presidential campaign. Thanks to comments she made about Trump while working for Fiorina, she had to personally pledge loyalty to Trump before he would allow Sessions to hire her, The Washington Post reported in April 2018. Peter Weber

October 19, 2018

At a rally in Montana on Thursday night, President Trump trotted out a confusing new theory about a group of Honduran migrants trying to head to the U.S., currently stalled in Guatemala: The Democrats sent them. Why would Democrats try to lure some 3,000 Honduran citizens up to the U.S. right before an election that Trump is increasingly trying to make a referendum on illegal immigration? They "figure everybody coming in is going to vote Democrat," Trump said, rallying for the Republican Senate candidate challenging Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

Noncitizens can't vote in U.S. elections, of course, but Trump let that slide. "A lot of money's been passing through people to come up and try to get to the border by Election Day because they think that's a negative for us," Trump said. "They wanted that caravan and there are those that say that caravan didn't just happen. It didn't just happen."

The president appears to be referring to a video posted on Twitter first by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) then by Trump of a man passing out what appears to be money to a group of women, the theory — as explained by Newt Gingrich — being that somebody is paying Hondurans to migrate to America for some unexplained reason. Gaetz later explained: "This video was provided to me by a Honduran government official. Thus, I believed it to be from Honduras."

Trump is so concerned about 3,000 Hondurans trying to make their way to the U.S. border that he threatened on Thursday to "call up the U.S. Military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!" Peter Weber

September 26, 2018

President Trump held a rare solo press conference Wednesday, where he said that "fake" sexual misconduct allegations against him have shaped his view of accusations regarding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

"I've been accused," said Trump, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least 10 women, saying that "false charges" have "absolutely" affected his sympathy toward Kavanaugh. Three women have accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.

Trump complained that The New York Times published a story with allegations from "four or five women" who he says were "paid a lot of money to make up stories about me." If you want the real story, said Trump, check with Fox News or host Sean Hannity. MSNBC's Chris Hayes called the theory "Alex Jones-level stuff," akin to the conspiracy theories on Jones' Infowars. "People want fame," said Trump of the accusers. "They want money."

When pressed by the reporter, CBS News' Weijia Jiang, who pointed out that he hadn't allowed her to get to her question, Trump said "you've been asking a question for 10 minutes. Please sit down." Watch the moment below, via Fox News. Summer Meza

September 19, 2018

As President Trump was leaving a Sept. 12 Congressional Medal of Honor Society event in the White House, Epoch Times photojournalist Samira Bouaou broke protocol by entering a restricted area and handing Trump a purple folder. "Trump accepted the folder and appeared to open it briefly as he departed before quickly shutting it," The Washington Post reported Tuesday, citing several news photographers who witnessed the event. "It was not clear what was inside the folder. Photographers who asked Bouaou afterward why she did it and what the folder contained said she declined to provide details."

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has discussed Bouaou's folder situation with the White House Correspondents' Association executive board, and the White House has reviewed the incident, but nobody will say anything about it on the record. One White House official told the Post that the matter has been "dealt with." Bouaou, who had recently received a Secret Service pass to attend White House briefings and other events, has not been seen at the White House since the encounter, other photographers say.

The Epoch Times, launched in New York in 2000 by a group of Chinese Americans, is believed to have close ties to the Falun Gong spiritual group, an affiliation the newspaper denies. Falun Gong and the Epoch Times are both banned in China. Ming Xia, a political science professor at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York, tells the Post that the newspaper's part-time journalists "support the Falun Gong because they are Falun Gong practitioners. ... They are not professional journalists and they do not follow the protocols professional journalists abide by. That's how they can be very pushy and aggressive." Xia said the Falun Gong is eager to exploit Trump's hardline stance on Beijing. Peter Weber

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