Fox News host Sean Hannity has claimed with no evidence whatsoever that former President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., that he is in cahoots with the entire "liberal media," and that under his watch, a Democratic National Committee staffer was killed because he supposedly gave emails to WikiLeaks. Never one to miss something that definitely isn't there, Hannity's latest conspiracy involves "secret sperm cells" in Obama's official portrait. Yes, really.
The Smithsonian's portrait of President Obama pic.twitter.com/buvVAEomrj
— Axios (@axios) February 12, 2018
Artist Kehinde Wiley's bold portrait of Barack Obama has been well received, with The Boston Globe calling the painting and its pair, Amy Sherald's portrait of Michelle Obama, "socio-cultural documents to surviving with grace and elegance." Obama praised Wiley's work at the unveiling Monday, saying: "What I was always struck by whenever I saw his portraits was the degree to which they challenged our conventional views of power and privilege."
Hannity sees, well, something else. "Controversy surrounding Kehinde Wiley's wildly non-traditional portrait of the commander-in-chief broke out within minutes of its unveiling," Hannity's website alleges, "with industry insiders claiming the artist secretly inserted his trademark technique — concealing images of sperm within his paintings."
— Will Sommer (@willsommer) February 13, 2018
Maybe not so much. Hannity got one thing right, anyway: It is nontraditional. Wiley's portrait of Obama "dismantles so much and creates new visions of masculinity that black men rarely have the public permission to explore," argues Teach for America's Brittany Packnett. Jeva Lange
Update 5:14 p.m. ET: Hannity later deleted the post from his site. In a statement, he said: "Earlier today my web staff posted content that was not reviewed by me before publication. It does not reflect my voice and message and, therefore, I had it taken down."
President Trump on Tuesday appeared to walk back many of his controversial comments from his joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, held Monday in Finland.
Trump faced widespread backlash for failing to side with the U.S. intelligence community over Putin during Monday's summit. On Tuesday, the president addressed the controversy and sought to correct the record. "I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place" he said. "Could be other people also. A lot of people out there."
He also reversed one of his most-criticized comments, when he said he didn't "see why it would be" Russia that interfered in the election. "In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word 'would' instead of 'wouldn't,'" Trump explained. "The sentence should have been, 'I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia.' Sort of a double negative. So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things."
As critics pointed out, this was one of several instances in which Trump was forced to backpedal a statement after receiving fierce backlash. But Boston Globe reporter Matt Viser noted that Trump claiming he misspoke doesn't align with his post-press conference interviews with Fox News, in which he fully stood by his comments on Russia's purported innocence.
Trump added that has "full faith" in intelligence officials, and pledged that his administration "will repel any effort to interfere in our elections" going forward. Summer Meza
The White House gave Republicans positive talking points from the Trump-Putin summit. No one is using them.
The White House has tried to squeeze every positive ounce out of President Trump's Monday meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But there may not be much there.
Congressional Republicans received their daily set of talking points from the White House on Tuesday, which are meant to help the party and the president keep a united front. But half of Tuesday's list was just a backstory of the U.S.-Russia summit in Helsinki, Finland. The other half includes four bulleted times Trump acknowledged Russian meddling or said he trusted American intelligence — four times within the full 18 months of his presidency.
JUST IN: Just obtained a copy of the WH talking points in wake of widely-panned Putin summit. Notably, very few, if any, GOP lawmakers using them. pic.twitter.com/oi1WmEDIO7
— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) July 17, 2018
Those bullet points attempt to contradict nearly everyone's criticism of Trump's post-summit press conference with Putin on Monday: that the president questioned Russia's involvement in the 2016 election instead of condemning it. But Republicans aren't taking the bait and using the points, notes NBC News' Peter Alexander — perhaps because most of them already saw the whole press conference and ripped it to shreds. Kathryn Krawczyk
President Trump seemed to have a bit of a Putin hangover Tuesday.
Trump reportedly didn't emerge from his residence until past noon, following widespread criticism over his comments at a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday. An NBC News reporter pointed out that Trump was nowhere to be seen in the West Wing, perhaps because he had no events on his public schedule all morning.
Trump has one item on his schedule tomorrow: a meeting with members of Congress. This was not originally on his weekly schedule. pic.twitter.com/sGLEhczVA7
— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) July 16, 2018
Whether the president was recovering from some wicked jet lag from the flight back from Helsinki — or on the mend from the brutal comments from even his fellow GOP lawmakers — he rested all morning, firing off just four tweets. Trump is scheduled to emerge at 2 p.m. ET, when he will speak about his meeting with Putin, replacing the meeting with members of Congress that suddenly appeared on his schedule Monday. Summer Meza
Jupiter's massive gravitational attraction has collected some fresh followers.
While looking for a possible ninth planet, scientists instead discovered another 12 moons orbiting the gas giant, per a Monday press release from Carnegie Science. The find brings Jupiter's total number of moons to 79, the most in the solar system.
Eleven of the new moons are pretty normal, orbiting either with or against Jupiter's rotation. But in the release, scientists called one an "oddball" because it lives far out with moons that orbit counterclockwise, but travels clockwise itself.
Carnegie's team put together this video to explain the mysterious moon, named Valetudo after the Roman god Jupiter's great-granddaughter.
Scientists suggest Valetudo's reverse orbit could cause a head-on crash one day, per the release. But in a family of 79 moons, Jupiter was bound to have one rebel. Kathryn Krawczyk
In his first major speech since leaving office, former President Barack Obama endorsed the idea of providing a universal basic income.
Speaking at the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in South Africa on Tuesday, Obama raised the notion of guaranteed income as a way to reduce what he called "yawning disparities" in wealth, education, and security across different socioeconomic groups.
"It's not just money that a job provides," said Obama. "It provides dignity and structure and a sense of place and a sense of purpose. So we're going to have to consider new ways of thinking about these problems, like a universal income, review of our workweek, how we retrain our young people, how we make everybody an entrepreneur at some level. But we're going have to worry about economics if we want to get democracy back on track."
He additionally called on the rich to support higher taxation, saying that "you don't have to take a vow of poverty just to say 'let me help out a few of these folks.'"
Watch the moment, along with Obama's other suggestions for improving on these "strange and uncertain" times below, via NBC News. Summer Meza
Former President Barack Obama said that these "strange and uncertain" times can only be combated with an effort to "keep marching" and "keep building" away from discrimination and institutional inequality.
Obama made his first major speech since leaving office at the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in South Africa on Tuesday. He warned of "strongman politics" that are ascendant, "whereby elections and some pretense of democracy is maintained, but those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning." He additionally condemned "far-right" political parties that "are based not just on platforms of protectionism and closed borders, but also on barely hidden racial nationalism."
The former president voiced concern that the world is "threatening to return to a more dangerous, more brutal way of doing business," and worried that social media is helping spread "hatred, and paranoia, and propaganda, and conspiracy theories." He said that humanity is at a crossroads, and hoped that people would be willing to work towards accepting a single "objective reality" in order to keep politicians honest.
Watch his full speech below, via the Obama Foundation. Summer Meza
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has been a powerhouse in the Senate for the last 26 years. She's also 85 years old, and even her own party thinks it's time for a fresh face.
Feinstein doesn't think so.
In an interview with Politico, the centrist Democrat said she doesn't "really feel that pressure" to give up her six-term Senate seat to welcome in a new Democrat. The most likely replacement would be California state Sen. Kevin de León (D), who is running against Feinstein this fall — and who received support from 54 percent of the state's Democratic Party delegates at their annual convention. Just 37 percent opted for Feinstein. Neither candidate achieved 60 percent of the vote, so a runoff gave de León the endorsement.
The 51-year-old de León declared the landslide victory an "astounding rejection of politics as usual" in a statement, Politico says. But Feinstein, who's known for her cautious yet progressive politics, doesn't think her time is up. "I'm sure some people think that way," she told Politico. "But I look at my vote, and there aren't a lot of people that can win every county in the state," referring to the results of California's June primary, which Feinstein definitively won.
Now, the Senate's oldest member — who even Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has referred to as "your majesty" — is planning to take on President Trump's Supreme Court nominee. And she told Politico that "there's no question" other Democrats will have their day — once she's done having hers.