- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The news media proved that its annoyance with President Trump is alive and well following Robert Mueller’s eight-minute finale Wednesday.

The trajectory of the news coverage was predictable. Journalists revisited what they already knew about Mr. Mueller’s investigation into “Russian collusion.” Suggestive speculation followed. Most news organizations emphasized that Mr. Mueller refused to exonerate Mr. Trump in the matter — “Mueller, in first comments on Russia inquiry, declines to clear Trump,” noted a New York Times headline, which was typical.

Journalists also suggested Congress fire up impeachment proceedings, a notion immediately supported by lawmakers with intense interest in the process.

“The ball is in our court,” tweeted Rep. Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican who had publicly called for impeachment.

“Robert Mueller’s statement makes it clear: Congress has a legal and moral obligation to begin impeachment proceedings immediately,” tweeted Sen. Cory A. Booker, a New Jersey Democrat who is running for president.



Broadcasters joined the fray.

“Networks obsess over Mueller ‘asking’ Congress to impeach Trump,” writes Kristine Marsh, a Newsbusters.org analyst who parsed the coverage on ABC, NBC and CBS following Mr. Mueller’s brief appearance, which did not include questions from journalists.

“All three networks broke in with live coverage demanding that it was now the Democrats’ chance to impeach Trump. ABC was the most heavy-handed in their coverage, with anchor George Stephanopoulos bringing up the impeachment topic at least eight times in a 13-minute segment. Impeachment was mentioned in at least five more instances beyond that by the ABC team,” Ms. Marsh said, noting that the coverage got “more forceful” minute by minute.

NBC went after hidden implications, with hopes that “Congress picks up the mantle” of impeachment, the analyst said.

“I’m surprised the journalists who were denied the opportunity to ask questions didn’t give Mueller a standing ovation when he left the podium,” talk radio kingpin Rush Limbaugh told his 14 million listeners.

Perceptions differ, however. Matt Gertz — senior fellow at Media Matters for America, a progressive watchdog — blames the Trump administration for putting a “dishonest spin” on the Mueller report.

“It has been more unnerving to watch the mainstream press grapple unsuccessfully with Mueller’s actual conclusions and let the Trump administration’s spin set the narrative,” Mr. Gertz wrote in his analysis, adding that “Mueller’s statement is an indictment of a press that focused more on what people had to say about the report than what the report said.”

MR. SCALISE HAS ADVICE

“It is well past time for Democrats to move on from this madness. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her caucus need to accept the results of the 2016 election, admit there was no collusion, and recognize that Russia’s election meddling happened under President Obama’s watch. Republicans are committed to improving the lives of the American people. I invite Democrats to join us and focus on the issues their constituents sent them to Congress to address.”

— House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican

MRS. SANDERS CLEARS THE AIR

“If Bob Mueller had thought there was wrongdoing and was sure of it, he would have had a moral obligation to say that. He didn’t. In fact, he did the opposite. He concluded that there was no collusion, there was no conspiracy, and left the determination about obstruction up to the attorney general because he couldn’t find enough to make that determination himself. The attorney and the deputy attorney general and other senior members of the Department of Justice made that determination, confirmed there was no obstruction, and the case was closed and it’s time to move on.”

— White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to Fox News

FOX NEWS STILL THE DOMINANT FORCE

There is just no stopping Fox News Channel. It was the most-watched network throughout the day in the entire cable realm in May — a title it has retained for 35 consecutive months, or almost three years — according to Nielsen Media Research.

Fox News continues to ace news rivals, and remains the most watched cable news network for the 209th month in a row — or 17 years and five months. Fox News averages 2.4 million prime-time viewers, compared to 1.6 million for MSNBC and 761,000 for CNN.

“Hannity” and “Tucker Carlson Tonight” remained the top two cable news programs, besting MSNBC’s ‘”Rachel Maddow Show,” now marking its lowest-rated month since President Trump took office, according to Nielsen.

Fox Business Network also has reason to celebrate, with 34 consecutive months delivering the top two programs on business television. That would be “Lou Dobbs Tonight” and “Varney & Co.” Mr. Dobbs in particular is a powerful force, with a 203% ratings advantage over the competition at CNBC in the 7 p.m. time slot.

GET READY: DEMOCRATIC DEBATE SEASON

The 2020 presidential race is no longer just a free-floating concept. It’s about to get real. Very real. The first Democratic presidential debate is just 27 days away, scheduled to take place June 26 and 27 in Miami, hosted by NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo. Debate No. 2 will be hosted by CNN for two days in Detroit about a month later.

Now comes debate No. 3. The Democratic Party revealed Wednesday that it will be hosted by ABC and Univision on Sept. 12 and 13, in a location to be determined. The Democrats have already barred Fox News from hosting any of its debates, and the canny network responded by airing well-received town halls with Democratic candidates in recent weeks.

There are 24 Democratic candidates in the running — and a total of 12 debates planned. So get ready.

POLL DU JOUR

92% of Americans find birth control “morally acceptable”; 90% of conservatives and 93% of liberals agree.

77% overall find divorce morally acceptable; 67% of conservatives and 91% of liberals agree.

63% overall find “gay or lesbian relations” morally acceptable; 45% of conservatives and 81% of liberals agree.

42% overall find abortion morally acceptable; 23% of conservatives and 73% of liberals agree.

37% overall find pornography morally acceptable; 23% of conservatives and 53% of liberals agree.

9% overall find married men and women “having an affair” morally acceptable; 4% of conservatives and 18% of liberals agree.

Source: A Gallup poll of 1,009 U.S. adults conducted May 1-12 and released Wednesday.

• Kindly follow Jennifer Harper on Twitter @HarperBulletin

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