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
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.”

April 6, 2015, 2:02 PM EDT

Conor P. Williams really enjoys watching the amazing race -- not the CBS program, but the race for the Republican presidential nomination, which Williams called “my favorite TV show” in a Monday column on Talking Points Memo.

For Williams, much of the “entertainment value” of the GOP contest lies in its right-wing extremism: “This is a show where the American conservative id fully unravels in public…The Democrats' primaries are relatively boring. Why? Because they don't have an empowered fringe. Their candidates operate pretty securely within the Overton Window of political possibility. The GOP's empowered, hard-right wing makes their primaries way more interesting.”

April 3, 2015, 1:43 PM EDT

Christianity’s tent is not big enough to accommodate both the supporters of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act and Brittney Cooper, who in a Wednesday piece for Salon blasted both the state’s pre-fix RFRA and the religious right in general.

“This kind of legislation is rooted in a politics that gives white people the authority to police and terrorize people of color, queer people and poor women,” declared Cooper. “That means these people don’t represent any kind of Christianity that looks anything like the kind that I practice…This white, blond-haired, blue-eyed, gun-toting, Bible-quoting Jesus of the religious right is a god of their own making. I call this god, the god of white supremacy and patriarchy...This God isn’t the God that I serve…He might be ‘biblical’ but he’s also an asshole.”

April 2, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT

Larry Wilmore and Trevor Noah are first-rate comedians, but beyond that, argues Klein, Comedy Central’s choice of two black hosts to succeed Stephen Colbert and (eventually) Jon Stewart was an extremely smart business move.

Noah and Wilmore have a “particular skill for limning America's complicated, and often infuriating, racial politics,” writes Klein, “and their takeover is a recognition of one of the lessons of Obama's presidency: American politics isn't moving past race. It's moving into it. And so, too, is the news business…[I]n the Obama years, attitudes toward politics have begun driving attitudes toward race. The result is that racial controversies are a bigger part of American politics right now than they were before Obama's election.”

March 31, 2015, 10:02 PM EDT

Is the Republican party a political organization or “a terrarium of retrograde fauna”? Both, suggests Esquire’s Pierce, and if too few of the American people understand that, it’s in large part a result of, in his words, “the worst episode of journalistic malpractice that I can recall.”

What set Pierce off was a remark from a former Democratic congressional staffer, quoted in the newspaper The Hill, that "Elizabeth Warren is the mirror image of Ted Cruz, and if we aren't careful, she'll drive the Democrats into the same ditch Cruz is trying to drive the Republicans." Pierce says even though the Warren-Cruz comparison is “stupid and wrong...it is quintessential Washington political journalism.”

March 30, 2015, 9:18 PM EDT

It’s fair to say most conservatives aren’t big fans of Jon Stewart, but according to TV critic Sonia Saraiya, Trevor Noah, Stewart’s successor as host of The Daily Show, is in for an even nastier response from the right, much of it having to do with his skin color.

Apropos of Comedy Central’s Monday announcement that Noah, a biracial South African comedian, will take over for Stewart sometime this year, Saraiya remarked that “this country spent years embroiled in a debate over whether an American citizen who became the president was ‘really’ American; what are we going to do to Trevor Noah? Conservative critics have a practiced, doublespeaking method of piling on the heat on figures who stand out because of their race or gender or sexuality, while protesting that they are doing no such thing.”

March 29, 2015, 3:27 PM EDT

In a Sunday blog post on the New York Review of Books site, historian Wills, who’s written extensively about both the United States and Catholicism, rebuked conservative Catholics who’ve “suggested that [Pope Francis] is not truly Catholic,” asserting that such critics of the pope “are right to be in a panic. They are not used to having a pope who is a Christian. They call Francis a radical because he deplores the sequestration of great wealth for a rich few and deprivation of the many poor. But Francis is a moderate. Jesus was the radical.”

Wills, who is Catholic, noted that Francis is hugely popular among rank-and-file Catholics and commented that any “perception of great resistance to the pope in his own church” is “largely the product of noise. Extremists get more press coverage than blander types.”