The following column originally appeared in The Hill newspaper and on TheHill.com.
Right-wing media to President Obama: We are so very sorry.
That’s the message I got last week from the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page.
The Journal abandoned efforts to make sense of President Trump’s outright fiction that Obama wiretapped him. Its editorial page — never a friend to Obama — wrote this last week about Trump:
“[He] clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle, rolling out his press spokesman to make more dubious claims.”
Wow. The Journal was sharply critical of Obama but never said he had the credibility of a drunkard.
They are not yet saying “Thanks, Obama,” but their words do stir new appreciation for the good old days under the previous president.
Will right-wing talk radio follow the Journal’s example?
Imagine the reaction from far-right talk radio — the people who raised hell and their ratings by attacking Obama daily with accusations about fake scandals — if the 44thpresident had lied about his predecessor or if people in his circle had been taking money from Russia.
Imagine the outburst from Rush Limbaugh — the king of conservative talk radio — if the Justice Department told Obama that his National Security Advisor had lied about discussing sanctions with Russian government officials and Obama had waited three weeks to demand that person’s resignation.
And what would Hugh Hewitt say on radio if it was later revealed that the advisor took over $ 65,000 from companies linked to Vladimir Putin’s Russia, in addition to pocketing more than $ 500,000 from moonlighting as a lobbyist tied to the Turkish government?
What might my friend, conservative radio host Lars Larson, have said if Obama’s former campaign manager had taken $ 10 million from Russian oligarchs to — in his words — “greatly benefit” the interests of Putin’s Russia inside the U.S.?
Of course, the reality is Obama’s team never engaged in such damaging acts. It is Trump’s team that is under investigation for all of these charges of scandalous behavior.
Radio talk show hosts on the right have great ratings but they are not elected to defend the democratic basis of our government. That job belongs to Congress.
But House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), has become an apologist for Trump. Last week, he rushed over to the White House to say he had seen transcripts of apparently legal intercepts that may have swept up some Trump campaign officials.
Was this evidence that Obama wiretapped Trump as he was running for president? No. Even Nunes admits that. But by briefing the White House before sharing the information with his own committee, Nunes revealed himself as an advocate for the Trump White House.
Nunes, who served on the Trump transition team, compromised any claim to independence and threw away the credibility he needs.
Before Nunes’ rash action it was left to the top Democrat on the House Intelligence panel, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), to explain to the nation what the House panel had already found:
“Last summer, at the height of a bitterly contested and hugely consequential presidential campaign, [Russia]…intervened in an effort to weaken our democracy, and to influence the outcome for one candidate and against the other,” Schiff said.
Schiff made more news later in the week when he told Chuck Todd of NBC News, “there is more than circumstantial evidence” that there was collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign.
Meanwhile, House Republicans continue injuring the party’s brand as they busily sweep dirt from the Russia scandal under the White House carpet.
But even the attempted congressional cover-up can’t fool the public — not even in concert with the silence from right-wing talk radio hosts. Look at the polling: Trump’s approval ratings are at historic lows for any president in the modern age at this point in his presidency.
A Quinnipiac poll last week found his approval rating had fallen to 37 percent while his disapproval rating had risen to 56 percent. According to the same poll, 60 percent of voters say he is “not honest,” 55 percent say he “does not have good leadership skills” and 57 percent say he “does not care about average Americans.”
What could be driving the president’s collapsing poll numbers?
The Quinnipiac results suggest an answer.
A whopping 70 percent of voters do not believe Trump’s claim that Obama wiretapped him last year. Just 19 percent believe — in the face of the evidence — that Obama did so.
In perhaps the most damning result in the Quinnipiac survey, 73 percent of voters say Trump’s administration makes “statements without evidence to support them ‘very often’ or ‘somewhat often.’”
Again, it was left to the Wall Street Journal editorial page to admit that the Trump White House is drowning in a vast credibility crisis.
“If President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him?” The Journal wrote. “Would the rest of the world? We’re not sure, which speaks to the damage that Mr. Trump is doing to his Presidency with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods.”
President Obama, please accept the right wing’s many apologies.
Juan Williams is a co-host of FNC’s “The Five,” where he is one of seven rotating Fox personalities.