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
July 28, 2015, 9:34 PM EDT

Could Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid suffer collateral damage from the wreck of Bill Cosby’s reputation? Quite possibly, believes author, professor, and unreliable liberal (that’s a compliment) Paglia, who contends that “there is a big parallel” between Cosby’s scandalous sexual behavior and that of Bill Clinton.

In an interview with Salon, Paglia speculated that Hillary’s public reaction to her husband’s randy antics won’t sit well with the young female voters whom you’d expect to be ardent supporters of hers: “Hillary has a lot to answer for, because she took an antagonistic and demeaning position toward her husband’s accusers. So it’s hard for me to understand how the generation of Lena Dunham would or could tolerate the actual facts of Hillary’s history.”

July 26, 2015, 9:25 PM EDT

The Brooklyn birth-control clinic to which Planned Parenthood traces its roots opened in the fall of 1916, but according to Molly Redden, there’s concern on the left that the two recent so-called sting videos have damaged PP’s reputation to the point that the organization might not even be around for its hundredth anniversary.

“That Planned Parenthood is the target of a withering attack by anti-abortion activists is no surprise,” wrote Redden in a Thursday piece. “But this time seems different, with some of Planned Parenthood's strongest allies drawing nervous comparisons to the 2009 sting operation that destroyed” ACORN. Redden contended that the videos have taken the focus from PP the “critical women's health care provider” and instead made it “seem like a sinister outfit that profits wildly from abortion.”

July 24, 2015, 5:45 PM EDT

One year ago, a British newspaper published a list of President Obama’s ten favorite television shows (the top three, in reverse order: Breaking Bad, The Wire, and M*A*S*H). Not on the list was The Daily Show, on which Obama guested yet again this past Tuesday, but Penn State's Sophia McClennen thinks that if Obama had been more of a TDS fan, he long ago would have realized how irrational his conservative opposition was.

In a Friday article for Salon, McClennen asserted that Stewart and Stephen Colbert “had insight into U.S. politics Obama never seemed to understand. ‘The Daily Show’ and ‘The Colbert Report’ were one of the main sources of truth telling about U.S. politics and the nature of the Republican Party before and during the Obama presidency.” Those programs, wrote McClennen, illuminated “the twisted thinking, hubris, disdain for large segments of society, and closed-mindedness that forms the common, core mind-set of Fox viewers.”

July 22, 2015, 11:12 AM EDT

NewsBusters readers likely are familiar with the saying “It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.” Conor Friedersdorf thinks Republicans have a propensity for certitude about false beliefs, and that as a result they’re susceptible to “demagogues” such as Donald Trump.

As for why GOPers are frequently mistaken in the first place, Friedersdorf blames, among others, “huckster entertainers like [Rush] Limbaugh.” He also notes that speaking truth to the party base “would be an unpleasant ordeal for most figures in the conservative movement.”

July 20, 2015, 10:06 PM EDT

There soon will be sixteen Republicans officially seeking their party’s 2016 presidential nomination, but Gabriel Sherman probably would replace “officially” with "nominally." In a Sunday post, Sherman suggested that many of those sixteen are CINOs (Candidates in Name Only) who really are running for the title of big-bucks “political celebrity.” He opined that “when it comes to presidential elections…the GOP is at risk of becoming less of a political party and more like a talent agency for the conservative media industry.”

As for why quite a few “(pseudo)candidate[s]” are out there trying to “promote their brand,” Sherman noted that “the rise of billionaire donors and super-PACs enable more fringe GOP candidates to fund their campaigns,” and that “conservatives’ palpable sense of cultural victimhood encourages them to embrace (and reward) their former candidates even if they lose badly.”

July 19, 2015, 5:39 PM EDT

A movie dramatization of the Stanford prison experiment opened this weekend, but if you believe Andrew O’Hehir, that’s not the first time the 1971 psychological study has been restaged in some manner. O’Hehir asserted in a Saturday piece that over the past few decades, “the Republican Party has been the subject, willing or otherwise, of a version” of the Stanford experiment, with the result that the GOP is now “a xenophobic, all-white party of hate that seeks to roll back not just the Civil Rights movement and feminism, but the entire Enlightenment.”

July 18, 2015, 2:26 PM EDT

Historian Rick Perlstein, the author of three books (so far) on American movement conservatism from the mid-‘50s through the mid-‘70s, believes, in essence, that conservatives are tribalists whose central task is to promote hatred against other tribes. According to Perlstein, two recent news stories serve to illuminate that process, which, he suggests, involves an almost scientific-sounding conservation of the right wing’s bigoted energy.

“Conservatism is like bigotry whack-a-mole,” wrote Perlstein. “The quantity of hatred, best I can tell from 17 years of close study of 60 years of right-wing history, remains the same. Removing the flag of the Confederacy, [Donald Trump] raising the flag of immigrant hating: the former doesn’t spell some new Jerusalem of tolerance; the latter doesn’t mean that conservatism’s racism has finally been revealed for all to see. The push-me-pull-me of private sentiment and public profession will always remain in motion, and in tension.”

July 17, 2015, 1:34 PM EDT

Whether or not Chattanooga shooter Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez was a jihadist, opined Esquire’s Pierce in a Friday blog post, the key to Thursday’s murders is that he had a quintessentially American trait: he was gun-crazy.

“He had a grudge. The basis of that grudge, whether it was rooted in a bloody-minded version of religion or an anger at the country's policies across the seas, is beside the point,” wrote Pierce. “Abdulazeez was angry at someone or something. He had a problem he could not solve and, being an American, he reached for that most American of solutions. He reached for a gun.”

July 16, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT

The New York Times reported last weekend that one line of attack American Crossroads and other Republican-leaning groups are likely to use against Hillary Clinton is that she’s far too wealthy to relate to average Americans. Regarding such criticism, Steve Benen says, in effect: Bring it on.

Benen, a producer for MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show and the primary writer for the TRMS blog, argued in a Monday post that the rich-and-out-of-touch charge won’t stick to Hillary the way it did to Mitt Romney because “Romney was extremely wealthy while pushing a policy agenda that would benefit people like him,” whereas Hillary’s economic program would help those nowhere near as well-off as she is.

July 15, 2015, 1:48 PM EDT

The Miracle on Ice and Hoosiers aside, the underdog usually loses, and Penn State's Sophia McClennen speculates that it’s happened again: Jon Stewart is leaving The Daily Show because he’s “exhausted” and "dejected" from battling Roger Ailes and the Fox News juggernaut. “Could Stewart really be giving up his show due to Fox News fatigue?” wondered McClennen in a Wednesday article for Salon. “It’s time to take seriously the idea that Fox News killed the greatest satire show of our nation’s history.”


July 14, 2015, 2:14 PM EDT

Since Scott Walker is both a “threat to reproductive rights” and a deceitful doofus, he would be an unusually dangerous Republican presidential nominee, argued lefty pundit Marcotte in a Monday blog post for Slate.

If the race pits Walker against Hillary Clinton, the Wisconsin governor “could give her a real run for her money,” wrote Marcotte, “because Walker does a much better job than most of the Republican field at lulling low-information voters into thinking he's a moderate…[If] female and young voters…don’t realize that Walker is a scary woman-basher, they might not mobilize in the numbers Clinton needs. That's something Walker will be counting on.”

July 12, 2015, 2:26 PM EDT

Amid mounting evidence of Bill Cosby’s depraved behavior, many have changed their minds about Cosby the person. Should they also reconsider, for very different reasons, their affection for his megahit sitcom, The Cosby Show? Lefty writer Chauncey DeVega thinks so. In a Sunday article for Salon, DeVega opined that the series “lied to its white viewers about the nature of racism, white supremacy, and white privilege” and “enable[d] the colorblind white racist fiction and delusion that anti-black racism is a thing of the past.”

The Huxtables, claimed DeVega, were “an African-American version of the model-minority myth, one of the favorite deflections and rejoinders of white racists in the post-civil rights era, where there are ‘exceptional’ minorities and the rest are failures because they do not work hard, are lazy, and complain too much about white racism. While unintentional, ‘The Cosby Show’ enabled some of the ugliest Reagan-era fantasies.”

July 11, 2015, 12:57 PM EDT

Saletan approves of “lifestyle conservatism,” but when it comes to defining that term, your mileage may vary, given that for Saletan it includes support for same-sex marriage. In a Thursday piece, Saletan asserted that conservatives ought to accept that two-person marriages, whether hetero- or homosexual, fit into the “tradition” and “enduring institution” of matrimony.

“Republicans are right to worry about redefining marriage,” wrote Saletan. “But their decision to draw the line at sexual orientation was a profound mistake. They thought homosexuality was a lifestyle. In reality, the only lifestyle at stake is marriage itself. By locking gay people out of that institution, Republicans disserved their party’s mission: a well-ordered society.” The real enemy, he claimed, is a “lifestyle liberalism” that condones “polygamy,” “infidelity,” “promiscuity,” and “cohabitation.”

July 10, 2015, 4:12 PM EDT

The late NFL head coach George Allen had a favorite saying: “The future is now.” Conversely, The Week's Linker believes the Republican party’s future “will be delayed so long as [its] candidates remain beholden to voters who view politics primarily as a megaphone for broadcasting an ignorant, garbled howl of anger, fear, alienation, and resentment.”

In a Friday piece, Linker remarked that conservative activists, who tend to view events “through a fog of paranoia and conspiracy,” have gradually dragged down the party as they’ve become a larger and larger share of it. In Linker’s words, “They’ve grown and spread like a fungus (thanks to the fertilization efforts of Rush Limbaugh and Roger Ailes).” One recent consequence: the popularity among GOPers of the “vulgar blowhard” Donald Trump.

July 9, 2015, 10:54 AM EDT

Much of the left would be thrilled if Bernie Sanders became the Democrats’ presidential nominee, but that, suggests The Washington Monthly’s Martin Longman, is what Al Gore might call a risky scheme. A Sanders win in the general election would make him the POTUS of progressive dreams, but a Sanders loss “would be a total epic disaster” and a boon for right-wingers who are “capable of great evil.”

“Some people like playing with matches in an armory. I don’t,” wrote Longman in a Wednesday post. “When it comes to the modern conservative movement, I am not inclined to mess around…Giving [conservatives] greater control of the Supreme Court, not to mention the Pentagon, is the rough equivalent of pouring gasoline on the world and lighting it on fire.”

July 7, 2015, 9:29 PM EDT

Since Democrats belong to the party of government, it stands to reason that their presidential candidates actually want to be president -- including Bernie Sanders, who’s a Democrat only for the sake of convenience. Republican candidates? Not necessarily. Some of them, according to writer Sean Illing, are “half-baked celebrities allowed to hijack the process to promote their private careers.” Case in point: Donald Trump.

“It says something significant about the Republican Party that there’s space for someone like Trump or Sarah Palin or even Herman Cain in it. These people aren’t credible candidates; they’re product-pushing brands,” wrote Illing. “Trump’s circus act isn’t possible in the Democratic Party…Only in the Republican Party do unserious candidates emerge as contenders…Only among conservative Republicans are hucksters like Trump embraced.”

July 6, 2015, 10:02 PM EDT

Boldly combining the investigative techniques of David McCullough and Maury Povich, New York magazine’s  Chait has done a little historical paternity testing and determined that Andrew Jackson “is, clearly, the father of the modern Republican Party.”

Chait argued that Jackson’s status as “the progenitor of the Democratic Party” is based on “a myth.” On the other hand, Jackson “believed the Constitution prevented the government from taking an active role in managing economic affairs” and “was instinctively aggressive, poorly educated, anti-intellectual, and suspicious of bureaucrats,” all of which correspond to right-wing GOP behaviors and attitudes of today.

July 5, 2015, 2:26 PM EDT

The two most recent Republican presidential nominees weren’t particular favorites of the party’s core voters. This time, suggests Jamelle Bouie, if the GOP wants a candidate who excites its base, the choice is clear: Donald Trump, who boasts the “belligerence” and “bigotry” that “ugly and angry” right-wingers love.

Since Trump’s never held political office, observed Bouie in a Wednesday piece, he can say pretty much anything that’ll rev up righty activists, whereas even staunchly conservative officeholders “can appease the Republican base with harsh attacks on the other side, but they can’t endorse every crazy idea, lest they hurt their [legislative] goals and priorities.”

July 4, 2015, 12:08 PM EDT

Richard Nixon’s campaign did what it could to make sure the Democratic party didn’t nominate its strongest presidential candidate in 1972, thereby facilitating Nixon’s re-election. President Obama won’t be on the ballot in 2016, but New York magazine's Jonathan Chait speculates that Obama is trying to smooth Hillary Clinton’s path to the Oval Office by nudging Republicans into nominating Scott Walker.

July 3, 2015, 4:35 PM EDT

Conservatives have an ideological fever, and the only prescription is to wait until their crazy ideas vanish. That’s the word from Washington Monthly blogger Martin Longman, who opined in a Wednesday post that many on the right have suffered from a sort of “heat-fever” when confronted with President Obama and his policies.

Longman explained that “a fever is something that comes over you suddenly, causing addled thinking, hallucinations and other delusions, but which eventually breaks and goes away as quickly as it arrived...[T]he Obama Era has been marked by an unusual number of these outbreaks of mass insanity,” such as rage against the Affordable Care Act.