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'Trumpcare' doesn't exist. That doesn't stop Big Tech from cashing in on ads for 'garbage' health insurance

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

“Trumpcare" insurance will “finally fix healthcare," said an advertisement on Facebook.

A Google ad urged people to “Enroll in Trumpcare plans. Healthcare changes are coming."

The problem is, there's no such thing as “Trumpcare."

Facebook and Google have promised to crack down on lies and misinformation about politics in the run-up to next month's presidential election, but they have run tens of thousands of ads in the past year containing false claims about health insurance reform and plans.

The “Trumpcare" ads don't appear to have a political aim and don't advocate for the reelection of President Donald Trump over former Vice President Joe Biden. Nonetheless, the Facebook ads touting these nonexistent products have been viewed some 22 million times in the past year, disproportionately in battleground states like Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to Facebook data.

The ads are placed by marketers targeting consumers — politically conservative ones in some cases — who become sales leads if they respond. Then the consumers get deluged with phone calls from brokers hawking health insurance plans that are not the comprehensive solution that's often promised, but instead are less conventional products that have traditionally been used as supplemental coverage or for when people transition between jobs.

The Affordable Care Act requires traditional health insurance plans to provide “minimal essential coverage," which includes preventive care, mental health care, substance abuse, maternity and more. The less-conventional plans are exempted from those requirements. Some of the plans are offered by name-brand companies like UnitedHealthcare, but critics say they're typically big moneymakers for the companies that can leave patients with unexpected medical bills. The plans' limitations often are not explained in the advertisements or in brokers' high-pressure sales presentations. Hundreds of complaints about the plans show up on consumer sites like the Better Business Bureau or Yelp.

“The marketing is extremely deceptive," said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University's Center on Health Insurance Reforms. “Both the advertising and the brokers use terms that to the average consumer would make them think they are buying a comprehensive insurance plan that provides coverage if they get injured or sick. But quite often nothing could be further from the truth."

The misleading marketing may be ensnaring more consumers now, as an estimated 14 million Americans have lost employer-sponsored health benefits due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Google and companies involved in the marketing generally defended the term “Trumpcare," saying it's legitimate to use to describe the president's general philosophy about health care or his 2017 executive order that allowed short-term insurance plans to cover a time period of up to 12 months rather than three months. Facebook said the word “Trumpcare" on its own didn't violate its rules. However, Facebook and Google both initially accepted “Trumpcare" ads that, after they were flagged by ProPublica, the companies later said did violate their rules.

A ProPublica reporter responded to one of the “Trumpcare" ads and took calls from five insurance brokers. The brokers seemed to have no idea what type of ad had led to the call. They were focused on closing the deal. One said, wrongly, that “Trumpcare" was just a new name for “Obamacare." The other four acknowledged that there's no such thing as “Trumpcare."

“It's fake news," said one.

“Trumpcare" “is not even in existence yet," said another.

“They're starting to change over from 'Obamacare' to 'Trumpcare,' but it hasn't switched over yet," a third broker said.

Traditional health care plans sold under the Affordable Care Act must comply with a host of regulations, including not discriminating against people with preexisting conditions. But the plans are expensive, and some consumers may not qualify for the income-based subsidies that reduce the cost. For example, a 40-year-old single person who makes more than $50,000 would likely not qualify for a subsidy to help pay for an individual health care plan, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation Health Insurance Marketplace Calculator.

The less conventional plans — called short-term, fixed indemnity, accident-only or specified disease plans — offered by the brokers are less expensive. Some provide benefits for a short term or give a fixed payment to cover a portion of a doctor or hospital bill. Others pay out only if the beneficiary had some type of accident. A purchaser would need to read the fine print to know what they did or did not cover.

ProPublica contacted the Federal Trade Commission and insurance regulators in all 50 states and found hit-and-miss enforcement of misleading ads and sales tactics. Some states, like Delaware and Virginia, have meted out discipline for using misleading tactics to sell the limited plans. But many have not. Most who spoke to ProPublica said they have no jurisdiction over the online “lead generation" advertisers. The regulators say it's like playing “whack-a-mole," as those caught using abusive marketing tactics can simply incorporate under a new name and resume the same behavior.

Online “Lead Generators" Lure in Consumers

Identifying deceptive tactics related to health care plans is as easy as going online and looking.

Southern California marketer Stuart Millar said he's placed “Trumpcare" advertisements to join in “the gold rush of online entrepreneurship."

Millar has spent at least $350,000 on 12,500 “Trumpcare" ads from four Facebook pages with “Trumpcare"-themed names since last October. “Thanks to our President," one of them said, “U.S. health insurance companies have had to drastically drop their rates." (ProPublica can see how much Millar spent because he had proactively marked his ads as political, triggering Facebook to disclose this information.)

Millar isn't an insurance broker — one of the people who sell insurance and are regulated by the states. He's a “traffic broker," a marketer in charge of running ads to drive visitors to his clients' websites. There's little regulation of his activities. His ads have focused so much on the term “Trumpcare," he said, because it's clickbait. He called it far more attention-getting than the “left-wing one," his term for “Obamacare."

“I've got to find a fun way to make health care interesting," Millar said. “'Trumpcare' is interesting but health care in general isn't."

“Traffic brokers," like any Facebook advertiser, can select the specific demographics of the Facebook users who will see their ads.

Millar declined to get into details about how he targeted his ads, but said he mostly relied on Facebook's algorithm to find him the people who'd click. He said he tested thousands of iterations of the ad to make sure it found an audience. “What I went with was what converted," Millar said, a reference to people responding to the ads.

Some “Trumpcare" ads — not apparently linked to Millar — have been targeted at people Facebook labels as “interested in Donald Trump," according to targeting data provided by Facebook to users along with ads that are shared with the Ad Observer project.

Millar says he didn't come up with the idea of using “Trumpcare." That came from his clients, whom he wouldn't name. Many of Millar's ads led to a page featuring a red, white and blue “Trumpcare" logo on HealthPlansAmerica.org, which is owned by a company called Apollo Interactive. (The company is not a nonprofit, but anyone can buy a .org website address.)

Apollo Interactive isn't an insurance broker either. It's what's called a lead broker, yet another cog in the lightly regulated machinery of insurance “lead generation" marketing. That means it gathers profiles of people who are looking for health insurance. Those who input their information on these sites become “leads." And then they're put up for auction.

Officials from Apollo Interactive wouldn't say how the company sells leads. But Colin Sholes, an activist and former online health insurance marketer, said lead generators extract an anonymized sample of each person's data: ZIP code, age, gender. This profile, without any contact information, gets shared with potential buyers, who bid for it in an instant, automated auction. The winning bidder or bidders get the person's name and their contact information.

Leads are often sold as “shared leads" — meaning they're sold to more than one buyer at the same time. Some of the buyers are insurance brokers. Some are other lead brokers who bid so they can resell data that originated elsewhere. “It's a big web and everybody's interconnected," Sholes said. “A lot of data just floats around."

So how much is each “lead" worth? Sholes estimated that a lead for a person under 55 would cost as much as $20.

The lead might be even more valuable if it was sold as what the industry calls a “warm lead," he explained. Some companies exist just to buy leads, then have a call center agent call and, if a human picks up, the agent “warms you up," Sholes said. That means they check to make sure the consumer is interested in buying insurance. At that point the company sells the call to an insurance broker as a “warm" transfer. “A connected call," he said, might sell for up to $80.

Millar confirmed he got paid by the lead, but he refused to say how much. He did say that he made a profit on what he paid Facebook to run the ads. He was not aware of what happens to consumers who click on his ads, then purchase the health plans. “I didn't ever call in myself. I am not exactly sure how any of that works."

Facebook and Google Profit From the Misinformation

This fall, someone Googling for affordable health insurance might have come across an ad that said: “Healthcare changes are coming. Check out the new pricing tiers under the American Health Care Act."

The American Health Care Act — the bill most commonly called “Trumpcare" — failed to pass the Senate in 2017 when the terminally ill Sen. John McCain dramatically walked across the chamber's floor and gave a thumbs down, leading to the bill's defeat. So there were no new “pricing tiers" on offer, as the ad claimed, in 2020.

Those ads led to Apollo's HealthPlansAmerica.org site. Apollo Interactive attorney Chris Deatherage said in a written statement that the Google ads “appear to be old ads" from when AHCA “was actively being discussed in the legislature."

Deatherage said “Trumpcare" is an “abstract" term used to “tie together" various pieces of intended or existing legislation and policies and that Apollo's “Trumpcare" website said the term refers to Trump's “collective policy updates." He compared it to “Obamacare" — which specifically refers to the Affordable Care Act — and proposals for “Medicare for All," which are not law. He added that Apollo Interactive's website lets visitors connect with brokers who can explain the term.

Google's rules say it does not allow ads that “deceive users by excluding relevant product information or providing misleading information." Facebook says it bans ads with “deceptive, false, or misleading claims." But both accepted the “Trumpcare" promotions. Google even gave the misinformation prime real estate, with the ads as the top-listed results when people search for affordable health insurance.

Christa Muldoon, a spokeswoman for Google said, “Health care ads cannot make misleading claims about the advertiser's identity or the services they offer." She said Google removed the ads referencing AHCA under that policy after ProPublica contacted Google about them. She wouldn't explain why the company apparently let the ads run for years, despite violating Google's rules.

Until last year, Google also sold ads that lured in consumers with the phrase Healthcare.gov — the federal government site where you can purchase plans that comply with the Affordable Care Act — even though they were for private, lead-generation websites.

It's not clear how much Google earned from selling “Trumpcare" ads. Unlike Facebook, Google doesn't consider ads about “Trumpcare" political, so it doesn't publish any data about them. Muldoon would not say how much Google made from the ads.

But, she said, citing Trump's executive orders on health care, “We do not consider the phrase 'Trumpcare' alone to be misleading," so it's allowed in Google ads.

A report a year ago from Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, criticized Google and other search engines for showing ads for for-profit lead-generation sites listed above the official Healthcare.gov site when a person searched for “Obamacare" or even “Healthcare.gov." Casey called for search engines to put an “answer box" above all content, even ads, with a link to Healthcare.gov on searches for health insurance.

Muldoon hinted at a coming change to what kinds of health insurance-related ads the company will allow. She said that Google is “evaluating the health insurance space to strengthen our protections for users and prevent misleading ads."

After Newsweek flagged the Facebook ads in a blog post in August, the Lead Stories news organization published a fact-check saying that “there is no such thing as Trumpcare." That prompted Facebook to stop accepting the ads, under a policy that bans ads with content that fact-checkers have found to not be true.

Devon Kearns, a Facebook spokesperson, told ProPublica that some of the ads were removed for violating a Facebook policy that bans “scammy tactics."

But then in mid-September, more “Trumpcare" ads appeared on Facebook, from something called “National Center for Medical Records," which didn't return a request for comment. These ads led to another company's website, not Apollo's. One of them featured a smiling Trump with his arm around the shoulder of a doctor and the slogan: “Trumpcare from $1/Day."

Omissions and High-Pressure Sales

ProPublica wanted to learn more about the sales tactics involving “Trumpcare" ads, so we checked for ourselves. One of the reporters on this story, Jeremy, had been laid off in May. So he clicked on an ad in Facebook's ad transparency portal, featuring photos of a health insurance card and a tuxedoed Donald Trump with Melania Trump in a ballgown. It took him to HealthPlansAmerica.org, which prompted him to input his contact details, as well as his age, gender, address, income range and whether he had any “major medical conditions."

Jeremy is young and healthy, and he answered the questions honestly, so his information made him a hot prospect.

Jeremy entered a burner phone number that he acquired for this project — a good choice, because he got 67 phone calls the day he submitted the form; the day after, he got 46 more. The plans the brokers offered were legal, to the extent that they gave enough information to check. But to be informed, a consumer would want to know each plan's limits and exceptions and be provided with detailed information about what's covered, or not. The brokers often withheld crucial information.

Alex, from “the Enrollment Center," said his plan offered free preventive care and would let Jeremy pick his own doctor. Using the lingo of the Affordable Care Act he described the insurance as a “minimum essential coverage plan." But that's exactly what it was not. Jeremy, who is married with no children, had to ask if the plan covered maternity costs, something that might be relevant to a childless couple. Alex said that would require something else, a “major medical plan."

When Jeremy asked Alex to email the plan documents, so he could read what the plan covered or excluded, the line disconnected. Alex never called back.

When we called back several weeks later to ask for comment, the line was apparently disconnected.

Another company, “Modern Health," would not even provide a brochure about its health plans. A supervisor named Louis said he was “in charge of the company" and that it would be a violation of patient privacy laws to send information in writing about the plan. (It isn't.) Those details would supposedly have to come from the insurance company, and only after Jeremy signed up.

Anthony, who said he worked for the “National Health Enrollment Agency," also wouldn't send anything in writing. But his reason made it sound like he needed to lock in a fare on a flight that was rapidly running out of seats. “Once we disconnect the line, the companies aren't going to let me hold onto the plan," he said.

When Jeremy said he wanted to talk it over with his wife, Anthony countered: “Is she a licensed broker?" He offered to add her to the call rather than have the couple discuss it alone.

None of the salespeople volunteered the details a consumer would need to make an informed choice. Brandon, the salesman from Modern Health, for example, offered a plan from a company called “HealthShield." It's for “things like emergency surgeries, hospitalization, ambulances and prescriptions," he said. He went into painstaking detail about the amount it paid for certain items. But when asked if he'd shared everything Jeremy needed to know, he said, “It does have your essential package that a lot of people sign up for, especially at this time." Only later, when asked what category of insurance the plan fell under, did he say that “they do remove certain things, which include substance abuse, mental health and maternity benefits."

Reached for comment for this article, a man who said that his name was Brandon Greer and that he was now in charge of Modern Health said “I'm not sure" when asked if these omissions might confuse consumers. He said that the company instructs its salespeople to note the exclusions “upfront." He then ended the call.

When we tried to reach the National Health Enrollment Agency minutes later, to get a comment for this story, the phone rang at the offices of Modern Health. The person who picked up denied knowing what the National Health Enrollment Agency was and hung up when asked his name.

Omitting the details of health insurance plans can harm consumers. In August, the Government Accountability Office, the auditing and investigative unit of Congress, published a secret shopper investigation of the sales tactics for the plans. GAO investigators tested 31 brokers by using a fake persona, a person who had a preexisting condition. Eight of the 31 brokers made misstatements, the report says. One was selling the GAO investigator — who claimed to have diabetes — a health insurance plan that the broker said would cover the investigator's diabetes, but it really didn't. In a different case, the investigator told the broker that they had diabetes, but the application completed by the sales representative said there was no treatment or diagnosis for diabetes in the past five years. “This indicates that the broker may have intentionally falsified information," the report said.

The GAO didn't disclose the names of any of the brokers in its report, but it said it referred them to the Federal Trade Commission and state insurance regulators.

“Garbage" Insurance Generates Profit for Brokers and Insurance Companies

USHEALTH Advisors, one of the companies whose broker contacted Jeremy, posts videos online to show off how much money its brokers are making selling limited insurance plans.

“How much can you earn monthly at US Health Advisors?" asks one of the videos, posted by US Health Advisors Coral Springs.

“$16,000," says a bearded man in a black shirt and tie.

“$18,000," says a woman in a sleeveless top.

“$34,000," says a man in a dress shirt and tie, a family photo in the background behind him.

Then, the closer: “$42,000 — in one month," a man says.

Justin Brain, the USHEALTH benefits specialist whose number is on the US Health Advisors Coral Springs Facebook page, said commissions vary depending on a broker's “production," or sales totals. He declined to say how much the commissions were per sale, but he said the video is used for bringing in new sales recruits to “give them what's possible."

An April study by the Urban Institute found brokers making commissions of around 25% for the type of plans offered by the company. Other insurance brokers told ProPublica the commissions on some plans could be as much as 50%.

The video closes with a USHEALTH Advisors logo that adds, “A UnitedHealthcare Company." UnitedHealthcare is a massive company that provides health insurance and benefits. It's part of UnitedHealth Group, one of the largest companies in the country, with $242 billion in annual revenue in 2019. UnitedHealthcare declined to say how much the brokers made in commissions.

A USHEALTH broker pitched Jeremy a plan sponsored by Freedom Life Insurance Company of America, which is also a UnitedHealthcare company. The broker characterized the coverage as similar to Affordable Care Act plans and sent a 36-page brochure that laid out the details of the offer.

The document he sent made it clear that the Freedom Life plan would provide limited coverage that could leave a person with hefty bills. But it would take an exceptionally savvy consumer to sort through dozens of pages of insurance jargon to understand that. At ProPublica's request, Jeffrey Hogan, the Northeast regional manager for Rogers Benefit Group, a national benefits marketing firm, examined the document.

Hogan pointed out that it disclosed on Page 3 that the plans would “supplement" any “essential health benefit plan," meaning one of the more comprehensive plans sold under the Affordable Care Act. If this plan was meant as a supplement, then it would not be ideal for an uninsured couple. This was not mentioned in Jeremy's sales presentation from the Freedom Life broker.

One portion of the plan listed its “maximum" benefit for various “defined" sicknesses. It did not say what its “minimum" payment might be. The daily maximum paid under the plan for an X-ray would be $50. For a CAT scan it would be $200. For an outpatient lab it would be $30. Each of those procedures could cost many hundreds of dollars more than the maximum benefit.

Hogan called the plan a “cascading mess" of coverage for specific conditions. “I wouldn't sell this stuff if it was the last piece of garbage on earth," Hogan said.

The limited benefit, accident or defined benefit plans like the ones offered by Freedom Life are highly profitable for the companies that operate them, Hogan said. “They pay very little out on the dollar," he said.

In 2019, Freedom Life took in $171 million for Accident and Health policies covering about 291,000 people, according to a report by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Its “loss ratio" was 46%, the report said, which means Freedom Life spent less than half of what it brought in from premiums on medical claims and funding its reserves. That leaves plenty of revenue for profit and to pay commissions and fees to brokers and lead generators.

By comparison, the plans sold under the Affordable Care Act have a minimum loss ratio of 80% to 85%, meaning 80 to 85 cents of every dollar must be spent on medical care for the people paying premiums. If companies spend less, they are required to refund the difference to consumers or employers.

Hogan said that he's been selling insurance for 35 years and that it wasn't easy for him to sift through all the jargon and limits and caveats about coverage in the Freedom Life document. One of the most insidious details was “buried" on Page 22, Hogan said. That's where the company disclosed that any cost incurred as a result of a preexisting health condition would not be covered under the short-term plan included in the package. “This just makes my blood boil," Hogan said. “This hurts people."

Maria Gordon-Shydlo, a spokeswoman for UnitedHealthcare, said in an email the plans provided by USHEALTH provide “valuable health coverage options to meet people's individual financial and care needs." Its brokers present various options, including Affordable Care Act plans, to help people find the plan that's best for them, she said.

Jorie Jacobi, a 31-year-old from St. Louis, signed up for a plan through Freedom Life Insurance in 2018 when she was working as a freelance writer. She searched for affordable health insurance on Google and put in her phone number on a website that promised she'd receive quotes. She got inundated with phone calls that went on for more than a year.

Jacobi is relatively healthy, so she figured she didn't need to pay for the more comprehensive, higher-priced plans offered under the Affordable Care Act. She spoke to a USHEALTH agent selling Freedom Life and said she was under the impression at the time that the package of limited health plans provided by Freedom Life would make sense for her. Her monthly premium came to $224 — not cheap, she said.

Jacobi admits that she didn't do her due diligence when she signed up for the coverage. “I feel silly about this now, but I just trusted them," Jacobi said. She doesn't remember her exact conversations with the agent, and UnitedHealthcare said that there are no recordings of the sales calls, and that it would not provide a recording or transcript of a follow-up call. Jacobi insisted that she would have made sure she had coverage for routine visits to her internist and obstetrician-gynecologist, but after she went to the doctors she received bills for lab work that came to $311 and $710.

After about a dozen hours on the phone with Freedom Life's customer service representatives, Jacobi said the bills still hadn't been paid. So she wrote a negative review on Yelp. That led to a phone call from a company vice president who helped make sure the insurer paid the bills.

In another case, the Freedom Life plan did not cover a drug Jacobi needed. And when she needed a minor surgical procedure she learned it would not be covered by the plan, so she paid cash.

Gordon-Shydlo, the UnitedHealthcare spokeswoman, said Jacobi had selected coverage that had a lower premium but only covered specific diseases, accidents and other items. The insurer complied with its “stringent application process" and addressed Jacobi's questions and correctly paid her claims, Gordon-Shydlo said.

Jacobi is now covered by a health plan sponsored by her employer. She regrets getting caught up with Freedom Life. “It makes you feel really stupid that you fell for it," she said.

Regulators Play “Whack-a-Mole"

Frank Pyle has been chasing junk insurance companies for years as the director of market conduct enforcement for the Delaware Department of Insurance. “As soon as you take one down another one pops up in its place."

Pyle said regulators across the country are aware of misrepresentations by insurers selling limited, short term, accident and defined sickness plans.

Pyle and his team in Delaware have to get throwaway phones when they play secret shopper on the lead generating websites, because the lines get inundated with so many calls from brokers.

In one investigation, Pyle said his team listened to a random sample of 87 recorded sales calls from a particular company. At least half of them contained some form of deception, he said. The level of misrepresentation seemed to depend on the savviness of the consumer, he said. A consumer would ask if the limited plan was the same as an Obamacare plan and the broker would tell them it's just as good. If the consumer asked if the plan covered diabetes, the broker would tell them it did when it didn't, he said. The case resulted in a fine against the company, he said.

When some states identify violations, they impose weighty penalties, like fines or revoking the license of a broker. But in others the penalties are light or sometimes limited to warnings.

Numerousstateinsurance commissioners have warned consumers to “be wary of telemarketers from the 'national enrollment center,' 'national healthcare center,' or other official-sounding names."

The Virginia State Corporation Commission settled a case for $6,300 with Freedom Life that alleged the company misrepresented benefits or terms of a policy with advertising that was “untrue, deceptive or misleading" and failed to give applicants a summary of their rights. The company agreed to a corrective action plan that addressed the alleged violations, documents show. Gordon-Shydlo, the spokeswoman for UnitedHealthcare, which owns Freedom Life, said in an email that the company's brochures included notices about the limitations of the products and that the company did not admit to any violation of the law.

It was hard to find state regulatory agencies that had taken action against lead generating companies. One state insurance regulator, who spoke anonymously because he didn't want his colleagues to be criticized, said his agency “probably" has the authority to regulate the lead generators, because they are engaged in selling or soliciting the sale of insurance. “But it's something we haven't done in the past," the regulator said. “It's something that hasn't been the best use of our time."

New Mexico's superintendent of insurance issued an official warning, saying it intended to hold insurance brokers and companies responsible for “abusive marketing practices by lead generators." It also said the kinds of sales tactics used by brokers — such as referring to limited plans with terms associated with “Obamacare" plans — were misleading and deceptive, and banned them.

Corlette, the Georgetown insurance expert, said the Federal Trade Commission could take a “more aggressive" look at deceptive advertising and lead generating. An FTC spokeswoman said in an email that the agency is “concerned with illegal lead generation across the board," but could point to only five enforcement actions that related to the deceptive marketing of health care plans. Only one of the cases took place within the past five years. None involved Millar or Apollo Interactive.

The FTC's jurisdiction includes almost any sales claim that is “unfair" or is misleading and would affect a consumer's decision to buy, says Aaron Rieke, a former FTC staff attorney. Because the agency is “super understaffed for their jurisdiction," he said, its attorneys aim to take enforcement actions that yield real systemic improvement for consumers. But the fact that the lead-generation ecosystem includes many small players who buy ads on Google, Facebook and elsewhere presents a “structural challenge" — because “swatting [them] down doesn't feel like a very effective way to go."

Pyle said the state regulators should hold the insurance companies responsible for their advertising tactics, including the actions of lead generators. In 2016, the Delaware Department of Insurance fined Companion Life Insurance Company $487,000 for violations that included “deceptive acts," documents show. Many of the problems in the case came from the lead generators the insurer was paying to do the outreach to consumers, Pyle said.

A person in the Companion Life compliance department referred ProPublica to its parent organization, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina. But no one returned requests for comment.

Pyle said he's troubled that legitimate insurance giants own some of what he calls the “bad companies." “I'll be honest with you," he said. “I am surprised UnitedHealthcare is involved as much as it is."

Pyle said regulators from various states have regular meetings and are considering pursuing criminal action against insurance company executives. “If the insurance company is paying someone to work on their behalf, they are responsible for their actions," Pyle said. “You can fine these companies and they consider it the cost of doing business. But if you lock up their CEO in federal prison, they'll think twice about harming our consumers."

Even Fox News refused to publish Giuliani’s 'sketchy' Hunter Biden email story

Months ago President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani approached Fox News with the story published last week by the New York Post. The infamously anti-Biden, pro-Trump conservative media outlet refused to publish it.

Giuliani, according to a Mediaite exclusive, ended up going to the less-reputable Post (both are owned by Rupert Murdoch) because, as he said, he wanted a publisher to not vet the information he gave them.

And even now, Fox News isn't pushing the apparently fraudulent story, which alleges that Giuliani got hold of a laptop former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter dropped off at a Delaware repair shop, did not leave his name, and never returned to retrieve.

In fact, two sources tell Mediaite that "the lack of authentication of Hunter Biden's alleged laptop, combined with established concerns about Giuliani as a reliable source and his desire for unvetted publication, led the network's news division to pass."

Fox News' top anchors are running away from the story.

"Let's say, just not sugarcoat it. The whole thing is sketchy," Bret Baier said.

Calling the story "suspicious, Chris Wallace said, "I can understand the concern about this story. It is completely unverified and frankly, Rudy Giuliani is not the most reliable source anymore. I hate to say that, but it's just true."

There's a surprising source that's crushing Donald Trump: report

President Donald Trump's decision to defy public health experts and hold mass rallies in states where COVID-19 cases are surging is doing the president more harm than good, according to a longtime GOP strategist.

Mark McKinnon, who served as a campaign adviser to both former President George W. Bush and the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), told CNN on Monday that Trump's COVID super-spreader rallies across the country are generating a backlash in communities that have been afflicted by the novel coronavirus.

"The problem with the rallies is that he's going into states, many of which are seeing coronavirus spikes," McKinnon said. "So he's exacerbating the problem that he's got, which as the race has become a referendum on COVID. So he goes to the states and the local coverage, especially, is packing a punch because it's saying Donald Trump is here, COVID is spiking, meanwhile he's holding huge rallies with people who are not socially distancing and many of whom are not wearing masks."

USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers chimed in to say that the president thinks his super-spreader rallies are a winning strategy because he's had his brain locked into the Fox News ecosystem.

"I think Donald Trump always has focused primarily on his very core supporters, right, the people who show up to the rallies," she said. "And so he lives in a bit of an alternative universe, where COVID isn't the biggest problem in the world, and in fact, it's something that the media is exaggerating, and that people are using to harm Donald Trump. Facts be damned, reality be damned."

Watch the video below.

NY Post reporter refused to allow his byline on flawed Hunter Biden story: NYT

We've all seen this absurd Hunter Biden October "surprise" story by now.

In short, it makes no sense. A mystery figure dropped off a wet laptop at a Delaware computer shop, didn't leave his name, and never picked it up. It had all sorts of incriminating info on it, as well as a Beau Biden Foundation sticker. Uh huh. Because that's ordinary human behavior. And somehow Rudy Giuliani, who's been searching high and low for Hunter Biden dirt, got hold of it. And in no way is this the kind of Russian disinformation campaign the White House received a warning about just last year — a warning that specifically noted Giuliani's gullibility, by the way.

Well, it gets worse. One of the original authors of the story refused to put his byline on it because, well, he smelled bullshit.

The New York Times:

The New York Post's front-page article about Hunter Biden on Wednesday was written mostly by a staff reporter who refused to put his name on it, two Post employees said.
Bruce Golding, a reporter at the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid since 2007, did not allow his byline to be used because he had concerns over the article's credibility, the two Post employees said, speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation.

Well, that's some interesting information they neglected to share.

As deadline approached, editors pressed staff members to add their bylines to the story — and at least one aside from Mr. Golding refused, two Post journalists said. A Post spokeswoman had no comment on how the article was written or edited.

So who got the byline? Well, that's an interesting story. The lead author of the piece was Emma-Jo Morris, a former associate producer for the always scrupulous Sean Hannity. And, whoa, she never had a byline in The Post before. Her co-author? Gabrielle Fonrouge, who's been with the newspaper since 2014. And that's an interesting story, too.

Ms. Fonrouge had little to do with the reporting or writing of the article, said three people with knowledge of how it was prepared. She learned that her byline was on the story only after it was published, the people said.

Rudy Giuliani is not mentally all there, and yet The New York Post staked its reputation — such as it is — on the melange of coffee breath molecules and gross loose skin that comprise his essence.

Just shows you how desperate they've become.

Let's support Joe, and let's make sure we give him a Democratic Senate.

We have them on the run. Let's drown them in the river.

NBC's Savannah Guthrie praised for explosive Trump town hall for two big reasons

NBC's Savannah Guthrie is being praised for her performance during President Donald Trump's Town Hall for two doing two interesting things many journalist have not done while interviewing the president.

Following the president's town hall, viewers took to Twitter to share their opinions. Many Twitter users commended Guthrie for not moving on to her next question without pushing for an answer. She also pushed back multiple times with further inquires when Trump attempted to dodge offering a direct answer to her questions, making an effort to hold the president accountable.

Even when the president aimed to downplay some of his actions, spew one of his baseless statistics, or allude to conspiracy theories to support his claims, Guthrie was not having it.

"What @SavannahGuthrie did last night was a public service," said Gregg Gonsalves, a research and epidemiology for infectious disease expert at Yale University. "Every reporter, print, TV or radio should learn from what she did. She refused to submit to being "spun," pushed through evasions, lies. It was terrific."





Guthrie's performance covered many of the bases American voters are concerned about. Her other questions ultimately shed light on many of the inconsistencies that have come from the White House. When the president refused to give a direct answer regarding his last negative COVID test, Guthrie's assertiveness ultimately revealed that Trump either: did not test regularly, violated the Honor Code of the National Speech and Debate Association, knew he was COVID-positive before the information was made public, or all of the above.

Despite the true answer to that question, Trump's actions were revealing and Twitter users were pleased with that.

'Donald Trump is an idiot in many ways — but he is a genius when it comes to media manipulation': expert

Donald Trump has publicly lied at least 20,000 times since taking office, according to the Washington Post. He does this in part because he has shown himself to be mentally unwell, if not a sociopath. But he also lies because he is a fascist authoritarian. For such leaders, lies are a way of assaulting reality and truth as a means of achieving unlimited power. These explanations are not discrete. They overlap with one another.

In a season of massive death, Donald Trump and his regime's lies about the coronavirus are a public health emergency – one which has killed at least 216,000 people in the United States.

Donald Trump and his regime's lies have also severely damaged America's prestige, alliances and global power. The country's enemies have also been emboldened by the Trump regime's lies and overall lack of consistency in foreign policy and principles.

Most important, Trump and his regime's policy of lying (in conjunction with wanton cruelty and other evil) has undermined American democracy. A common understanding of reality is the foundation of a health democracy. The Trump regime's lies and those of its agents are rotting that foundation.

In "The Death of Truth," Michiko Kakutani explains that the damage Trump has done to the country's institutions and foreign policy will take "years to repair."

"And to the degree that his election was a reflection of larger dynamics in society—from the growing partisanship in politics, to the profusion of fake stories on social media, to our isolation in filter bubbles—his departure from the scene will not restore truth to health and well-being, at least not right away," Kakutani writes.

Why is Donald Trump such a powerful and effective liar? Why has the mainstream American news media largely surrendered to his lies, and by doing so normalized them? Would more aggressive fact-checking have blunted Donald Trump and his regime's strategy of lying? What explains why the mainstream American news media as a whole refused — and for the most part, continues to refuse — to describe Donald Trump and his regime accurately as being fascist and authoritarian?

In an effort answer these questions, I recently spoke with Eric Alterman, a columnist at The Nation and the author of more than 10 books, including the bestseller "What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News." His latest book is "Lying in State: Why Presidents Lie and Why Trump is Worse."

Why are there now so many more voices in the mainstream American news media who, several weeks from Election Day, are finally using language such as "fascism" and "authoritarianism" to describe Trump and his regime? This was obvious several years ago. Why the delay? What were they waiting for?

There are many disincentives to tell the truth about Donald Trump. The most obvious one is that he's the President of the United States and people consider it disrespectful to use certain words about the president, like "liar" and "racist" and "conman" and "conspiracy nut," even when they're true. It is worse in Washington D.C. to call someone a liar than for them to actually be a liar.

In Washington, that rule is part of how a person makes a living. Therefore, people in the news media have to show respect for the office of the presidency. The second reason is that the ideology of "journalistic objectivity" does not have a framework for determining what the truth is. It has no bias for truth. "Journalistic objectivity" says on the one hand, so-and-so said this; on the other hand, his opposition said that, and you, the reader, you, the viewer, you, the listener, it is up to you to decide what's true.

Donald Trump is an idiot in many ways, but he is a genius when it comes to media manipulation.

The Washington Post has now documented at least 25,000 or so lies by Donald Trump — and nothing has changed in his behavior. If anything, he has become more brazen.

I do not find fact-checking as done in that way to be very helpful, because Donald Trump is not being fact-checked as he says the lies. If a person reads the fact-checking article, they will learn what Trump said is not true. Trump's lie still has power because it is repeated by the president and circulated. Again, Donald Trump has been winning this battle against the mainstream news media every day and they still have not really caught up to his strategy. The New York Times still does not really know what to do about Donald Trump in this regard and others.

Is the reluctance, if not fear, of calling Donald Trump a liar a function of the corporate culture of American's mainstream news media? Are reporters and journalists afraid of being punished in terms of their careers if they tell the unpolished truth about Donald Trump?

I have a different idea of lying than most of the country's journalistic institutions do because they will almost never use the words "lie" or "liar" when it comes to the president or most politicians. Instead most in the mainstream news media will say, "We can't know his intent. We can't know what's in his heart." They assume that a lying politician may believe the nonsense that they are saying. My position is if a politician should know what is true and he does not, then he is lying.

I do not care what the excuse is. I don't care if Trump or some other politician thinks God is talking to him. I don't care if Trump is too disengaged from reality. I don't care if Trump is so much of a narcissist that he makes up stuff and he believes it. If it's the president's job to know something and he misinforms the country, then he's lying. Worry about his motivation some other time.

There has never been a historical moment in this country where a president, in this case Donald Trump, could be ignored because everyone knows he's so full of lies and nonsense.

Donald Trump might get reelected and destroy our democracy because so many in the mainstream news media are treating Donald Trump's lies and delusions as though it is all somehow normal.

Why has the White House press corps been so accommodating and enabling of Trump's lies? He also uses them as props for his fascist performances. Why do the members of the White House press corps not just walk about of the briefings or stand up and turn their backs to him?

They do not know how to do their job any other way. Their job is defined as getting whatever information is available at the White House. So even if it's lies, even if it's daily humiliation, the press corps has to go back the next day. Those reporters need to be on good terms with the people who are giving out the information — even if they're not giving out real or otherwise substantive information. It would be nice if the job of the White House press corps was to actually go out and find news, but that's not what they're there for. They're there as conduits for the White House.

There are few public voices who have been consistently warning the American people and the world about the realities of Trumpism and the threat Trump represents to the country. Why have the American people, largely, been in so much denial about the horrible reality that is the Age of Trump and what it means for the present and future of the country?

There's about a third of the country that lives inside this bubble where the truth never reaches them. They watch Fox News, they listen to conservative talk radio, they read Breitbart and Daily Caller and so forth, and they are lied to, and the lies that they are told make them feel good about themselves. They blame other people, mostly Black and brown people and Muslims and immigrants and so forth, sometimes Jews, for the problems in their lives, and it works for them. Such people are unreachable. You cannot get through to them.

There is a battle over the rest of the American people. Trump and his spokespeople and others who are doing all the lying on the right have a gravitational effect on the entire public discourse.

It began initially with Ronald Reagan and then went into warp drive with Newt Gingrich. But before Ronald Reagan, and especially before Gingrich, both parties pretty much had an idea where the goalposts were on what you could get away with in terms of not telling the truth. There were a lot of problems. Nixon was a big problem, Lyndon Johnson was a big problem, but still people understood what was all right and what wasn't all right, and then Reagan and Gingrich just started making stuff up all the time. They did this with no consideration for the truth — and they discovered that the media wouldn't call them on it.

The American right-wing learned that the American people did not care enough. As long as the news media was attacked as having a "liberal bias" it did away with the problem of them being called on their lies. This dynamic expanded and grew until Donald Trump could run for president with his claims that Barack Obama was an illegitimate president because he was born in Kenya. There were 30 or 40% of Trump voters believing that Hillary Clinton ran a pedophile ring inside a pizza parlor in Washington. They actually believed that.

Now the country is facing QAnon nuttiness with millions of people believing such nonsense because as a country we have just completely lost track of the truth in our political discourse. As Hannah Arendt warned, "This is how you create a dictatorship. You destroy the idea of truth."

Why this obsessive narrative and all these expeditions out to Trumplandia to talk with "white working class" and other Trump followers by the mainstream American news media? What is there left to learn? The research shows that Trump's voters are driven by racism, white supremacy, misogyny and authoritarianism, if not outright fascism and in some cases Nazism.

They just have to be defeated. Enough is enough. We have to beat them into the ground as hard as we can and let them start over. For example, the Lincoln Project is seeking to destroy every single Republican senator because they believe that the Republican Party cannot be saved. It's been taken over by crazy people, by corrupt people, by the equivalent of a mafia gang, and they just have to be beaten. There is no sense in trying to talk sense into them anymore.

Fox News really is sports talk radio for conservatives. What are the implications of how American politics is now treated like some type of sport by the right wing?

I recall an observation that Noam Chomsky made when I was writing my first book. He said, "What we need in this country is a politics where people care as much about sports as they do about politics, because if you listen to people on sports radio, they're very knowledgeable in a way that people did not have the same passion about the Democratic and Republican candidates." And then there was the rise of talk radio and the internet and it brought in all this passion — but it seems to only exist on one side. The conservative side is driven like mad to care about every little thing. By comparison liberals do not feel that way. Liberals would let the people who are in charge do the right thing.

Liberals trust scientists and want to let them be the experts. Almost every single-issue group is a conservative group. They win. 90% of the country wants stronger gun control, but we're not getting it because the 5-10% that doesn't want it has a stronger voice than the 90% because they're so dedicated. They vote only on this issue, and you can't say that about really any issue for liberals. We see this on Fox News and on right-wing talk radio.

When Trumpists say that "all politicians lie" and "Trump is no worse than Obama," and the news media is being "mean" and "unfair" to Donald Trump, how do you respond?

The New York Times tried to answer that question about Obama. Trump followers say that, "Why all the fuss about Donald Trump lying? Why don't you explain that Obama lied too?" The New York Times looked at the entire eight-year record of Obama's presidency and they found 12 false claims over eight years, none of which he repeated, all of which he then corrected when he found out that what he had said was not true. Trump can tell 12 falsehoods in 10 minutes. He does it all the time. There is no comparison between Trump and Obama. Some presidents lied a lot. Trump is in his own category. Trump lies about absolutely everything, and he gives his cabinet and his advisors permission in doing so to lie about everything as well.

Are our expectations of the American public too high or too low in terms of their understanding of politics, generally, and capacity to intervene against and reject Trump's lies, specifically?

Too many Americans have had a full meal of bullshit and now they have no way to judge good and bad, right and wrong. I'm very angry at the people who support Donald Trump because they are destroying my country. They are responsible for putting people in cages and separating families. A lot of Trump's supporters do not know any better. Some of them are just terrible people. I do not really care why people think what they think anymore, I just want to beat them. Trump's supporters are on the wrong side.

Does Donald Trump believe his lies? Or is this all some type of performance?

All that Donald Trump cares about is winning the next five minutes — and he only really cares about the next minute or so. Trump is always doing the wrong thing. Trump is a toddler and he just wants to have his belly stroked every minute or so and then he forgets that it happened.

What is your greatest hope in this moment? What is your greatest fear?

My hope is that we turn this ocean liner around in the 2020 election. I hope that the Republicans are defeated, that Trump is defeated, that the Supreme Court is made rational, and we start moving the country back in the direction of sanity and decency. My fear is that the upcoming election is the last time we actually have a chance to save the United States from an American form of fascism. I'm only 60, but I'm an American historian, and I don't think things have ever been this bad since the Civil War. I wish there was more of a sense of alarm among the institutions that really matter to this country's democracy.

Twitter locks Kayleigh McEnany out of her account after spreading fake news

Twitter has locked White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany's personal Twitter account.

An official Trump campaign account shows a notice purportedly from the social media company addressed to McEnany that reads: "Your account has been locked."

"We have determined that this account violated the Twitter rules," it says, "against distribution of hacked materials."

The policy is reportedly a longstanding one.

McEnany had posted a tweet linking to a fake and quickly debunked New York Post story, one tied to Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, that claims Hunter Biden used his relationship with his father, Vice President Joe Biden, for personal business gain.

The story has been dissected and is provably false, many reporters have noted.

Giuliani has been working with a known Russian agent for at least months.

Here's the tweet from the Trump campaign highlighting the notice to McEnany:



After being locked out of her personal account McEnany then used her federal government White House Press Secretary Twitter account to falsely claim "censorship."



Experts dismiss 'garbage' Hunter Biden exposé in NY Post: 'Seems like a complete fabrication'

The Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post published a series of stories on Tuesday surrounding alleged emails between Hunter Biden and officials connected with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, which the outlet obtained from a source who met multiple times over the last year with an individual whom the U.S. Treasury Department has sanctioned as an active agent of Russia.

The Post, which published the unverified emails on Wednesday, reported that the information came from Rudy Giuliani. The former LifeLock spokesperson attempted to distance himself from Andrii Derkach last month after the Treasury Department accused the Ukrainian lawmaker of being a Russian agent and running a "covert influence campaign" directed at the 2020 U.S. presidential election since late 2019.

Giuliani met with Derkach in late 2019. He interviewed the Ukrainian parliamentarian, in his role as President Donald Trump's personal attorney, on a trip aimed at digging up dirt on Joe Biden. The former vice president was then viewed as the Democratic frontrunner for the presidential nomination; he is now the party's official nominee.

On that trip, Derkach and Giuliani discussed the much-debunked allegations about Biden in a segment which later aired on One America News Network (OAN). Giuliani also broadcast an interview with Derkach on his personal podcast a few months later.

Derkach worked in the interests of the Russian government to inject "false and unsubstantiated narratives concerning U.S. officials in the upcoming 2020 presidential election" into the U.S. media through interviews, press conferences and other statements, according to the Treasury Department.

His efforts include releasing edited audiotapes purporting to document improprieties by Joe Biden in his dealings as vice president with the Ukrainian government. Derkach's disinformation also played a key role in a roundly discredited report recently released by the Republican-led Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

The authenticity of the alleged emails published by The Post has not been independently verified. Accusations of corruption against the Bidens have been repeatedly debunked by journalists.

Twitter later blocked sharing of the story after a number of journalists pointed out key falsehoods and holes in the narrative about the information's authenticity and provenance. That afternoon, the computer repair store owner who claimed to have first come across the alleged emails offered a number of contradictory versions of his own narrative in what journalists described as a "bizarre" and meandering interview.

"At least in 2016, Trump's allies pushed powerful disinformation," national security attorney Bradley Moss told Salon. "These last-ditch efforts barely qualify as trying anymore."

Moss added that several serious questions surround the chain of custody of the emails.

"It's a garbage fire story with obscene numbers of legal holes and flaws," he said.

The emails came to The Post's attention through Steve Bannon, the former Trump campaign strategist now indicted on federal money laundering and obstruction charges, who told the outlet that they had been in Giuliani's possession.

Bannon recently appeared in the background of a photograph of Giuliani.

Giuliani told The Post that the emails came from a copy of a hard drive passed to him through his lawyer, Robert Costello, from John Paul Mac Isaac, the owner of a computer repair store in Wilmington, Del., who had notified Giuliani at an unspecified date — allegedly out of fear for his safety, Isaac later told reporters. (Costello has been representing Giuliani in a federal investigation into the former mayor's business dealings abroad, which reportedly includes his work in Ukraine.)

Isaac, who according to a social media post apparently voted for Trump in 2016, allegedly copied the hard drive from a MacBook laptop, which he claims was dropped off at his shop for repair in April 2019 by someone who called himself Hunter Biden.

In his Wednesday interview with reporters, Isaac claimed that a medical condition had prevented him from actually seeing the person who dropped off the laptop, adding that he believed the computer was Biden's because it bore a sticker related to the Beau Biden Foundation. The Biden family named the charity group, which focuses on child abuse, after Joe Biden's son who died of a brain tumor in 2015. The person calling himself Hunter Biden handed over three laptops for repair, Isaac alleged.

The hard drive also contained alleged photos of Hunter Biden, including with drug paraphernalia.

"The computer repair shop giving the hard drive to Giuliani likely exposed that individual to civil and criminal liability under state and federal computer privacy laws," Moss told Salon. "However, Rudy's legal situation for receiving stolen property is less clear. And if he isn't criminally liable for receipt, his dissemination of the material doesn't change the equation. That would be like charging Glenn Greenwald for publishing Edward Snowden's documents."

One of the multiple stories on the subject published Wednesday by The Post included a photo of what the shop owner claimed was a repair ticket. That invoice — which The Post printed without blurring contact information that a search by Salon subsequently linked to Hunter Biden — was dated April 19, 2019.

If Hunter Biden had indeed dropped off the computer, it would have been in the same month in which he stepped down from his position on Burisma's board of directors and his father announced his candidacy for president. It would have also been the same month in which some outlets in the U.S. press began publishing Giuliani's allegations of corruption.

The store owner claims that Hunter Biden had never again inquired about the computer containing his alleged emails.

"It seems like a complete fabrication," former U.S. Attorney and national security law expert Barb McQuade told Salon. "What are the chances that an anonymous person abandons a laptop that contains evidence about the very same conspiracy theory that Trump and Giuliani have been pursuing for more than a year? The subpoena is meaningless, because it has no tie whatsoever to Hunter Biden on its face. This seems like a desperate effort to get this talking point back in the news."

At the time of the alleged laptop dropoff, Giuliani and his associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman had significantly ramped up their their months-long cooperative effort to dig up dirt regarding the Bidens and Ukraine.

Parnas and Fruman were later arrested at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington as they waited to board an overseas flight. Those arrests were on unrelated campaign finance charges, but they came only one day after the duo met Giuliani for drinks as impeachment hearings were heating up in Congress.

The investigation into Parnas and Fruman soon expanded to Giuliani, who was later reportedly the subject of subpoenas from federal investigators in the Southern District of New York. A lawyer for Parnas told Salon that he would be making arguments in federal court later this month. It is unclear what became of Giuliani's role in the case.

Neither Parnas' lawyer, Giuilani nor Isaac responded to Salon's requests for comment.

The story, which comes as an "October surprise" while voting is underway nationwide in the weeks before Election Day, recalls memories of the bombshell news from the end of the 2016 election cycle: Emails pulled from a laptop confiscated by the FBI upended former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign in the final days leading up to the election.

At the time, Giuliani — a former assistant U.S. attorney who maintains ties to federal law enforcement — told Fox News that he knew about a major revelation a few days in advance of former FBI director James Comey's stunning announcement that the FBI would investigate the emails.

"I do think that all of these revelations about Hillary Clinton finally are beginning to have an impact," Giuliani said. "He's got a surprise or two that you're going to hear about in the next two days."

On another program later, he repeated the suggestion: "I mean, I'm talking about some pretty big surprises."

After Comey's announcement, Giuliani again took to Fox News, this time to boast.

"I had expected this for the last — honestly, tell you the truth, I thought it was going to be about three, four weeks ago," he said. "Because back — way back in July this started. So, this has been boiling up."

"I did nothing to get it out. I had no role in it," he added. "Did I hear about it? You're darn right I heard about it, and I can't even repeat the language that I heard."

Employees livid at NBC after network ‘rewards’ Trump with solo town hall after debate withdrawal: report

Staffers at NBC, CNBC and MSNBC were said to be angry this week after learning that President Donald Trump was offered the opportunity to hold a solo town hall event.

NBC announced on Wednesday that the network will host a 90-minute town hall event for Trump opposite a similar event for Democratic candidate Joe Biden, which will air on ABC.

The event was only scheduled after a debate with Biden was cancelled because the president, who tested positive for COVID-19, refused to participate virtually.

Reporter Yashar Ali said that he had been contacted by "over a dozen" staffers at NBC and its sister networks.

"I've heard from over a dozen NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC sources (talent and staff) and the frustration with and anger toward their employer for scheduling a town hall against Biden is palpable," Ali revealed.

Others on Twitter also lashed out at NBC for "rewarding" Trump with a 90-minute event.

Read some of the responses below.

















'Blatant abuse of the government': DOJ files lawsuit against Melania Trump's former advisor over tell-all book

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, former White House advisor and friend of first lady Melania Trump following the release of her tell-all book, "Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady."

The 16-page lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, argues that Winston Wolkoff signed a blanket nondisclosure agreement during her White House which spanned from January 2017 to August 2017. Government lawyers also insist she was bound to a confidentiality agreement far beyond her tenure.

As a penalty for the alleged "breach of contract," the Justice Department is also seeking to offset all proceeds from the book to the federal government.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Winston Wolkoff released a statement as she argued that the lawsuit is part of the Justice Department is attempt to silence her. Despite the lawsuit, Winston Wolkoff insists she did not violate any terms of confidentiality as the White House ultimately terminated the agreement.

"The President and First Lady's use of the U.S. Department of Justice to silence me is a violation of my First Amendment rights and a blatant abuse of the government to pursue their own personal interest and goals," Winston Wolkoff said in a statement. "I fulfilled all of the terms of the Gratuitous Service Agreement and the confidentiality provisions ended when the White House terminated agreement. With the publication of my book 'Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady,' I have exercised my right to free expression. I will not be deterred by these bullying tactics."

The lawsuit quickly drew criticism from legal experts who believe it is a waste of the Justice Department's resources as it appears to be more of a personal issue regarding the first lady and her former confidante.

"This is a complete abuse of the Justice Department's finite resources to bring a personal lawsuit on behalf of the First Lady against a former advisor," said Brad Moss, a national security attorney. "The case law has been expressly clear for decades that former officials cannot be contractually censored for anything other than classified information, and no amount of legal hairsplitting over Wolkoff's 'status' as a volunteer is going to change that."

James Murdoch says family's media empire legitimizes disinformation and obscures facts

James Murdoch, the former CEO of 21st Century Fox and the youngest son of Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch, has admitted that he stepped away from his father's media empire, in part, because it legitimizes disinformation and obscures facts.

"I reached the conclusion that you can venerate a contest of ideas, if you will, and we all do and that's important. But it shouldn't be in a way that hides agendas," Murdoch told The New York Times in his first major interview since his exit.

In the interview, conducted by Maureen Dowd for a profile published Oct. 10, Murdoch explained why he had "pulled the rip cord" with the family business.

"A contest of ideas shouldn't be used to legitimize disinformation, and I think it's often taken advantage of," he said. "And I think at great news organizations, the mission really should be to introduce fact to disperse doubt — not to sow doubt, to obscure fact, if you will."

"And I just felt increasingly uncomfortable with my position on the board having some disagreements over how certain decisions are being made," he continued. "So it was actually not that hard a decision to remove myself and have a kind of cleaner slate."

Murdoch left the News Corp board in July, citing editorial disagreements. The company owns The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post in the U.S., in addition to The Sun, The Times and Sky News overseas. His resignation letter read, in its entirety:

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I hereby tender my resignation as a member of the Board of Directors of News Corporation (the "Company"), effective as of the date hereof.

My resignation is due to disagreements over certain editorial content published by the Company's news outlets and certain other strategic decisions.

James Murdoch has made no secret about the ideological gap between him and what he has characterized as the "American political project" of Fox News, a network whose fawning pro-Trump opinion programming has been compared to North Korean state TV. After Trump praised "very fine" white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, Murdoch gave $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League and told friends in an email that "I can't even believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists."

Murdoch told The New Yorker in 2019 that there were "views I really disagree with on Fox" before he abandoned the company later that year. In January 2020, Murdoch and his wife, Kathryn, expressed their "frustration" with climate change denialism at News Corp as wildfires torched 46 million acres in Australia, their home country. (Fox News personalities pushed a false story about arson driving the fires, which was picked up from Murdoch-owned outlet The Australian.)

Asked in The Times interview about his thoughts on Fox News peddling misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, Murdoch replied, "Look, you do worry about it, and I think that we're in the middle of a public health crisis. Climate is also a public health crisis. Whatever political spin on that — if it gets in the way of delivering crucial public health information, I think is pretty bad."

James and Kathryn Murdoch gave $2 million to help elect Biden and Democrats, it was reported earlier this summer.

Though Murdoch no longer has an official position on the corporate board, he retains his share of the Murdoch Family Trust, which still has voting stakes in News Corp and Fox Corporation — a position Murdoch has suggested was relatively inconsequential. He has launched an independent foundation called Quadrivium, which is dedicated to supporting voter participation and climate-change initiatives.

"I think there's only so much you can do if you're not an executive, you're on the board, you're quite removed from a lot of the day-to-day decisions, obviously," he told The Times. "And if you're uncomfortable with those decisions, you have to take stock of whether or not you want to be associated and can you change it or not. I decided that I could be much more effective outside."