Fox News host Laura Ingraham gets an unlikely defender from the left

Ending a week-long vacation from Fox News, embattled host Laura Ingraham will return to the network’s prime time lineup Monday following an advertising boycott led by a teenage survivor of a high school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

Ingraham has the public backing of both Rupert Murdoch and Fox News co-president Jack Abernethy, and over the weekend, she gained the support of an unlikely ally — HBO host and comedian Bill Maher.

“I want to defend Laura Ingraham. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it has to do with the Parkland kids and guns and free speech,” Maher said on Real Time With Bill Maher Friday night. “Now, I think those kids did a great thing, they put this issue in a place we’ve never had it before and I wish them success. But if you’re gonna be out there in the arena and make yourselves the champions of this cause, people are going to have the right, I think, to argue back.”

Companies began to pull their ads off Ingraham’s popular Fox News show, the Ingraham Angle, after she taunted 17-year-old Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student David Hogg on Twitter for not being accepted into UCLA. After a backlash that included critical remarks from several conservative pundits and the loss of at least 16 sponsors, Ingraham offered an apology. But Hogg, who has become an outspoken advocate for tighter restrictions on gun ownership, blasted her apology as disingenuous.

Maher isn’t a big fan of Ingraham or her network, calling her “a deliberately terrible person” and dubbing Fox News as “a very bad axis of evil.” But Maher, who was fired from ABC’s Politically Incorrect in June 2002 following comments he made after the 9/11 attacks, called advertising boycotts “the modern way of cutting off free speech.”

“He is in the arena and then he calls for a boycott of her sponsors,” Maher said of Hogg. “I have been the victim of a boycott. I lost a job once. It is wrong.”

Heather McGhee, president of progressive think tank Demos and a panelist on Maher’s show, didn’t agree with his take on Ingraham, insisting the free speech doesn’t mean freedom to make money for speaking.

“I hate when the term ‘free speech’ is used in this commercial context because the First Amendment doesn’t guarantee you the right to have a soap advertisement in between your segments, which is what we’re saying here,” McGhee said. “It’s about government infringement.”

“But effectively it is the modern way of cutting off free speech,” Maher said, calling it “chilling” and warning that it could happen to her or any one of his panelists.

“I agree. It’s the price that we pay,” McGhee said.

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Top New York Times editor blasts President Trump

Appearing on CNN on Sunday, New York Times executive editor, Dean Baquet, blasted President Trump over his continued attacks on news organizations that offer fair but tough reporting about the White House and his administration.

“It’s out of control and his advisors should tell him to stop, because it’s actually affecting the civic life and debate of the country,” Baquet told Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter, a few hours after Trump deleted and reposted an attack on Twitter against the Washington Post over a 16-source story about disarray under Chief of Staff John Kelly.

So far, deeply reported insider stories about the administration from both the Times and the Post, such as about issues involving former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn or former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, have held up, Baquet said. He also criticized the president for propping up opinions from Fox News as fact, even as he attacks legitimate reporting.

“[I]f he creates a culture where Fox and Friends and Jesse Watters are regarded as serious journalism, and the New York Times and the Washington Post are not, he will have done longstanding, harmful effect on the country,” Baquet said.

Regardless of Trump’s relentless attacks on the press, Baquet said, the biggest crisis facing journalism is the decline of local newspapers, symbolized by the recent struggles of the Denver Post, which will lose another 25 staffers on Monday due to cuts imposed by its parent company, Digital Media First (which owns six daily newspapers in southeastern Pennsylvania).

Things have gotten so bad that the Denver Post’s own editorial board wrote a blistering opinion piece Sunday calling for Alden Capital, the hedge fund that owns the newspaper and is being sued for using newspaper profits to fund “shaky investments,” to sell it to someone who is willing to support the newsroom.

“If Alden isn’t willing to do good journalism here, it should sell The Post to owners who will,” the editorial said.

“This is a major city, Denver. This is a newsroom that now is on the verge of having fewer than 100 journalists. That’s astounding,” Baquet told Stelter. “That means things won’t be covered, school boards aren’t being covered. This is a crisis in American journalism.”

‘Take that down, please’

On Sunday’s Media Buzz, Fox News host Howard Kurtz was forced to ask a producer to remove a graphic showing the network far behind its chief competitors, CNN and MSNBC, when it came to which cable news channel viewers trusted most.

During an interview with pollster Frank Luntz, who warned that Republicans are in danger of losing both the House and the Senate during this year’s midterm elections, Kurtz citied a new Monmouth University poll stating that 77 percent of viewers think the media occasionally reports fake news.

Instead, producers displayed a graphic featuring different data from the same poll comparing the trust of cable news networks to that of Trump, with Fox News ranking last.

“That is not the graphic we are looking for. Hold off,” Kurtz said. “Take that down, please.”

Commenters on social media had a field day with Kurtz and Fox News following the snafu. He returned to the graphic about a minute later in the segment, which it was initially scheduled to air.

To Luntz, the numbers show a growing lack of trust in institutions that have been aided by Trump’s continued lashing out on Twitter.

“The fact is we get our news to affirm rather than inform, and that’s one of the greatest threats to the health of this democracy,” Luntz said.

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