Tom Johnson covers mostly websites (e.g., Salon, Talking Points Memo, Daily Kos) for NewsBusters. He blogged frequently for the site from 2005 until 2007 and has been a regular contributor since 2011. From 1989 until 2002, he was an entertainment analyst for the Media Research Center and its spinoff, the Parents Television Council. From July 2004 until June 2005, he monitored National Public Radio for the MRC. He is a graduate of the University of Arizona.

Latest from Tom Johnson
May 4, 2015, 9:18 PM EDT

Salon’s Jim Newell doesn’t think Ben Carson will be the 2016 Republican presidential nominee, but he doesn’t see him as a garden-variety wanna-be. Rather, Newell believes that Carson is likely to incur one “spectacular humiliation” after another on the campaign trail. In a Monday article, Newell contended that the “free-flowing style [Carson] showed at the [2013] National Prayer Breakfast has been subject to diminishing returns in the last two years. The novelty is wearing off, and now he’s in a position where he makes a fool of himself just about every time his mouth opens.”

Also on Monday, Steve Benen, a former Salon and Washington Monthly blogger who’s now a producer for MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, opined on the show’s blog, "As a candidate for national office, [Carson is] likely to keep sharing ridiculous thoughts, which may endear him to some GOP factions, but which probably creates a ceiling for his presidential ambitions.”

May 2, 2015, 1:59 PM EDT

All week, liberals and conservatives have accused each other of causing the longstanding socioeconomic woes of Baltimore. TNR's Rebecca Leber had a subtler take in a Friday piece: she put part of the blame on liberals, but only because they went along with conservative ideas.

“Democrats exacerbated these problems [in Baltimore] not by embracing the policies of the left. Rather, they dug the hole deeper by yawing to the right,” contended Leber. “Aggressive policing, tougher drug sentencing, slashing the budgets of school and public housing and parks—throughout Baltimore’s history, lawmakers at the local, state, and federal level adopted policies that entrenched poverty and segregation in the city.”

April 30, 2015, 6:06 PM EDT

Apple Inc. is not merely a tech company; it’s also a destroyer of right-wing doctrine. That was the main argument of a Tuesday blog post by Daily Kos founder and publisher Markos Moulitsas.

Kos asserted that the huge success of the California-based Apple refutes the “conservatives [who] bray incessantly about the Golden State's ‘high taxes and burdensome regulations.’” He also lauded the company for supporting gay rights (“unlike conservative orthodoxy, tolerance and respect for people's private life are good for business”) and “tak[ing] global climate change seriously.”

April 29, 2015, 10:51 AM EDT

Late in the Reconstruction period and for many years thereafter, white-supremacist paramilitary groups often committed acts of terrorism in the southern United States. That much is clear. Also clear, at least to Daily Kos's Denise Oliver-Velez, is that the spirit of those groups lives today in American police departments and in the viewership of Fox News.

“They don't kill us in bunches anymore. Now they just murder us one by one,” argued Oliver-Velez in a Sunday post. “One by one, as we are murdered by red shirts in blue, the message is re-enforced by bullets in the back, and chokeholds around our necks, no different than the nooses hung from trees. The audience is now on Fox News, rather than standing around the bonfires of death.”

April 28, 2015, 1:08 PM EDT

In a Monday-night blog post, the writer for The Atlantic argued that calls for non-violence in response to the rioting in Baltimore are essentially “a ruse” and “a con,” given the city’s recent history of police brutality.

“When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out,” wrote Coates, “it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is ‘correct’ or ‘wise,’ any more than a forest fire can be ‘correct’ or ‘wise.’ Wisdom isn't the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community.”

April 27, 2015, 5:17 PM EDT

Did President Obama do a standup comedy routine at Saturday night’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner? Not as much as he performed “a recital of brutal truths,” asserted Vox’s Klein in a Monday article.

For example, regarding Obama’s remark that his executive actions on climate change and immigration were “the right thing to do,” Klein noted, “That's not a joke. That's Obama's actual justification for the aggressive executive actions of his second term…[O]nly [at the WHCD] can [he] say what everyone already knows: his actions are huge, they are controversial, they push the norms of American politics, but fuck it, at a moment when American politics seems increasingly broken, Obama has decided to just go ahead and do what he thinks is right.”

April 24, 2015, 3:02 PM EDT

For liberals, the great mystery of the last few decades is how Republicans usually have won enough votes to control one or both houses of Congress even as the party moves increasingly to the right. As political-science profs Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson put it in their 5,500-word article in the spring issue of The American Prospect, “In a 50-50 nation, Republicans have learned how to have their extremist cake and eat it too.”

Hacker (of Yale) and Pierson (of UC Berkeley) contend that there are two major reasons why the GOP has been able to “mak[e] American politics ever more dysfunctional while largely avoiding accountability for its actions.” One is that our system of government, with its “dispersal of authority,” makes it hard for voters to see which party is causing the trouble. The other is that our “often-feckless news media” have routinely failed to enlighten the public that “Republicans are primarily responsible for polarization and deadlock” and that GOPers have engineered “an ongoing massive shift of…the ‘center’ of American politics…toward the anti-government fringe.”

April 22, 2015, 9:24 PM EDT

Four Aprils ago, polling showed Donald Trump in or near the lead in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. In a Wednesday column, Heather Digby Parton suggested that Scott Walker could wind up as the Trump of this election cycle: the guy who peaked when he wasn’t even an official candidate.

Parton admitted that she’s never understood why so many Republicans think Walker’s great or why so many Democrats believe he’d be a tough opponent, given that he supposedly “makes epic gaffes over and over again.” In any event, she argued that now he’s hurt himself badly by going hard-right on immigration, thereby displeasing libertarian conservatives like Charles and David Koch who “tend toward a more moderate stance” on the issue and, of course, donate megatons of money to political causes.

April 20, 2015, 9:23 PM EDT

Imagine a president of the United States proclaiming in his or her inaugural address, “I do not believe in God. I do not believe in a hereafter…There is no hope, save in ourselves.” If something like that ever happens, writer Jeffrey Tayler’s dream will have come true.

Tayler, who routinely trashes religion for the liberal online magazine Salon, complained in a Sunday article that several recent announcements of presidential candidacies have brought about “a media carnival featuring, on both sides, an array of supposedly God-fearing clowns and faith-mongering nitwits groveling before Evangelicals and nattering on about their belief in the Almighty.” He called on the media not to let the candidates “get away with God talk without making them answer for it.”

April 19, 2015, 12:12 PM EDT

According to Jon Stewart, cable news is so awful that Daily Show staffers who keep tabs on it are essentially “turd miners.” That said, Stewart believes that the most foul-smelling poop comes from Fox News.

In a Saturday profile in the left-wing British newspaper The Guardian, Stewart told writer Hadley Freeman that MSNBC is preferable to Fox “because [MSNBC isn’t] steeped in distortion and ignorance as a virtue. But they’re both relentless and built for 9/11. So, in the absence of such a catastrophic event, they take the nothing and amplify it and make it craziness.”

April 17, 2015, 9:55 PM EDT

Hillary Clinton is not a weatherman, but she knows, or at least believes, that the wind is blowing in favor of liberalism, according to The Atlantic’s Beinart.

“I watched Hillary Clinton’s presidential announcement video alongside the one she issued in 2007, and the speech she gave declaring her senate candidacy in New York in 2000,” wrote Beinart in a Monday post. “The upshot: America, as seen by Hillary and the people advising her, is a lot further left than it was a decade or two ago.”

April 16, 2015, 12:10 AM EDT

Lefty pundit Michael Tomasky is no populist, at least when it comes to the Republican party. He gives props to GOP politicians like Marco Rubio who have “serious and unorthodox ideas,” but expects that Rubio, et al will soft-pedal said ideas during the presidential primaries since “you can’t be a smart candidate in a party that wants to be stupid.” In a Wednesday column, Tomasky asserted that “the 800-pound gorilla of this [Republican] primary process is…the aging, white, very conservative, revanchist, fearful voter.”

April 14, 2015, 9:50 PM EDT

The title of a famous essay by Jonathan Swift and that of Tuesday's article by Brian Beutler each starts with “A Modest Proposal.” There are, however, many differences concerning the two pieces. One is that Swift’s was a satire, whereas Beutler’s is a fantasy. Another is that pretty much anyone who somehow took Swift’s proposal seriously would find it horrifying, while Beutler’s suggestion -- that the 2016 Democratic ticket should consist of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- will horrify mostly conservatives (and opponents of dynastic politics who already were upset over the prospect of a Hillary v. Jeb race).

April 14, 2015, 12:22 AM EDT

New York magazine’s Chait declares that “even if the relatively sober Jeb Bush wins the nomination, he will have to accommodate himself to his party's barking-mad consensus. [Hillary] is non-crazy America’s choice by default. And it is not necessarily an exciting choice, but it is an easy one, and a proposition behind which she will probably command a majority.”

April 13, 2015, 1:38 PM EDT

Hillary Clinton is not the incumbent president, but otherwise is in a similar position to Barack Obama’s in the spring of 2011: she’s already next year’s presumptive Democratic nominee but has, at best, an educated guess as to who her Republican opponent will be. In the meantime, recommended lefty pundit Marcotte in a Monday piece for Talking Points Memo, Hillary should decide to run as a “bitch who [gets] things done” rather than as “your mom,” an approach which fizzled for her in 2008.

“If Clinton is smart,” contended Marcotte, “she’ll put on those sunglasses and that black pantsuit and be the ladyboss we all wish we had: tough, smart, but compassionate. Soccer mom Hillary is too thirsty and it turns voters off. But ass-kicking Hillary makes people swoon. Hopefully, the campaign will pay heed to this difference.”

April 11, 2015, 11:33 PM EDT

Esquire’s Pierce considers the web site/newspaper Politico an embarrassment to journalism (he habitually refers to it as “Tiger Beat on the Potomac”). Recently, Pierce found more fuel for his ire, a Politico story that to his disgust 1) merely hinted, rather than stated, that Scott Walker is an “unprincipled scoundrel,” and 2) virtually endorsed Walker’s “fundamental mendacity” as long as it’s effective -- in other words, if it helps him to “lie his way into the presidency.”

Pierce added that Walker’s shiftiness won’t matter to the GOP base, which “is filled with crazoids, Bible-bangers, and people with short-wave radios for brains. All they know is that Walker knuckled all the people of whom The Base is terrified. The only way Walker's bone-deep dishonesty can hurt him is if the people who stoke the plutocratic engine of the party believe that it might make him a loser. So far, they seem quite happy with the way he's done business for them.”

April 10, 2015, 10:03 PM EDT

Vaccine skeptics have a well-deserved reputation for not caring about facts, but according to American Prospect blogger Paul Waldman, many right-wing anti-taxers resemble anti-vaxxers in terms of their shaky grasp of reality.

“All the GOP presidential candidates are lining up to receive the wisdom of Arthur Laffer as they formulate their economic plans,” wrote Waldman in a Friday post. “This is the rough equivalent of doctors seeking to lead the American College of Pediatricians competing to see which one can win the favor of Jenny McCarthy…Laffer's theory has been as thoroughly disproven as phrenology or the notion that the stars are pinholes in the blanket Zeus laid across the sky.”

April 10, 2015, 1:19 PM EDT

In a Friday American Prospect piece (originally published on Wednesday in the Washington Post) WaPo columnist Harold Meyerson suggested that even though the South didn’t win the Civil War, its mean-spirited ideas, racial and otherwise, now drive the Republican party.

Meyerson asserted that today’s GOP “is not just far from being the party of Lincoln: It’s really the party of Jefferson Davis. It suppresses black voting; it opposes federal efforts to mitigate poverty; it objects to federal investment in infrastructure and education just as the antebellum South opposed internal improvements and rejected public education; it scorns compromise. It is nearly all white. It is the lineal descendant of Lee’s army, and the descendants of Grant’s have yet to subdue it.”

April 8, 2015, 3:08 PM EDT

When it comes to false media narratives, the typical right-winger should be more concerned with the plank in his own eye than with the speck in the eye of a liberal. That, minus the allusion to the Sermon on the Mount, was the essential argument from Heather Digby Parton in a Wednesday column.

Parton sees Rolling Stone’s debunked, retracted University of Virginia rape story as one component of the right’s “new meme about liberal lies and false narratives.” This meme, she suggested, is wildly overblown (for example, even though “hands up, don’t shoot” was discredited, “young black males being unfairly targeted by police” still is a major problem) as well as hypocritical (e.g., Fox News has “peddle[d] false narratives” about matters such as the Benghazi attack and made a ton of money doing so).

April 7, 2015, 1:32 PM EDT

In a Tuesday post, The Nation blogger Dave Zirin argued that it’s politically unseemly for Gov. Scott Walker to root publicly for certain Wisconsin sports teams, including the University of Wisconsin basketballers, who came up just short in last night’s men’s national title game against Duke.

Zirin claimed that it’s “almost flagrantly irresponsible” for the media to publicize Walker’s support of the Badger hoops team “while ignoring that…Walker has made it his mission to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the very public university system bringing glory to the state.” In Zirin’s view, Walker is “a soulless vessel for Koch brothers cash who in the name of a career advancement to the White House, is willing to both mercilessly attack any and all expressions of public life while at the same time using sports to shamelessly bank on what he imagines to be the ignorance of the US electorate.”