Oliver Willis

Author ››› Oliver Willis
  • What The Media Needs To Know About Donald Trump’s Debate Prep Team

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's inner circle is filled with conspiracy theorists and disreputable political operatives. According to reports, many of these same people have been taking the lead in preparing him for Monday's first presidential debate at Hofstra University.

    (Note: Some of these bios were previously included in a round-up of Trump’s kitchen cabinet).

    Roger Ailes

    Ailes

    Role In Debate Prep

    Roger Ailes is the founder and former chairman and CEO of Fox News and the Fox Television Stations Group. He has reportedly been an influential part of Trump’s debate preparation, advising the candidate on how to “get his message out in a smart, cogent way while also maintaining his air of authenticity,” according to CNNMoney, and helping “Trump come up with memorable one-liners that will stay in voters' minds, drive headlines, and perhaps even turn the tide in Trump's favor.”

    What You Need To Know

    Ailes was forced out at Fox News after former anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against him alleging sexual harassment and retaliation. Other women also came forward, alleging a decades-long pattern of harassment by Ailes. (Carlson’s suit was settled for a reported $20 million, and Fox News’ parent company issued a public apology to Carlson, saying she was not “treated with the respect and dignity that she and all of our colleagues deserve.”) . Even though Ailes was publicly disgraced, Trump has repeatedly expressed support for him..

    The network Ailes created has for years functioned as the communications arm of the Republican Party, disguised as a “news” network. Fox was instrumental in the rise and eventual triumph of Trump in the 2016 Republican primaries, featuring him far more than any other candidate, which translated into millions of dollars worth of free exposure.

    At Fox, Ailes pushed programming with themes of misogyny, racism, and Islamophobia. Ailes was once an operative for President Richard Nixon, and he used race-baiting in his work for Nixon as well.

    Corey Lewandowski

    Lewandowski

    Role In Debate Prep

    Former Trump campaign manager and current CNN contributor Corey Lewandowski is involved in “preparing Donald Trump for the debates,” according to the conservative site Heat Street.

    What You Need To Know

    While he was in charge of Trump’s campaign, Lewandowski had hostile interactions with the press corps covering Trump. He was caught on video grabbing Michelle Fields, then a reporter for Breitbart News. Florida prosecutors said they believed there was probable cause to arrest Lewandowski, but decided against prosecuting him.

    In a separate incident, Lewandowski was seen grabbing a protester “by the collar,” and “yanking him backwards.” When asked about it, Trump said, “I give him credit for having spirit.”

    Lewandowski continues to receive what are described as “severance” payments from the Trump campaign while commenting on the election in a paid position for CNN. On air he has been a reliable Trump defender, promoting the racist birther conspiracy theory, smearing journalists who report on the nominee, and lying about Trump’s history of using undocumented workers.

    Stephen Bannon

    Bannon

    Role In Debate Prep

    Stephen Bannon is the chairman of Breitbart News but is currently on leave to serve as the chief executive of the Trump campaign. The Washington Post reported that he is part of the unofficial Trump debate team that met with the candidate at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ, in August.

    What You Need To Know

    Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart News has recently made a “noticeable shift toward embracing ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right. Racist ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-Immigrant ideas,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    Several anonymous Breitbart staffers alleged, according to BuzzFeed, that “the company’s top management was allowing Trump to turn Breitbart into his own fan website” and claimed the candidate paid the site in exchange for favorable coverage. (Bannon denied the allegation.)

    After news surfaced that Trump’s then-campaign manager had allegedly manhandled Michelle Fields, who was working at the time as a Breitbart reporter, Bannon sided with the campaign over his employee, leading to the defection of several staffers.

    Several former Bannon employees have spoken out about his hiring by the campaign. Former Breitbart editor-at-large Ben Shapiro called Bannon a “legitimately sinister figure” who has led Breitbart News to embrace the “white supremacist alt-right.” Former Breitbart News spokesperson Kurt Bardella told Media Matters that Bannon is a “pathological liar” whose hiring signals a “dangerous" shift by the campaign.

    Rudy Giuliani

    Giuliani

    Role In Debate Prep

    Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has served as a campaign surrogate for the Trump campaign and was identified as a “longtime friend” of the candidate who is involved in debate preparations.

    What You Need To Know

    Giuliani has a long history of making anti-Muslim statements. He argued in favor of Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) comment that one way to fight terrorism is to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods,” said sexual assault in Germany proved that “these [Syrian] refugees are inherently a problem,” and praised Rep. Peter King (R-NY) for holding anti-Muslim hearings in Congress.

    Speaking before Trump at a campaign rally, Giuliani said, “Under those eight years before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States,” omitting the 9/11 attacks. PolitiFact rated this claim “false.”

    Laura Ingraham

    Ingraham

    Role In Debate Prep

    Radio host Laura Ingraham has been a staunch supporter of Trump’s candidacy and has praised his anti-immigrant rhetoric. Ingraham spoke at the Republican National Convention and urged Trump’s former rivals to “honor your pledge” and “support Donald Trump now.” She has been described as one of Trump’s “informal band of counselors” who are helping him to “test out zingers” ahead of the debate.

    What You Need To Know

    Ingraham has often used her show to demonize and attack immigrants. Ingraham said Mexicans “have come here to murder and rape our people,” called the American children of undocumented immigrants “anchor fetuses,” and suggested that deported immigrants attempting to re-enter the country should be “shot.”

    Chris Christie

    Christie

    Role In Debate Prep

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie endorsed Trump after he dropped out of the campaign and has served as a leading surrogate for the candidate. He is the head of Trump’s transition team and is reportedly helping with debate preparations.

    What You Need To Know

    Christie has become infamous for his public arguments with voters and other figures. He told a voter who criticized them that he was “a real big shot shooting your mouth off,” called a reporter “a complete idiot,” and told a resident asking about stalled rebuilding efforts after Superstorm Sandy to “sit down and shut up.”

    Another mark against Christie has been the Bridgegate scandal, in which his subordinates conspired to block traffic on the George Washington Bridge as payback for political slights against the governor.

    David Bossie

    Bossie

    Role In Debate Prep

    Conservative activist David Bossie has taken a leave of absence from his job as president of the advocacy group Citizens United to be Trump’s deputy campaign manager. He is reportedly part of the debate preparation team.

    What You Need To Know

    In 1992, then-President George H.W. Bush condemned Bossie and Citizens United for using what he called “filthy campaign tactics” against the Clintons during the 1992 presidential campaign. Following President Clinton’s election, Bossie used his role as Citizens United’s political director to operate “an information factory” that produced “a steady stream of tips, tidbits, documents, factoids, suspicions, and story ideas for the nation's press and for Republicans on Capitol Hill,” according to Columbia Journalism Review. Bossie resigned from his position as an investigator for the House Government and Reform Committee after it was revealed that he played a role in releasing selectively edited transcripts in order to smear Hillary Clinton.

    Bossie has been president of Citizens United since 2000. The group’s film Hillary: The Movie prompted the Supreme Court case Citizens United v. FEC, which resulted in the 5-4 decision that has led to nearly unlimited campaign spending in elections. Citizens United has pushed for the release of Hillary Clinton’s communications from the State Department when she was secretary of state, and the organization is a party in several lawsuits demanding Clinton-related materials from the agency. In the course of making those requests, Citizens United has often insinuated -- without evidence -- that wrongdoing took place.

    Roger Stone

    Roger Stone

    Role In Debate Prep

    Republican dirty trickster Roger Stone is a longtime Trump ally. Stone worked on Trump’s campaign until August of 2015, continues to serve as a prominent advocate for Trump’s candidacy, and regularly speaks with Trump. Stone advised Trump on debate negotiations and helped Trump with debate prep during the primaries.

    What You Need To Know

    In addition to his political dirty tricks, Stone has an extensive history of making violent, racist, and sexist comments. He started an anti-Hillary Clinton group in 2008 with the acronym “C.U.N.T.” and has called for her to be executed. He called cable news commentators a “stupid negro” and “Mandingo,” and he promotes conspiracy theories about the Clinton and Bush families murdering dozens of people. His next book is about how the Clintons purportedly murdered JFK Jr. “because he was in the way.”

    Stone’s racist and sexist tweets resulted in him being banned from appearing on CNN and MSNBC.

    While advocating for Trump, Stone has peddled several outlandish conspiracy theories. He accused the Clintons of murdering several more people, argued that the 2016 election will be “rigged” via the manipulation of voting machines, and alleged that a top Clinton campaign aide was connected to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Stone also attacked the family of Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq in 2004.

    Kellyanne Conway

    Conway

    Role In Debate Prep

    Kellyanne Conway served as a senior adviser and pollster for the Trump campaign, and she is currently serving as the campaign manager. Conway has been part of the core team preparing Trump for the debate.

    What You Need To Know

    Conway has long been involved in conservative politics, mostly as a pollster working with conservative groups including the NRA and Family Research Council and Republican candidates including Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann.

    Conway once said that people “don’t want their kids looking at a cartoon with a bunch of lesbian mothers” and suggested the representation of same-sex parents in children’s programming was a “corrupting” influence. She also once argued that “political correctness” could create a situation where there were “air traffic controllers who don’t speak great English,” leading to “two planes crashing in the sky.”

    She also argued that “revulsion towards men” is “part and parcel of the feminist movement” and that “baby girls [are] being killed just because they’re girls” in America.

    Michael Flynn

    Flynn

    Role In Debate Prep

    Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, is a Trump adviser and campaign surrogate. Flynn is part of the national security team preparing Trump for the debate.

    What You Need To Know

    Flynn left his position at the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014 after clashing with senior officials. He has complained that “‘political correctness’ has prevented the U.S. from confronting violent extremism, which he sees as a ‘cancerous idea that exists inside of the Islamic religion.’” In his book The Field of Flight, Flynn accuses the U.S. government of concealing “the actions of terrorists like bin Laden and groups like ISIS, and the role of Iran in the rise of radical Islam.”

    Flynn has publicly supported Trump’s idea that the families of terrorist suspects should be killed, and he also backs Trump’s proposal for a ban on Muslim travel to the United States. Flynn has written that “fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.”

    In 2015, Flynn flew to Moscow and was filmed having a formal dinner with Vladimir Putin. The Daily Beast reported that “Pentagon brass were taken by surprise that he didn’t notify the department.”

    Flynn was paid by the state-funded Russian television network RT for his appearance at the network’s anniversary gala.

    Flynn spoke on Trump’s behalf at the Republican National Convention, saying that “war is not about bathrooms,” a reference to controversy over anti-transgender laws. He also retweeted an anti-Semitic pro-Trump message that read in part, “Not anymore, Jews. Not anymore.” He later described the incident as “a mistake.”

  • Questions The Media Should Ask Donald Trump After He Finally Admitted Obama Was Born In The U.S.

    (If He Ever Does Another Challenging Interview)

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    In a media event on Friday, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump addressed his history of promoting the racist birther conspiracy theory that President Obama was not born in the United States, saying, “President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period.”

    He also falsely claimed that the conspiracy theory was started by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential campaign.

    Trump’s short statement -- which included multiple falsehoods despite spanning only 32 words, as PolitiFact pointed out -- and his campaign’s equally dishonest press release about the issue raise more questions for the media than they answer.

    His brief remarks came at the very end of a campaign event (originally presented as a press conference, but no questions were taken) at his hotel in Washington, D.C., in which several military veterans who are endorsing him spoke at length.

    In recent months, Trump has largely retreated from granting television interviews to anyone other than Trump sycophants like Sean Hannity and Fox & Friends. Trump also has not held a press conference in nearly two months. But there are several pressing questions that Trump should be asked on camera, assuming he ever allows such a thing to happen again.  

    Trump Has Promoted Birtherism For Years; What Changed?

    As numerous reporters and fact-checkers have pointed out, Trump and his campaign’s claims that he somehow put the issue to bed by helpfully getting Obama to release his long-form birth certificate in 2011 are complete nonsense. Trump himself has repeatedly pushed the conspiracy since then.

    When asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer if Obama is a U.S. citizen, Trump said, “Who knows? Who cares right now? We’re talking about something else, OK. I mean, I have my own theory on Obama. Someday I’ll write a book. I’ll do another book, and it will do very successfully.” That was in January.

    What has changed in the ensuing eight months, during which he sought and secured the Republican presidential nomination, to change his outlook? As recently as September 15, Trump was unwilling to say that Obama was born in the United States.

    The facts surrounding Obama’s place of birth are the same today as they were when Trump first brought up the issue in 2011. The only obvious difference is that Trump is now running for president. What changed his mind?

    Does Trump Still Think The Long-Form Birth Certificate Released By Obama Is Fake?

    Trump claimed in his statement that “President Obama was born in the United States,” but he did not explain whether he thinks the documentation the president released to prove his birthplace is real. In fact, for years, Trump has cast doubt on the authenticity of these documents, claiming the “birth certificate is a fraud,” and “fake”:

    Does he now think those are authentic documents? What changed his mind?

    Why Did He Claim That He Sent People To Hawaii To Investigate Obama?

    In 2011, Trump claimed he sent a team of investigators to Hawaii to uncover what he described as “one of the greatest cons in the history of politics and beyond.” Trump also said, “I have people that have been studying it and they cannot believe what they're finding.”

    This year The New York Times reported that “Mr. Trump apparently never dispatched investigators or made much of an effort to find the documents.”

    Did Trump send anyone? If not, why did he lie about it and what they had supposedly uncovered? If he did actually send investigators, what did they uncover?

    Is He Still Suspicious Of A Plane Crash That Resulted In The Death Of Hawaii’s State Health Director?

    In 2013, Trump tweeted that it was “amazing” that Hawaii’s “State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s ‘birth certificate’ died in a plane crash today,” adding, “All others lived.”

    In fact, authorities said the cause of death for Loretta Huddy was a cardiac arrhythmia due to stress from the crash. The pilot and others on board did not have significant injuries.

    Does Trump still apparently believe Huddy’s death was related to Obama’s birth certificate?

    Why Does He Surround Himself With Birthers? Will He Continue To Do So?

    Trump has surrounded his campaign with individuals who have promoted the birther conspiracy. These include former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, campaign surrogate Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and informal advisers Roger Stone and Alex Jones, among others. In fact, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, who was one of the people who introduced Trump at the event, is also a birther.

    If Trump no longer believes in birtherism, will he distance himself from birthers?

  • The Drudge Report Has Linked To Russian Propaganda Sites At Least 91 Times In 2016

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Drudge, RT, Putin

    The Drudge Report, the website owned and operated by conservative gossipmonger Matt Drudge, has linked to RT.com -- the website for the news service owned by the Russian government -- at least 67 times in 2016. According to an analysis by Media Matters for America, The Drudge Report also repeatedly linked to stories from other Russian-owned news sites, Sputnik News (22 times), and TASS (twice).

    RT (previously known as Russia Today) broadcasts via satellite in Russian, English, and Spanish around the world and hosts its official website at RT.com. Russian President Vladimir Putin described the network as an attempt to introduce “another strong player on the world’s scene, a player that wouldn’t just provide an unbiased coverage of the events in Russia but also ... try to break the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on the global information streams.”

    Writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, reporter and former Moscow-based correspondent Julia Ioffe described RT as “the Kremlin’s propaganda outlet” that has at times sought to “stick it to the U.S. from behind the façade of legitimate newsgathering.”

    In recent months, controversy has grown about apparent attempts by the Russian government to interfere in or influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

    According to The New York Times, U.S. intelligence agencies have reportedly told the White House that they have “high confidence” that the Russian government was “behind the theft of emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee.” The Washington Post has reported that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies are currently investigating “what they see as a broad covert Russian operation in the United States to sow public distrust in the upcoming presidential election and in U.S. political institutions.”

    Drudge has repeatedly used his site to promote stories that idolize Putin, while also painting America, its government, and figures like President Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton in a negative light.

    Over the last year, the Drudge Report has linked to several RT stories in this same vein.  These include:

    A story headlined “Russia to reveal location of US military satellites...” (paired with another story claiming the Kremlin is working on a “teleportation” program).

    A claim from the Russian government alleging that a U.S. Navy destroyer was “dangerously close” to a Russian boat. Yet in other reporting, U.S. officials said the Russian ship was demonstrating “unsafe and unprofessional” maneuvers.

    A “vow” from Putin to “neutralize” what RT described as a “US missile shield threat.”

    A column claiming “Satan Worship Rises In USA.”

    drudge-rt-satan.jpg

    Drudge also linked to the Sputnik News service 22 times over the last year. Foreign Policy described Sputnik as “another compliant outlet to trumpet the Kremlin line” that depicts “the United States as an ailing imperial power bent on holding on to its domains.”

    Sputnik stories linked by Drudge include:

    A story accusing Google of “Hillary Search Manipulation.”

    An article headlined “Robots Wage War On Humanity 2055.”

    A report with the headline “WIKILEAKS Assange: GOOGLEClinton Deal...”

    Drudge also linked to stories from TASS, the official Russian news agency, twice over the last year.

  • After Clinton Feels Overheated At 9/11 Event, Media Issue “Special Reports” And Continue To Mainstream Health Conspiracies

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    NBC News Special Reports have usually been about significant international issues like the terrorist attack in Nice, France, the attempted coup in Turkey, the reopening of the U.S. embassy in Cuba after being closed for over fifty years, or significant events like the arrival of the Pope, the death of singer Prince, and reports of mass shootings.

    On September 11, the network issued two special reports because Hillary Clinton felt overheated at a memorial event.

    While attending the memorial service commemorating the 15th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Clinton left early after feeling “overheated,” according to campaign spokesman Nick Merrill. In a statement, Merrill said, “Secretary Clinton attended the September 11th Commemoration Ceremony for just an hour and thirty minutes this morning to pay her respects and greet some of the families of the fallen. During the ceremony, she felt overheated, so departed to go to her daughter's apartment and is feeling much better.”

    A few hours later, Clinton left Chelsea Clinton’s apartment. She was filmed waving to the crowd and told the press assembled outside, “It’s a beautiful day,” and said she was “feeling great.” She then posed for a photo with a young girl.

    In addition to NBC’s Special Reports, the media took the incident as an opportunity to continue to legitimize conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health that have circulated in the conservative media.

    Fox’s Sean Hannity has perhaps been beating the drum the loudest, claiming that “coughing fits” from Clinton are signs of a serious medical condition, while also claiming that it is possible that she had a “stroke.” Rush Limbaugh, along with the Drudge Report, Alex Jones’ conspiracy theory website Infowars, and others recently pushed an internet survey from a fringe conspiracy group to claim that Clinton’s health disqualifies her from the presidency. Trump campaign surrogates have also promoted baseless health conspiracies in appearances on cable news.

    At the same time, reporters who have been in frequent contact with Clinton on the campaign trail have said that the allegations and conspiracies are baseless.

    Despite this background, several media outlets used news of Clinton’s overheating to give the conspiracy theories more oxygen.

    On Meet the Press, NBC News Special Correspondent Tom Brokaw referenced the “very vigorous campaign both aboveground and belowground” by Republicans to “raise questions about her health,” and said he thought Clinton should “go to a hospital” and “see a neurologist and get a clean report if it’s available to her.”

    The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza wrote a piece headlined, “Hillary Clinton’s health just became a real issue in the presidential campaign.” He said the episode had “changed the conversation in the race about Clinton’s health” and would “catapult questions about her health from the ranks of conservative conspiracy theory to perhaps the central debate in the presidential race over the coming days.” Cillizza went on to claim, “Taking the Clinton team's word for it on her health -- in light of the episode on Sunday morning -- is no longer enough.”

    New York Times Los Angeles bureau Chief Adam Nagourney tweeted that it “Feels like a good day for Clinton to release her medical records and call on Trump to do same.”

    During CNN’s coverage, correspondent Jeff Zeleny said, “You have to wonder: Will they be sort of forced to release more medical records here because she is being criticized by her opponents here. The questions have been out there: Is she healthy?”

    Both Zeleny and NBC’s Chuck Todd noted in their reporting that Clinton has released more of her medical information than Donald Trump has. Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter noted the media “should not give oxygen to” conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health that have appeared online and in supermarket tabloids, but made the distinction that “there are legitimate questions” to be asked by reporters about Clinton’s health.

    Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik told Reliable Sources the possible implications of inaccurate reporting on the topic would be “awful” and “on something like this, Brian, you wait until you have at least two sources you’re comfortable with.”

  • How The Drudge Report Became Vladimir Putin’s Top Media Cheerleader

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    On Labor Day, visitors to the Drudge Report, the conservative news aggregator operated by Matt Drudge, were greeted by an above-the-fold story about the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Obama at the G20 Summit in China. Drudge’s headline for the story was “Lion And The Pussycat”:

    http://cloudfront.mediamatters.org/static/uploader/image/2016/09/06/drudge-obama-putin.jpg

    The Drudge headline is part of a larger pattern from the site of consistently promoting Putin and his strongman style of leadership (the “Lion”), which Drudge has often contrasted with President Obama, whom he characterizes as a weaker leader (the “Pussycat”). Drudge has also consistently promoted pro-Russian news and information, repeatedly harping on the idea that American power is weakening and in decline.

    Matt Drudge has extolled the virtues of Vladimir Putin for some time. In 2013, Drudge declared that “Putin is the leader of the free world,” adding to a chorus of conservatives backing the Russian leader. Around the same time, Drudge featured Putin at the top of his site as “Putin To The Rescue” (a headline he would re-use two years later) as the leader began discussing a possible military role for Russia in Syria.

    Over the past few years, Drudge has used his site to promote a steady stream of stories favorable to Putin, often while denigrating President Obama and the United States.

    Drudge’s boosterism of Putin has continued even as the FBI and other investigative services have alleged that hackers working at the behest of Russian intelligence have compromised American computer systems, including via an intrusion at the Democratic National Committee.

    The U.S. director of national intelligence has also recently testified that an inquiry is currently underway to see whether Russians are attempting to influence the 2016 presidential election.

    Drudge Makes A Putin/Trump Connection

    Drudge has couched some of his stories about Putin with accompanying articles and headlines comparing his leadership style to that of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

    In December, Drudge highlighted a Financial Times piece that compared Putin to Trump using the text, “Russian president offers glimpse of strong leader.” This was paired with an article describing Putin as part of a “strongman revival” showing a “global trend.”

    During the Republican primaries, Drudge spotlighted a comment from Putin describing Donald Trump as a “very talented man.”

    Drudge Hypes Putin As A Strongman

    The Drudge Report has repeatedly highlighted stories focusing on Putin as a strong or tough world leader, often in a military context.

    The Drudge Report placed an above-the-fold link to a threat from Putin that he could use nuclear weapons against ISIS.

    Putin made it above-the-fold in a link to a Breitbart News article referring to ongoing negotiations over Syrian chemical weapons. The headline was “Hand ‘Em Over,” with a photo of Putin.

    Drudge hailed Putin for “flex[ing] muscle” as elections approached in Russia, bundling that link with others offering defenses of Putin against American criticism:

    Drudge gave above-fold treatment to a story asking if Russian airstrikes had killed the leader of ISIS (they hadn’t) with the headline “Did Putin Kill ISIS Leader?” The report linked did not name Putin or even reference Russian forces and their activities in the Middle East at the time. It appears Drudge invoked Putin’s involvement on his own.

    As Putin moved to annex Crimea, Drudge put the headline “Putin Promises ‘Aid’ For Ukraine” above-the-fold.

    As the annexation progressed, Drudge labeled the campaign as “Putin In Control.”

    Hailing Putin, Attacking Obama

    In addition to articles promoting Putin as a strongman, Drudge has also sought to use those stories as a contrast to President Obama and United States policy.

    When Putin wrote a New York Times op-ed questioning the concept of American exceptionalism, it was featured at the top of the Drudge Report.

    While linking to a New York Post story claiming that Obama has turned Putin into the most powerful leader in the world, Drudge used the headline “Red Planet: Putin Snubs Obama.”

    Drudge promoted a Chinese claim that “Putin Humiliated USA.”

    He also highlighted a story about a “Putin cafe” that “has Obama toilet paper.”

    Drudge linked to a story purporting to tell “how Putin beat Obama in Syria.” The original headline referred to “monstrous Putin,” but Drudge removed the adjective once he aggregated the story.

    After Russia engaged in airstrikes in Syria, Drudge juxtaposed a news link of that action with another story in which Putin called America “weak.”

    After the November 2015 terrorist attack in Paris, Drudge led his site with a headline asking if Putin would be the one to “rescue” the world from ISIS

    Defending Putin

    When Putin has been involved in international controversies, the Drudge Report has been a part of his administration’s pushback, often with links to official Russian news outlets, or those with state sponsorship.

    The Drudge Report highlighted a story from the state-financed Russian news outlet RT in which Putin claimed that he would neutralize a purported “missile shield threat” coming from America.

    When leaked files showing international efforts to move money offshore to avoid taxes referenced Putin, Drudge linked to an official denying Putin’s involvement.

    Putin Chronicler

    Drudge has also used his platform to chronicle Putin’s day-to-day activities as leader of Russia.

    He made a note of a Putin visit to Iran, which for some reason was featured above-the-fold.

    When Putin said he was considering running for a fourth presidential term, Drudge compared him to Stalin, and it was meant in a positive light.

    A story from the official Russian news agency Tass speculating that Elton John might meet with Putin while in Russia for a concert received a Drudge link.

    Drudge headlined photos of Putin working out “Ripped Putin Hits The Gym.”

    When Russian planes bombed targets in Syria, Drudge headlined the story above-the-fold as “Putin Blitz.”

    When world leaders attended a meeting of the G20 in Russia, Drudge posted photos of Putin greeting them along with the headline, “World Into The Arms of Putin.” He also wrote that “Obama shows up late -- and alone -- to dinner with Putin.”

    A story about the Russian Defense Ministry purchasing dolphins was paired with an article headlined “Fighter Jets Sent To Watch Putin.”

    An announcement that a state media agency in Russia was dissolving also made it above-the-fold on Drudge.

    Drudge linked to a report from the Russian news agency Tass about a meeting between Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping with a picture captioned “Putin Courts Xi.”

    When Putin played in a hockey game, that made the Drudge Report too.

    Drudge illustrated an ABC News story on Putin’s exercise regimen with a photo of the president.

    .

    Drudge took note of a Putin encounter with leopard cubs in Sochi, Russia.

    After the 2014 Olympics in Russia had concluded, Drudge put “Games Over: Putin Ready to Take Off Gloves?” above-the-fold.

     

  • A Timeline Of The AP’s Flawed Clinton Foundation Reporting

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN & OLIVER WILLIS

    The Associated Press has been criticized for an August 23 report and tweet that claimed more than half of the people outside government that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton met with while secretary of state gave to the Clinton Foundation. Some media figures claimed the report was “arguably misleading” and “took some interesting information they gathered and spun it into something it wasn’t,” and there was “near unanimous agreement” among journalists that the AP’s tweet was incorrect. Despite criticism and AP’s own admission that the tweet was “sloppy,” the AP has stood by the report and refused to take down the tweet.

  • What Is The “Alt-Right”? A Guide To The White Nationalist Movement Now Leading Conservative Media

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Over the last few months, the so-called “alt-right” has become one of the most prominent factions of the conservative media. The movement’s leading outlet is Breitbart News, whose chairman, Stephen Bannon, has just become the CEO of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

    In many ways the “alt-right” is a rebranding of classic white nationalism for the 21st century. As BuzzFeed described the movement: “In short, it’s white supremacy perfectly tailored for our times: 4chan-esque racist rhetoric combined with a tinge of Silicon Valley–flavored philosophizing, all riding on the coattails of the Trump boom.”

    The “alt-right” opposes diversity and immigration, arguing that those policies are a form of “white genocide.” It embraces racism, sexism, anti-Muslim bigotry, and anti-Semitism and sees its goal as usurping the traditional conservative movement, which it views as feckless and weak, in favor of a brand of nationalism.

    With the ascension of Trump, the “alt-right’s” chosen candidate, as the nominee of the Republican Party, its mission is all but accomplished.

    The following is a survey of the key concepts of the “alt-right,” the major figures and media outlets in the movement, and reaction to the "alt-right."

     

    Key Concepts

    “White Genocide”

    “Cuckservatives”

     

    Key Players

    Richard Spencer, The “Alt-Right’s” Racist Founder

    Stephen Bannon And Breitbart News

    Milo Yiannopoulos

    American Renaissance

    VDare.com

    The Daily Stormer

    The Political Cesspool

    The Right Stuff

    Mike Cernovich

     

    Reactions To The “Alt-Right”

    Traditional Conservative Pushback And Support

    Mainstreaming The “Alt-Right”

     

    Key Concepts

    “White Genocide”

    A popular concept with the "alt-right" is the idea of “white genocide,” a conspiracy theory claiming that efforts to increase diversity (often via immigration) are actually attempts to decrease the white population. The Anti-Defamation League notes that the alt-right favors “propaganda on subjects such as immigration and ‘black crime’ as ‘evidence’ of this ostensible ethnic cleansing of whites.”

    Conservative columnist Ann Coulter, a leading Trump supporter, has invoked this notion on her Twitter account, writing, “‘Diversity’ = nonwhite; ‘White supremacist’ = Not anti-white.” Coulter has also cited the work of the white nationalist site VDare.com and its editor, Peter Brimelow, in her anti-immigration book Adios America. The book has been praised and promoted by Trump.

    In January, Trump retweeted a post from a Twitter account with the handle “WhiteGenocideTM” and a feed that CNN.com described as “largely a collection of retweets about violence allegedly committed by African-American suspects and anti-Arab posts.” It was one of several instances of the candidate reposting material from white supremacists.

    The alt-right also launched a hashtag campaign on social media, #BoycottStarWarsVII, protesting the casting of African-American and female actors in the lead roles of the latest film in the George Lucas franchise. One Twitter user wrote, “#BoycottStarWarsVII because it is anti-white propaganda promoting #whitegenocide.” “The Force Awakens” went on to become the highest grossing domestic film of all time.

    Mother Jones noted that The Investigative Fund, a nonprofit that supports investigative reporting, conducted a Twitter analysis and found that “While only 5 percent of key influencers using the supremacist hashtag #whitegenocide follow the National Review, and 10 percent follow the Daily Caller, 31 percent follow Breitbart.”

    “Cuckservatives”

    The alt-right has branded conservatives who deviate from their racist and sexist message as “cuckservatives,” a melding of the words conservative and cuckold (the husband of an unfaithful wife). The New Republic explained, “The term has emerged out of the white supremacist movement as a term of abuse for white conservatives deemed race traitors unwilling to forthrightly defend the interests of white America.”

    National Review writer David French was attacked by alt-right supporters for having adopted an Ethiopian child. He notes that he was given a “‘Cucky’ award for adopting a black child.”

    Breitbart News defended “cuckservative” as “a gloriously effective insult,” while conservative radio host Erick Erickson said, “The people who use the term ‘cuckservative’ are racists, not conservative, and not Christian.”

    Key Players

    Richard Spencer, The Alt-Right’s Racist Founder

    The New Yorker reported that the term “alt-right” was coined by white nationalist Richard Spencer, who “described the movement in December as ‘an ideology around identity, European identity.’” The Anti-Defamation League described Spencer as “a symbol of a new generation of intellectual white supremacists” who “runs a variety of ventures that promote racist ideology.”

    Spencer has said, “There are races who, on average, are going to be superior.”

    Spencer is also the president of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist “think tank” that held an event at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., this March focused on Trump. He told the local CBS affiliate that Trump is “energizing” the white nationalist movement and argued, “He's fighting for us. He's saying we're going to be great again. We're going to win again. And there's this implicit identity to this. There's this implicit nationalism.”

    Spencer founded the white nationalist websites Alternative Right and Radix Journal. One writer at Alternative Right wrote that “low-IQ Mexican immigration is the greatest threat to America,” and that “we should be heartened that white teenage girls aren’t passing themselves around in black neighborhoods.”

    Stephen Bannon And Breitbart News

    Spencer said Breitbart News “has elective affinities with the Alt Right, and the Alt Right has clearly influenced Breitbart” and described the site as a “gateway” to that movement’s “ideas and writers.” He described Bannon’s new role in the Trump campaign as “a good thing” for white nationalists.

    Bannon told Mother Jones that Breitbart News is “the platform for the alt-right.”

    Bannon took over as chairman of Breitbart News after the death of founder Andrew Breitbart. The site has taken a rabidly anti-immigrant tone, often hyping “reports about crime involving immigrants, with headlines that sound like they came from tabloids” and attacking Republicans who favor immigration reform. Vox notes that “Breitbart essentially functioned as an anti-immigration pressure group, signaling to Republican leaders that any deviation on immigration would earn them the wrath of the base.”

    The site has also pushed a white nationalist viewpoint in articles on race and religion. It described the shooting of a white reporter and her white cameraman as a “race murder” and published an article titled “Political Correctness Protects Muslim Rape Culture.”

    Bannon wrote a column on the site accusing the “left” of engaging in a “plot to take down America” by focusing on police shootings of African-Americans. Breitbart also attacked Pope Francis for supporting refugee migration by invoking Camp of the Saints, a book described by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a novel that “depicts an invasion of France and the white Western world by a fleet of starving, dark-skinned refugees, characterized as horrific and uncivilized ‘monsters’ who will stop at nothing to greedily and violently seize what rightfully belongs to the white man.” SPLC notes that the novel is “a popular book in Alt-Right circles.”

    Milo Yiannopoulos

    Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos has made his mark as a stridently anti-feminist provocateur. He declared his birthday to be “World Patriarchy Day” and encouraged his followers to “cat-call at least five women” and to tell a woman, “This isn’t going to suck itself.” He attended a protest against sexual assault and held a sign that said, “'Rape culture' and Harry Potter. Both fantasy.”

    In a Breitbart piece on the "alt-right” he praised the movement for its “youthful energy and jarring, taboo-defying rhetoric that have boosted its membership and made it impossible to ignore.” He dismissed the movement’s racial undertones, writing, “the alt-right's young meme brigades shock older generations with outrageous caricatures, from the Jewish 'Shlomo Shekelburg' to 'Remove Kebab,' an internet in-joke about the Bosnian genocide.”

    Discussing Islam, Yiannopoulos said, “There is a structural problem with this religion that is preventing its followers from assimilating properly into Western culture. There is something profoundly antithetical to our values about this particular religion.”

    In July, Twitter permanently suspended Yiannopoulos’ account after he led a harassment campaign against actress Leslie Jones, who is African-American. As BuzzFeed reported, many of the tweets “decried Jones for being black and a woman.”

    American Renaissance

    American Renaissance is a white nationalist online magazine, published by Jared Taylor. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Taylor “believes black people are genetically predisposed to lower IQs” than white peoples and that black peoples “are sexually promiscuous because of hyperactive sex drives.” Taylor has appeared on talk shows to attack the legacy of civil rights pioneer Martin Luther King Jr.

    Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center describes Taylor as “the guy who is providing the intellectual heft, in effect, to modern-day Klansmen.”

    Taylor described himself as a Trump supporter and told ABC News, “Sending home all illegals -- the huge majority of whom are nonwhites -- and putting even a temporary halt on Muslim immigration are in the interests of whites, whether Trump thinks in those terms or not.” Taylor also recorded a pro-Trump robocall for a white nationalist super PAC. 

    American Renaissance also hosts conferences that have featured speakers including Richard Spencer and that are attended by white supremacists like former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke.

    VDare.com

    VDare.com is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as “an anti-immigration hate website” with a white nationalist ideology. SPLC adds that the site “regularly publishes articles by prominent white nationalists, race scientists and anti-Semites.” The site was founded by Peter Brimelow, who argued that his contributors are “not white supremacists” but “aim to defend the interests of American whites.” He also is the president of the VDare Foundation, “a nonprofit that warns against the polluting of America by non-whites, Catholics, and Spanish-speaking immigrants.”

    SPLC has pointed out that “Brimelow spent much of 2009 pounding the white nationalists message that the Republican Party would do better to spend its time attracting white voters rather than by reaching out to minorities.”

    Jared Taylor has contributed to VDare.com, where he wrote, “Our rulers and elites welcome replacement by aliens, they vilify our ancestors and their own, they sacrifice our interests to those of favored minorities, and they treat the entire history of the West as if it were a global plague of rapine and exploitation. This is a disease that is killing us, and we must fight it head on.”

    VDare.com was featured at the Republican National Convention when a tweet from the outlet was put on screen in the arena during the roll call vote for Trump’s presidential nomination.

    The Daily Stormer

    The neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, headed by Andrew Anglin, describes itself as “the world’s most visited alt-right web site.” The website regularly defends Adolf Hitler, attacks “kikes,” and has a section documenting the purported “Jewish Problem.”

    Anglin attacked a GQ reporter for a piece he deemed unfair to Melania Trump, telling his followers to “go ahead and send [the reporter] a tweet and let her know what you think of her dirty kike trickery.” She then received a barrage of anti-Semitic messages and death threats, which she described as “the most obscene, anti-Semitic stuff I have frankly ever seen directed at me in my life.”

    The Political Cesspool”

    “The Political Cesspool” is a white nationalist radio program hosted by James Edwards that wishes “to revive the White birthrate above replacement level fertility.” The show was given press credentials by Trump’s campaign for a Tennessee campaign rally and was given “all-access” credentials to the Republican National Convention, where the show interviewed a Trump adviser and Republican congressmen. Edwards also interviewed Trump’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., who  agreed with Edwards’ contention that the media is “the enforcer of political correctness.”

    The Right Stuff

    The Right Stuff is an anti-Semitic blog with an affiliated podcast called The Daily Shoah. The site is run by Mike Enoch, who has said the core principle of the “alt-right” is “ethno-nationalism, meaning that nations should be as ethnically and racially homogeneous as possible.”

    The site created a meme called the “parenthesis meme” in which Jewish names are surrounded by parentheses, often in order to target them for online abuse on social media: “(((name)))”

    According to the Right Stuff’s editors, this was done because “all Jewish surnames echo throughout history.” They add: “The inner parenthesis represent the Jews' subversion of the home [and] destruction of the family through mass-media degeneracy. The next [parenthesis] represents the destruction of the nation through mass immigration, and the outer [parenthesis] represents international Jewry and world Zionism."

    The Anti-Defamation League has added the symbol to its online database of hate symbols. According to CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, “The echo symbol is the online equivalent of tagging a building with anti-Semitic graffiti or taunting someone verbally.”

    Enoch said Breitbart “is the closest thing to sympathetic to our position that is out there in the mainstream.”

    Mike Cernovich

    Mike Cernovich is an “alt-right” activist who operates the website Danger & Play.

    The site publishes numerous articles, essays, and audio recordings that attack feminists, "SJWs," (social justice warriors) and disputes the validity of date rape claims. Some headlines from Danger & Play include "Matriarchy has Created a False Rape Culture" and "Feminists Don't Care About Rape."

    On his Twitter accounts, Cernovich has dismissed the possibility of date rape, writing, “the hotter the sex, the more closely it resembles rape,” “the only rape culture is Muslim rape culture,” and asking “why should I care when women are raped?”

    Cernovich has promoted the false rumor that Hillary Clinton is suffering from health problems and also promoted a long-debunked conspiracy theory that Clinton aide Huma Abedin is affiliated with Islamic radicals.

    Reactions To The “Alt-Right”

    Traditional Conservative Pushback And Support

    Traditional conservative outlets and figures have pushed back some on the “alt-right” movement.

    Conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat described the “alt-right” as “racist pro-Trump Twitter accounts and anti-P.C. provocateurs.” The Federalist wrote that it’s “a mix of old bigotries and new identity and victimhood politics adapted for the straight white male.” In National Review, David French wrote of the “alt-right”: “Many of them are unapologetically white-nationalists, hate interracial adoption and other ‘race-mixing’ practices, and think about the issue of immigration primarily, if not exclusively, in racial terms.”

    A contributor to Spencer’s Alternative Right site, Jason Richwine, co-authored an immigration report at the conservative Heritage Foundation, which later disavowed him when writings he had made mocking the IQs of Latinos surfaced. Breitbart has recently highlighted Richwine’s work, and Bannon praised him on his radio show.

    The alt-right has also found some support from mainstream conservative outlets. After conservative writer Ben Shapiro described the “alt-right” as a “national, populist movement that is shot through with white supremacism” and "anti-Semitism," Fox News correspondent Doug McKelway defended the movement by claiming it’s “much more” than that.

    Similarly, last year Rush Limbaugh told a caller who spoke about the “alt-right” movement in Europe, “There is a thriving youthful conservative emergence happening in this country. They may be borrowing from what’s going on in Europe.”

    Mainstreaming The “Alt-Right”

    The cumulative effect of the rising popularity of “alt-right” media on the right, along with Bannon’s position leading the Trump campaign, means that a movement that was recently on the fringe is becoming central to conservative politics.

    The Washington Post reports that Trump’s decision to hire Bannon was the latest sign for white nationalists that “their worldview was gaining popularity and that the old Republican Party was coming to an end.” The paper added  that Trump’s electoral “strategy now resembles the alt-right dream of maximizing the white vote — even as polling shows his standing with white voters falls short of Mitt Romney’s in 2012.”

  • Sean Hannity Has Given Donald Trump $31 Million In Free Publicity

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS, CARLOS MAZA & BEN DIMIERO

    Fox News host Sean Hannity, who has been informally advising Donald Trump’s presidential campaign while serving as its primary media cheerleader, has effectively turned his nightly prime-time show into Trump’s second campaign headquarters. According to a Media Matters analysis, Hannity’s program has given Trump what amounts to more than $31 million in free advertising in the form of dozens of fawning interviews with the candidate since Trump declared his candidacy in June 2015.

    Hannity has devoted just over 22 hours of airtime to broadcasting interviews with Trump since the launch of Trump’s campaign. That airtime is worth more than $31 million according to advertising value calculated by media monitoring service iQ Media. That coverage includes 51 original interviews and over a dozen re-airings of previously aired interviews. This year alone, Hannity has aired thirteen and a half hours of Trump interviews, four and a half hours of which have come since Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropped out of the Republican primary in early May, effectively ending the race.

    IQ Media uses Nielsen data to determine the viewership of a given program and price data for advertising from Sqad to come up with an equivalent advertising rate.

    These numbers only count the amount of time Hannity spent airing interviews featuring Donald Trump -- they do not include the countless time Hannity spends carrying the Trump campaign's water without the candidate present, including similarly fawning interviews with Trump family members, surrogates, and supporters.

    Hannity has repeatedly faced criticism for his obsequious Trump coverage, including from conservatives who have mocked Hannity for his “slavish” Trump cheerleading and accused him of hosting a “nightly infomercial” for Trump’s campaign.

    According to a previous Media Matters study, Hannity devoted far more airtime to interviews with Trump than with any of his 16 Republican presidential primary opponents. Just before dropping out of the race, Cruz complained that Rupert Murdoch and former network head Roger Ailes had “turned Fox News into the Donald Trump network.”

    New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg recently reported that, in addition to serving as “Trump’s biggest media booster,” Hannity has “for months peppered Mr. Trump, his family members and advisers with suggestions on strategy and messaging.” Hannity defended himself by telling the Times that he’s “never claimed to be a journalist” and that he is “not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States.”

    Hannity’s efforts to promote Trump's candidacy aren't ending anytime soon -- he’s slated to host the second half of a two-hour Trump town hall tonight.

    Methodology

    Media Matters used iQ Media to ascertain the monetary value of Donald Trump's appearances on Hannity from May 1, 2015-August 23, 2016. The study includes all original appearances in Hannity’s usual 10 p.m. EST time slot -- repeat and reaired appearances were counted if they aired on a new day between 6 a.m. and midnight (overnight reairings of Hannity were not included). Trump interviews during early morning post-debate Hannity specials were counted. Interviews with Hannity guest hosts and guest interviewers were included if they aired on the program.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko.

  • Why Is C-SPAN Giving Roger Stone A Platform To Peddle Conspiracy Theories?

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    C-SPAN is set to air a Newsmakers interview with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s longtime ally Roger Stone that gives Stone a friendly platform to promote Trump’s candidacy and float his conspiracy theory that the election may be “rigged” in favor of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

    C-SPAN is elevating Stone despite his long history of pushing conspiracy theories and making incendiary comments. In just the past two weeks, Stone has alleged that the Clintons orchestrated the recent murders of several people and claimed that Clinton aide Huma Abedin is a “terrorist agent” who married a Jewish man (Anthony Weiner) as “cover.”

    Wall Street Journal reporter Monica Langley, Politico’s Alex Isenstadt, and C-SPAN host Greta Wodele Brawner spoke to Stone on C-SPAN’s Newsmakers in an interview that C-SPAN posted online ahead of its August 21 airing.

    In the course of the interview, the journalists asked Stone about several issues surrounding the campaign, including campaign strategy, Trump’s approach toward the presidential debates, the candidate’s leadership style, and Stone’s repeated criticism of former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

    Langley asked Stone, “One thing that Trump and you have alleged frequently is that this election could be ‘rigged.’ Why do you say that, and do you think that’s a dangerous thing to be saying for a democracy?” Stone responded, “Actually, it’s a dangerous thing to not be saying.” He then suggested that polls are currently being intentionally “inflate[d]” to favor Clinton in order to lay the groundwork for electronic voting machines to be rigged to “reflect that outcome.” After Stone proffered his conspiracy theory, the questioners just shifted to discussing recent changes in Trump’s campaign staff.  

    Stone’s other conspiracy theories were not referenced at all. Along with his claim that the Clintons are responsible for multiple murders (including John F. Kennedy, Jr.), he has argued that Lyndon Johnson had John F. Kennedy killed, and that the Bush family tried to have President Ronald Reagan assassinated.

    Newsmakers also ignored the series of racist and sexist tweets that spurred CNN and MSNBC to ban Stone from appearing on air. The interviewers also did not bring up his tweets advocating the execution of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

  • Manafort Departure Leaves Roger Stone With Egg On His Face

    Stone On Wednesday: “Manafort’s Not Going Anywhere”

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Roger Stone, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s longtime friend and adviser, repeatedly lashed out at media outlets for reporting that recent campaign hires amounted to a “shake-up” that might have an impact on chairman Paul Manafort’s role with the campaign. Stone said earlier this week that “Manafort’s not going anywhere," but Manafort, who is Stone’s friend and former business partner, announced his resignation from the campaign this morning.

    On Wednesday, the Trump campaign announced that Steve Bannon had been hired as the campaign CEO and Kellyanne Conway would take on the role of campaign manager. Numerous media outlets reported on the move as a “shake-up” of the campaign’s leadership

    The New York Times reported of Manafort's resignation:

    Mr. Manafort left nearly a week after a New York Times report about problems within the Republican presidential nominee’s campaign helped precipitate a leadership shake-up. His departure reflects repeated efforts to steady a campaign that has been frequently roiled by the unpredictable behavior of its tempestuous first-time candidate.

    Mr. Manafort was also dogged by reports about secretive efforts he made to help the former pro-Russian government in Ukraine, where he has worked on and off over several years.

    Prior to Manafort’s departure, Stone was lashing out at media outlets like The New York Times for describing the new hires as a “shake-up,” claiming that reporters were being spun by former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. 

    For example, in an appearance on WIOD’s Fernand Amandi Show on Wednesday, Stone said that claims that Manafort had been demoted “may be the Corey Lewandowski spin, but it’s just not accurate. Manafort’s not going anywhere. Spoke to him this morning, he’s very pleased with this expansion.”

    On Newsmax TV’s Steve Malzberg Show, Stone said, “The mainstream media interpretation that this is somehow a demotion for Paul Manafort -- that was actually removed from the later editions of the New York Times story because it isn’t true. I recognize that the ousted and now disgraced campaign manager Corey Lewandowski – really an advance man – continues to spin this. But I don’t understand why he thinks that is helpful to the campaign.”

    After calling Lewandowski a “loser,” who was replaced by “an adult,” Stone added, “I see this as an expansion of the campaign. I don’t think anybody was demoted, and it’s not a ‘shake-up’ because shake-up means that someone lost their job, and no one has lost their job. The team remains intact. [Paul] Manafort, [Tony] Fabrizio, [Kellyanne] Conway, [Steve] Bannon. This is an all-star lineup.”

    Appearing on The Alex Jones Show, Stone said Bannon was “not replacing Paul Manafort,” adding, “This isn’t a shake-up, it’s an expansion.” Jones agreed and said Bannon was “augmenting things.” After news of Manafort’s departure broke, Stone reportedly told Mic, “There is an easy explanation for this: Manafort became concerned that the contrived and unfounded attacks by him, all peddled by the Clinton spin machine, would become a distraction and fuel the whole Russia-Trump-Putin-Manafort narrative of the Clintons.” He added, "Manafort did what Corey Lewandowski should have done when he was accused of manhandling a woman: He stepped aside. That's a pro."