Brennan Suen

Author ››› Brennan Suen
  • How The Media Covered A Day Without Immigrants

    Analysis From Morning Cable Shows: Fox Performed The Worst

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    On February 16, businesses around the country closed and many immigrants vowed to not spend any money in a demonstration known as “A Day Without Immigrants” to highlight the vital contributions immigrants make to the U.S. economy and culture. The demonstration was a response to anti-immigrant sentiment and policies enacted by President Donald Trump and his team. During their morning coverage -- from 6 a.m. and noon -- MSNBC and CNN both sent reporters to cover the protest, while Fox News dedicated less than a minute to the story during a series of headlines.

    The New York Times reported that “what began as a grass-roots movement quickly reached the highest levels of federal government,” noting that the effort spread from places like construction sites in New York City all the way to federal government offices including in the Pentagon. The Washington Post wrote that the strike is a response “to a new administration that has taken a hard-line stance on immigration policies.” According to NPR, the protest also comes “after Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents alarmed immigrant rights advocates by arresting some 680 people in raids across the U.S. last week.”

    On morning cable news, MSNBC and CNN both sent reporters to cover the boycott, with MSNBC providing the only original interview related to the strike among the cable news channels. In the span of the 6 hours analyzed by Media Matters, MSNBC dedicated only close to 4 minutes to the story, while CNN dedicated just over 1 minute and 30 seconds. Fox News’ Heather Nauert reported on the story twice for a total of 40 seconds, both in news headline reads during Fox & Friends. MSNBC was the only network to feature the story in more than one show, mentioning it in three.

    Fox News’ coverage dismissed the movement as immigrants “giving themselves a day off work,” and FoxNews.com quoted anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) as one of the protest’s “several detractors.”

    On the other hand, MSNBC’s Gadi Schwartz interviewed immigrant business owner Lorena Cantarovici in Denver, CO, who shut down her restaurant as part of the protest. Cantarovici recounted her story of coming to the country with “just a backpack, less than $300,” and described how she is in the process of opening her third restaurant. Her interview illustrated the job opportunities immigrants create for others and highlighted the real life consequences of Trump’s policies, with Cantarovici adding that she is “part of the model of the small business economy here”:

    LORENA CANTAROVICI: Maria Empanada is an American business, and it's a dream that came through an immigrant that came to this country trying to look for a better life. So this is not something that is made only by me. I have a team. And all those people have the same ethic, and they want to work hard, and they want to be part of this dream also. So, I don't want to forget that I'm an immigrant. And that's why I'm supporting this day.

    GADI SCHWARTZ: And you were saying that an immigrant started this. That's you. You came here with a backpack on. Tell me a little bit about that.

    CANTAROVICI: Just with a backpack, less than $300, and now I'm opening my third location very soon. I am giving job opportunities to people. I’m trying to motivate them every single day, and I'm part of the model of the small business economy here. So yeah, that's what we are doing.

    SCHWARTZ: And what does this mean to the people that work here? What have they told you?

    CANTAROVICI: Well, the decision was made by all of us, and it was very important for me to hear my people, right? So this is a very specific way to demonstrate that immigrants here are very important, and a day without immigrants can create a very big impact. So this is a country that is made by immigrants. Imagine all of us making just a silence for a day? I decided to make a silence.

    Right-wing media figures, however, took to Twitter to criticize the protest. Conservative author Dinesh D’Souza asked, “Will illegals guarantee not to rob or murder any US citizens today? #DayWithoutIllegals.” Right-wing radio host Steve Deace tweeted that “we are not a nation of immigrants. We are a nation of citizens. #DayWithoutImmigrants.” Radio host Wayne Dupree wrote that “anyone falling for this stupid day should be deported”:

    As of 2013, “more than 41 million immigrants lived in the U.S.,” which makes coverage of immigration of crucial interest to a significant segment of the total population. Meanwhile, news outlets elevated nativist hate groups and their xenophobic sentiments throughout the 2016 presidential campaign and afterwards. Trump started his candidacy by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and criminals, and harassment against immigrants was the “top type of harassment reported” in a spike after Election Day. Despite reporting on “A Day Without Immigrants” for only 4 minutes, MSNBC set the bar for the protest’s cable coverage by highlighting an immigrant voice and covering the story throughout the day.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Snapstream’s CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News transcripts between 6 a.m. and 12 p.m. on February 16 for mentions of the word “immigrant” or the phrase “day without.”

  • SPLC's 2016 Year In Hate Report Details How White Supremacist And Neo-Nazi Media Thrived Under Trump

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    The Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) annual Year in Hate report detailed the rise in white nationalist and neo-Nazi media outlets and figures in 2016 during now-President Donald Trump’s campaign. The report noted that Trump’s run “electrified the radical right, which saw in him a champion of the idea that America is fundamentally a white man’s country.”

    Since the inauguration, white nationalist and neo-Nazi media outlets and figures have openly celebrated Trump and many of his appointments and policies, just as they did during the 2016 campaign. Rather than renounce their support, Trump and his team have had repeated, disturbing interactions with white nationalists, such as engaging with them on Twitter and giving them press credentials.

    The SPLC’s 2016 Year in Hate report detailed how “Trump’s run for office electrified the radical right, which saw in him a champion of the idea that America is fundamentally a white man’s country.” One faction of that group, according to the report, is the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, which became the “top hate site in America.” During the campaign, Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin said that “Jews, Blacks and lesbians will be leaving America if Trump gets elected … This alone is enough reason to put your entire heart and soul into supporting this man.” In April, Anglin said the “hoax” Holocaust memorial in Berlin should be replaced “with a statue of Hitler 1,000 feet tall”:

    The reaction to Trump’s victory by the radical right was ecstatic. “Our Glorious Leader has ascended to God Emperor,” wrote Andrew Anglin, who runs the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website. “Make no mistake about it: we did this. If it were not for us, it wouldn’t have been possible.” Jared Taylor, a white nationalist who edits a racist journal, said that “overwhelmingly white Americans” had shown they were not “obedient zombies” by choosing to vote “for America as a distinct nation with a distinct people who deserve a government devoted to that people.”

    [...]

    Several new and energetic groups appeared last year that were almost entirely focused on Trump and seemed to live off his candidacy. They included Identity Evropa, a campus-oriented group based in California; The Right Stuff, based in New York; and American Vanguard, a group with 12 chapters. And The Daily Stormer, the website whose chief came up with the term “Our Glorious Leader” for Trump, expanded into real-world activism by starting 31 “clubs.” In July, it became the most visited hate site on the Internet, surpassing longtime hate leader Stormfront.

    [...]

    Aside from the rise of Andrew Anglin’s Daily Stormer site and its real-world “clubs” — new chapters that profited directly from the Trump phenomenon — the year on the neo-Nazi scene was marked by a number of attempts to build new coalitions among groups. Several of them, like the Coalition of Aryan Organizations and the United Aryan Front, collapsed almost as quickly as they appeared.

    The report also addressed Trump’s mainstreaming of racist and far-right media, including credentialing white nationalist figures for his events and hiring former Breitbart head Stephen Bannon as White House chief strategist. SPLC labeled Breitbart as a “far-right media outlet known for promoting the so-called ‘alternative right,’” which it noted was a “recent rebranding of white supremacy for public relations purposes”:

    [Trump] kicked off the campaign with a speech vilifying Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers. He retweeted white supremacist messages, including one that falsely claimed that black people were responsible for 80% of the murders of whites. He credentialed racist media personalities even while barring a serious outlet like The Washington Post, went on a radio show hosted by a rabid conspiracy theorist named Alex Jones, and said that Muslims should be banned from entering the country. He seemed to encourage violence against black protesters at his rallies, suggesting that he would pay the legal fees of anyone charged as a result.

    [...]

    Most remarkable of all was his choice as chief strategic adviser of Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, a far-right media outlet known for promoting the so-called “alternative right” — fundamentally, a recent rebranding of white supremacy for public relations purposes, albeit one that de-emphasizes Klan robes and Nazi symbols in favor of a more “intellectual” approach. With Bannon’s appointment, white nationalists felt they had a man inside the White House.

    According to the report, Ku Klux Klan groups “received a great deal of media attention" during the campaign, "due largely to the fact that many of their leaders backed Donald Trump’s candidacy.” The report continued that the increased media attention emboldened “America’s best known (former) Klan leader” David Duke to “launch his latest bid for political office”:

    Klan groups last year received a great deal of media attention, due largely to the fact that many of their leaders backed Donald Trump’s candidacy. David Duke, easily America’s best known (former) Klan leader, spoke repeatedly of his support for Trump, saying at one point, “I’m overjoyed to see Donald Trump and most Americans embrace most of the issues that I’ve championed for years.”

    Trump at first declined to denounce or disavow Duke, saying, falsely, that he did not know anything about him. (In fact, Trump had written in a 2000 New York Times op-ed that he abandoned his exploration of a presidential bid with the Reform Party that year because of Duke and two fellow extremists who were involved with the party.) But in the end, pressed by the media, he weakly disavowed Duke.

    Nevertheless, Duke took advantage of the media attention he received to launch his latest bid for political office. Last July, he announced his run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.). But he lost badly in the open November primary, coming in seventh with 3% of the vote, or 58,581 votes.

  • Here Are 21 Times The White House And Media Allies Explained That The Muslim Ban Was About Muslims

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY & BRENNAN SUEN

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled against President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting seven Muslim-majority countries, confirming that Trump and his supporters’ previous public statements expressing their intent to unconstitutionally discriminate against Muslims can “be used in proceedings.” Media Matters has compiled 21 quotes from Trump, his team, his cable news surrogates, and figures on Fox News admitting that the ban’s original intent was to single out Muslims.

  • Online Outlet Frequently Cited By Trump And His Team Smears Mosque Where Six People Were Massacred, Tries To Link To Terrorists

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Gateway Pundit, an online media outlet that is repeatedly cited and praised by President Trump and those in his inner circle, smeared a Canadian mosque just days after a terrorist shooting attack left six Muslim worshipers dead and eight wounded on January 29 by making dubious claims that the mosque has “strong ties to terrorism.” 

    The alleged shooter, identified as 27-year-old white student Alexandre Bissonnette, was known for “far-right views” and had expressed support for anti-immigrant groups and figures, including Trump. He has been described as a “very right-wing and ultra-nationalist white supremacist” by people who knew him. 

    In the immediate aftermath of the massacre, Gateway Pundit reported that the shooter had yelled an Arabic phrase in an attempt to insinuate the shooter was Muslim. The outlet went on to attack media outlets who had not reported this unconfirmed information. After the original attempt to smear Muslims fell apart, the outlet switched tactics and responded to the tragedy by attacking the mosque with a headline using all-caps styling on “MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD” and “TERRORIST” and asserting that it “has strong ties to terrorism.” Meanwhile, a search for the shooter's name using Gateway Pundit’s search function returns zero results.

    The report cited by Gateway Pundit to prove links to terrorism claimed that the mosque was tied to the Muslim Brotherhood due to its founding by local members of the Muslim Student Association, a frequently maligned Islamic student organization located in colleges and universities across the United States and Canada. However, there is no evidence that the Muslim Brotherhood and Muslim Student Association are “actively affiliated,” and the only link between the two is the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood “helped establish the [Muslim Student Association] more than 50 years ago.” 

    Adding to the concern of the often absurdly wrong Gateway Pundit is that its influence has greatly risen under Trump, with owner Jim Hoft announcing on January 19 that the outlet would have its first correspondent in the White House. Trump himself regularly tweets at or about the outlet, including praising it “for reporting the truth.” Numerous members of his team such as counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway and White House director of social media Dan Scavino Jr. have also tweeted about the outlet, as well as Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr

  • Google Takes Step In Tackling Fake News, But There's Clearly More To Do

    Google AdSense Continues To Place Ads On Numerous Fake News-Purveying Sites, Despite Its “Misrepresentative Content” Policy

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN & JARED HOLT

    On January 25, Google announced that it had banned “nearly 200 publishers” from its advertising network for violating its “misrepresentative content policy.” Yet numerous notable violators of the policy that Media Matters already reported to Google remain a part of Google’s AdSense program, showing that while Google may be on the right track, the company still has more work to do.

  • Fake News Purveyors Cheer On, Echo Trump Team's Lies About Inauguration Crowd Size

    Many Of These Sites Use Google's Advertising Network

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Following demonstrably false statements made by President Trump and White House press secretary Sean Spicer that Trump's inauguration ceremony had “the largest audience to witness an inauguration," numerous websites that Media Matters has identified as purveyors of fake news cheered on Spicer for his comments or attempted to verify his false claims. Nearly all of these websites are still supported, in part, by revenue from Google’s advertising service and many attempted to brand mainstream media reporting about the crowds as “fake news.”

  • Fox News Under Fire For Undercovering The Women's March

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Fox News is receiving criticism for its minimal coverage of the historic Women’s March on Washington and dozens of sister marches worldwide that brought together millions of people to stand up for human rights under the Donald Trump administration.

    The New York Times reported that the Women’s March on Washington alone had “at least 470,000” attendees. Washington Post transportation reporter Faiz Siddiqui tweeted that January 21 was the “second-busiest day in metro history” for Washington D.C.’s public transportation system, with over one million trips taken. Across the country, one compilation of march attendance estimated participation of between 3.3 and 4.2 million people in various women’s marches, making it one of the largest manifestations of political activism in U.S. history:

    Despite the historic nature of the event, however, Fox News dipped in and out of their coverage of the march while CNN and MSNBC covered it almost non-stop throughout the day. The Los Angeles Times’ Mary McNamara reported that minimal coverage on Fox compared to MSNBC and CNN  “firmly reinstated” the “historical divide between Fox News and its compatriots.” McNamara continued that though Fox correspondent Jennifer Griffin “reported from the scene … it was a far cry from minute-by-minute analysis of a huge news event,” while also adding that Fox figures “questioned whether the crowd estimates were accurate” or whether liberals “refuse to accept reality.”

    PolitiFact compared closed captioning transcripts of the three networks for terms “women,” “march,” and “Women’s March” and found large disparities between Fox and the other two cable news networks.

    The Hollywood Reporter’s Frank Scheck pointed to CNN and MSNBC’s “daylong coverage of the protests” before stating that “the massive anti-Donald Trump demonstrations around the world may well be the start of a new political revolution, though you'd never know it if you were tuned into Fox News.” Scheck added that “Fox pretended that nothing special was going on” and that when the network did report on the march, “it was often in a smug, dismissive tone.”

    On January 22, the day following the march, Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz offered a tepid admission his network had not given enough coverage to the marches, saying on his show MediaBuzz that “perhaps” Fox News “undercovered it.” Kurtz also suggested that a CNN headline about the marches sending a “message to Trump” was “overplaying what happened”:

    HOWARD KURTZ (HOST): Yesterday CNN and MSNBC offered virtually nonstop coverage of a huge Women's March here in the nation's capital and in other major cities across the country. We're back with the panel. So while CNN and MSNBC were wall-to-wall, Fox kind of dipped in and out, perhaps undercovered it. I'd be interested to hear your view on that. CNN headline: "Women's marches across the U.S. send message to Trump." Was that overplaying what happened? Was there a clear message?

    JOE TRIPPI (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): I don't think it was overplaying it yesterday. I mean yesterday was pretty big. It was pretty big news. I think you can get into did they overcover and did Fox under, and probably both of those arguments are correct in my view. We should have probably done more.

    Other critics of Fox’s coverage took to Twitter to point out the disparities between Fox, CNN, and MSNBC:

  • Trump Team Blacklists CNN On The Sunday After Inauguration

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    President Donald Trump and his team continued their unprecedented attempts to delegitimize and blacklist CNN by refusing to have a representative appear on CNN’s Sunday political talk show, State of the Union, while booking appearances on the other major political talk shows on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox Broadcasting Co.

    At the top of the January 22 edition of CNN’s State of the Union, host Jake Tapper said that his show “asked the Trump White House for a member of the new administration to join us this morning, but they declined.” Members of Trump’s team including White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, however, made appearances on the other major Sunday political talk shows: This Week on ABC, Face The Nation on CBS, Meet the Press on NBC, and Fox News Sunday on Fox Broadcasting Co. Trump and his team have a long history of blacklisting reporters from events, most notably when Trump revoked The Washington Post’s press credentials during the Republican primaries.

    The Trump team’s presumed blackout of CNN comes after escalating attempts to delegitimize the network, brand it as “fake news,” and avoid questions from CNN reporters. During Trump’s first press conference as president-elect on January 11, Trump refused to take a question from CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta, calling his network “fake news” and “terrible.” Following the event, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer admitted to threatening to remove Acosta from the press conference and later demanded an apology. Trump ally and Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich responded to the incident by asserting that Trump should use the altercation to “shrink and isolate” CNN and eventually “close down the elite press.” Acosta and his colleagues from across the media condemned Trump’s treatment of CNN.

    On January 12, Trump doubled down on his attacks against the network, claiming on Twitter that CNN “is in a total meltdown with their FAKE NEWS” and that its “credibility will soon be gone.” Trump also pre-emptively attacked a CNN report on his daughter Ivanka, tweeting that CNN “of all places, is doing a Special Report on my daughter, Ivanka. Considering it is CNN, can’t imagine it will be great!”

    The Trump team’s refusal to appear on CNN came one day after it declined to air the live feed of Spicer’s first press conference after the inauguration, where Spicer blatantly lied about the size of inauguration crowds. According to Variety’s Brian Steinberg, “CNN’s refusal to take the live feed suggests executives there are reluctant to put false statements on air, and, what’s more, do not think the new White House press representative is entirely credible.” From the January 21 report:

    “CNN’s decision to not air the press conference live illustrates a recognition that the role of the press must be different under Trump. When the White House holds press briefings to promote demonstrably false information and refuses to take questions, then press ‘access’ becomes meaningless at best and complicit at worst,” said Danna Young, an associate professor at the University of Delaware who studies politics and the media. “Democracy works best when journalists have access to the executive branch, of course. But that holds true if and only if that access leads to verifiable, accurate information. The decision on behalf of CNN to wait and verify before airing it live suggests that the media are adapting quickly to this new era.”

    To be certain, news outlets routinely make decisions about whether to air press events live, usually based on projections about news value. But this press conference, held just a day after the President’s inauguration, would have been a hot prospect for a cable-news outlet, and could have sparked hours of debate and follow-up on CNN’s schedule.  In an unusual and aggressive maneuver, CNN aired its regular weekday lineup this Saturday, underscoring heavy interest in breaking news of a series of massive protests by women across the nation in response to Trump’s presidency as well as the new President’s first few days in office.

    UPDATE: After an entire week of Trump officials not appearing on CNN, Politico quoted a White House official admitting to a “ban” of CNN by the Trump administration. The official claimed “the ban is not permanent,” but gave no details on why the ban was put in place or when it may be lifted.

    For more on Trump’s attacks on the press, check out Media Matters’ First Amendment Watch.

  • How Media Outlets Helped Trump Push A Fake News Story About Bikers And His Inauguration

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Media outlets uncritically quoted President-elect Donald Trump’s claim that he saw a “scene” of “thousands” of the group Bikers for Trump traveling to Washington, D.C., for his inauguration, even though BuzzFeed had reported hours before that the photos being shared online were recycled, having been taken years ago. As is well-established, media run the risk of accidentally enabling lies if they repeat Trump's unsubstantiated or false claims without including context or a rebuttal.