Oliver Willis

Author ››› Oliver Willis
  • The Men Behind Trump’s Attacks On Clinton Marriage Have A History Of Sexual Harassment, Spousal Abuse, And Marital Infidelity

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Trump, Ailes, Gingrich

    Republican presidential nominee Donald  Trump’s campaign is circulating talking points that instruct his supporters and campaign surrogates to attack Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton over Bill Clinton’s marital infidelity. If the media is going to report on those claims they should also note that Trump and his closest advisers are profoundly poor messengers for those claims.

    According to CNN, one talking point says, “Hillary Clinton bullied and smeared women like Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky.” Another reads, “Are you blaming Hillary for Bill's infidelities? No, however, she's been an active participant in trying to destroy the women who has (sic) come forward with a claim.”

    Politico reported that after the Republican nominee’s poor performance in the presidential debate, “threats emanated from Trump Tower on Tuesday that the Republican nominee was preparing to name-check Bill Clinton’s mistresses -- alleged or otherwise.”

    Yet Trump and several of his campaign’s top staffers, allies, and surrogates have episodes of marital infidelity, sexual harassment, and alleged spousal abuse in their pasts, making them hypocritical messengers for this particular type of attack.

    Trump and his allies have also directly attacked Clinton on this topic.

    Trump himself has previously described former President Clinton as “one of the great woman abusers of all time,” and he said Hillary Clinton “went after the women very, very strongly and very viciously.” He also praised himself for not referencing the topic during the September 26 presidential debate, claiming, “I'm really happy I was able to hold back on the indiscretions in respect to Bill Clinton. Because I have a lot of respect for Chelsea Clinton.”

    Newt Gingrich praised Trump for not bringing up the issue during the debate: “He thought about it, and I’m sure he said to himself, ‘a president of the United States shouldn’t attack somebody personally when their daughter is sitting in the audience.’” He added, “And he bit his tongue, and he was a gentleman, and I thought in many ways that was the most important moment of the whole evening. He proved that he had the discipline to remain as a decent guy even when she was disgusting.”

    Rudy Giuliani said, “The president of the United States, her husband, disgraced this country with what he did in the Oval Office and she didn’t just stand by him, she attacked Monica Lewinsky. And after being married to Bill Clinton for 20 years, if you didn’t know the moment Monica Lewinsky said that Bill Clinton violated her that she was telling the truth, then you’re too stupid to be president.”

    CNN’s Jake Tapper pointed out the problem with this line of attack on the September 29 edition of The Lead. “It doesn’t seem to me that Donald Trump, whose extramarital exploits filled tabloid after tabloid in the ‘80s and ‘90s and more has really that much of a moral high ground when it comes to the question of his rival’s husband’s infidelity.” Noting the role of Roger Ailes, Stephen Bannon, Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich in furthering the story, Tapper said Trump is “surrounded by a philanderer’s club,” and asked, “Why would any of these people have any leg to stand on when it comes to this sort of thing?”

    Donald Trump

    Trump

    Trump’s first wife, Ivana, filed for divorce after news surfaced that he was having an affair with Marla Maples. In court documents she accused Trump of “cruel and inhuman treatment.” Discussing the affair with Vanity Fair, Trump said, “When a man leaves a woman, especially when it was perceived that he has left for a piece of ass—a good one!—there are 50 percent of the population who will love the woman who was left.”

    Trump later married Maples, then they divorced four years later. He married his current wife, Melania, in 2005.

    Temple Taggart, a contestant in the Miss USA pageant that Trump owned, said he introduced himself to her by kissing her “directly on the lips,” adding, “I think there were a few other girls that he kissed on the mouth. I was like ‘Wow, that’s inappropriate.’”

    Jill Harth worked with Trump on a beauty pageant in the 1990s and later accused him of engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior in the course of doing business with her. She said when she first met Trump, he asked her boyfriend, “‘Are you sleeping with her?’ Meaning me. And George looked a little shocked and he said, ‘Well, yeah.’ And he goes, ‘Well, for the weekend or what?’”

    In a deposition, Harth said Trump groped her under a table, and she said, “This was a very traumatic thing working for him.”

    Executives at the Trump Organization told The New York Times that Trump “occasionally interrupted routine discussions of business to opine on women’s figures.” According to Barbara Res, who worked as Trump’s head of construction, he once told her out of the blue that women in Marina del Rey “take care of their asses.”

    Recently asked by USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers how he would feel if his daughter were subjected to sexual harassment at her place of business, he said, “I would like to think she would find another career or find another company if that was the case.”

    Roger Ailes

    Ailes

    Fox News founder and former chairman Roger Ailes has been advising the Trump campaign, and he helped prepare the candidate for the presidential debate.

    Ailes was forced out at Fox News after former anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the network, alleging that she was pushed out of Fox after rebuffing his advances. According to The New York Times, Carlson recorded conversations with Ailes over the course of a year and a half. Carlson told the Times that in “between six and 10” of those conversations, Ailes made inappropriate comments.

    Since Carlson’s lawsuit became public, at least 25 other women have come forward to accuse Ailes of sexually harassing them. The Washington Post reported, “Interviews with four of those women portray the 76-year-old television powerhouse as a man who could be routinely crude and inappropriate, ogling young women, commenting about their breasts and legs, and fostering a macho, insensitive culture.”

    21st Century Fox (the parent company of Fox News) eventually paid Carlson a settlement of $20 million and issued a statement that said, “We sincerely regret and apologize for the fact that Gretchen was not treated with the respect and dignity that she and all of our colleagues deserve.”

    Former Fox News director of booking Laurie Luhn told the law firm investigating the sexual harassment allegations against Ailes that he had harassed her for over 20 years. She described the experience as “psychological torture” to New York magazine, and she called Ailes “a predator.”

    Luhn recalled that after she met with Ailes about a position as an office manager, he took her to dinner and then as she drove him to the airport, “We pull up and I say, ‘Thank you so much for dinner.’ He leans over and slips me the tongue and kisses me.” Luhn said he then handed her a wad of cash.

    He put her on retainer to do what he described as “research,” then had her dress in lingerie and dance for him in a hotel room. Luhn said Ailes “asked her to perform oral sex,” then told her he would put a video recording of the encounter in a “safe-deposit box just so we understand each other.” Luhn said after that she regularly met Ailes in hotels for sexual encounters.

    He later hired Luhn at Fox News and she became what one colleague described to New York as a “protected person,” while others said it was known that Ailes -- who is married -- was involved with her.

    Luhn said she was instructed by Ailes to recruit young women for him, saying, “You’re going to find me ‘Roger’s Angels.’ You’re going to find me whores.”

    Luhn said she had a series of mental breakdowns that she attributes to her experience with Ailes and that she was even hospitalized for a time as a result.

    As her condition worsened, he moved her from Washington, D.C., to New York so he could monitor her. He demanded that she show him all of the emails she received and said he had to approve her outgoing messages after he would “dictate exactly” how she should respond.

    She eventually alleged sexual harassment and then left Fox after agreeing to a $3.15 million settlement. As part of the deal, she signed a nondisclosure agreement with the network that barred her from going to court against the network or speaking to government agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the FBI.

    Stephen Bannon

    Bannon

    Stephen Bannon is the CEO of the Trump campaign and is on a leave of absence from his job as the chairman of the “alt-right” Breitbart News.

    In 1996, Bannon was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, battery and dissuading a witness. Politico reported that a Santa Monica, CA, police report “says that Bannon’s then-wife claimed he pulled at her neck and wrist during an altercation over their finances, and an officer reported witnessing red marks on her neck and wrist to bolster her account.” The report also said Bannon “reportedly smashed the phone when she tried to call the police.”

    The police report also contained an allegation of past abuse from Bannon: “In the beginning of their relationship, she said they [had] 3 or 4 argument that became physical and they had been going to counseling.”

    The case ended when Bannon’s ex-wife did not appear in court and Bannon pleaded “not guilty” to the allegations. A few months after, she filed to dissolve their marriage.

    Rudy Giuliani

    Giuliani

    Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is a Trump campaign surrogate.

    In 2000, Giuliani announced that he was separating from his then-wife Donna Hanover and, as The New York Times reported, “Ms. Hanover, caught unaware, then said that the couple's troubles began years ago because of a previous relationship between the mayor and a member of his staff.”

    The Times reported that Hanover’s press secretary said the staff member was Cristyne Lategano-Nicholas, and “Friends of Ms. Hanover's said yesterday that she had described the relationship between her husband and Ms. Lategano-Nicholas as intimate while Ms. Lategano-Nicholas worked at City Hall.”

    That same year, the news broke that Giuliani was having an affair with Judith Nathan. At taxpayer expense, Nathan received chauffeur service from the New York Police Department, as well as police protection. Giuliani and Hanover filed for divorce, and he later married Nathan, who is his current wife.

    Newt Gingrich

    Gingrich

    Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) is a Trump campaign surrogate.

    The New York Times reported that Gingrich said of his first wife, Jacqueline Battley, when filing for divorce, “She's not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of a President. And besides, she has cancer.”

    The Times reported that after the divorce, despite the couple having children together, she “filed court papers saying he had not provided reasonable support for her living expenses and that some of her accounts were ‘two or three months past due.’”

    Gingrich remarried, and then had an affair with his congressional aide Callista Bisek, who is his current wife.

  • How The Trump Campaign Is Embracing Dirty Trickster Roger Stone’s Playbook

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Trump, Stone

    Donald Trump and his campaign are signaling a shift toward an election strategy laid out by conspiracy theorist, dirty trickster, and informal Trump adviser Roger Stone.

    For months, Stone has pushed for Trump to invoke the Clintons’ supposed “war on women,” and both the candidate and campaign staffers have been making the rounds this week indicating that they plan to do so.

    Stone heads a pro-Trump super PAC and previously served as a paid consultant to Trump’s campaign. He has been a key promoter of Trump’s candidacy in the media, particularly on the radio and internet program of 9/11 conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

    Stone himself is an ardent conspiracy theorist. He recently floated the theory that the Clintons had four people murdered over the summer, which dovetails with his previously stated claim that the couple is “plausibly responsible” for the deaths of roughly 40 people. Stone has also alleged that the Bush family “tried to kill” President Ronald Reagan, that President Lyndon Johnson was behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and that the father of Senator Ted Cruz was involved in the killing as well – a theory that was pushed by Donald Trump.

    Stone said he had doubts that Clinton would have the stamina to do an entire 90-minute debate and claimed she was wearing an earpiece during NBC's candidate forum because she “clearly has no memory.” He also claimed Clinton was placed on an oxygen tank immediately after the recent presidential debate and “has some advanced form of epilepsy.”

    Former Trump adviser Michael Caputo, guest hosting on the September 25 edition of WBEN’s Hardline, said he “heard more than one time Donald Trump say” that Stone’s book The Clintons’ War on Women “is his opposition research on the Clintons.” He added that  Trump “has it on his desk.”

    The book, co-authored by fellow conspiracy theorist Robert Morrow, describes itself as a guide to “how Bill and Hillary Clinton systematically abused women and others -- sexually, physically, and psychologically -- in their scramble for power and wealth.”

    Morrow is also a discredited researcher. He has a history of bizarre sexual writings about Hillary Clinton and the Clinton family. Morrow also relishes tweeting the slur “nigger” and was ousted as the chair of the Travis County, TX, Republican Party by “party officials who found him a perpetual embarrassment.”

    Previously, Trump has promoted Morrow and Stone’s book on his Twitter account. In January, after claiming that Bill Clinton was “one of the great woman abusers of all time," Trump cited Stone’s book for his claim that Hillary Clinton "went after the women very, very strongly and very viciously, according to the women and according to other sources."

    Following his poorly received performance in Monday night’s debate, Trump appears ready to again follow Stone’s advice. Politico reported that “threats emanated from Trump Tower on Tuesday that the Republican nominee was preparing to name-check Bill Clinton’s mistresses — alleged or otherwise.”

    Immediately after the debate, Trump told the media, “I'm really happy I was able to hold back on the indiscretions in respect to Bill Clinton. Because I have a lot of respect for Chelsea Clinton.” He added, “Maybe I'll tell you at the next debate. We'll see. But I'm very happy.”

    Top Trump campaign surrogate and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said, “The president of the United States, her husband, disgraced this country with what he did in the Oval Office and she didn’t just stand by him, she attacked Monica Lewinsky. And after being married to Bill Clinton for 20 years, if you didn’t know the moment Monica Lewinsky said that Bill Clinton violated her that she was telling the truth, then you’re too stupid to be president.”

    Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie appeared on Fox & Friends and said, “I think that if you look at Hillary Clinton's background and if you look at her being an enabler, really, in the '90s and really attacking these women, it goes against everything that she now tries to spout as a candidate for president.”

    Eric Trump, the nominee’s son, lauded his father’s “courage” for not bringing up Lewinsky during the debate during a radio appearance.

    The Stone-influenced strategy comes at the same time the Trump campaign is also reportedly receiving advice from Fox News founder and former chairman Roger Ailes, who was ousted from the network after former anchor Gretchen Carlson accused him of sexual harassment and sued him. Soon after, at least 25 women came forward, making very similar allegations about Ailes’ behavior over multiple decades. Recent reports indicate that after the debate debacle, Ailes’ role with the Trump campaign may be expanded.

  • Breitbart Slammed For “Anti-Semitic” Attack On Washington Post Columnist Anne Applebaum

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Breitbart

    A Breitbart News column attacking Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum is being criticized for, in the words of one critic, going “full anti-Semite.”

    Stephen Bannon, who took a temporary leave of absence as chairman of Breitbart News to work as the Trump campaign’s chief executive, described the site as “the platform for the alt-right.” The “alt-right” is a rebranding of the white nationalist movement, and a part of the conservative movement that opposes immigration and embraces racism, sexism, anti-Muslim bigotry, and anti-Semitism.

    The column, written by Matthew Tyrmand, who is Jewish, describes Applebaum as a “Washington Post columnist and political revisionist” who is “on the warpath against the rising populist forces doing electoral damage to her establishment friends and allies across the world.” Discussing Applebaum, Tyrmand adds, “hell hath no fury like a Polish, Jewish, American elitist scorned.”

    Applebaum criticized the Breitbart.com piece for being “full of obvious falsehoods, bizarre claims and convoluted chronology,” adding, “but the alt-right doesn't believe in fact-checking either.”

    The piece has been condemned by several writers and columnists on Twitter, some of them from conservative outlets.

    New York Post columnist John Podhoretz said the column was “disgusting” and described Matthew Tyrmand as a “foul, rotten human being.”

    Tablet Magazine’s Yair Rosenberg said, “Breitbart goes full anti-Semite,” and later wrote, “Today’s anti-Semitic Breitbart eruption is a reminder that a vote for Trump is a vote for mainstreaming anti-Semites.”

    Wall Street Journal opinion writer Sohrab Ahmari said Breitbart “goes full Daily Stormer,” a reference to the notoriously anti-Semitic white nationalist website. He also said, “Breitbart is increasingly indistinguishable from outlets on the white-power fringe.”

    Columnist Jamie Kirchick described the column as an “anti-Semitic attack” and “anti-Semitic filth.”

    Commentary’s Ben Cohen said the piece was an “anti-Semitic screed” in a “Nazi rag.”

  • Lewandowski Has CNN Blessing To Work With Trump, Says He Needs Approval To Answer Our Questions

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Lewandowski

    Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski refused to answer questions from Media Matters about the ongoing payments he is receiving from the Trump campaign while he serves as a CNN contributor, claiming he can’t answer media questions without network approval. While CNN apparently won’t let Lewandowski talk to the press, the network doesn’t seem to mind him continuing to coordinate with and advise the Trump campaign.

    Media Matters president Bradley Beychok approached Lewandowski at the site of the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY, and questioned him about the monthly payments he has been receiving from the campaign.

    In response, Lewandowski said, “You’ve got to talk to CNN because I can’t do any media without getting their approval. So if you can check in with those guys, that’d be great.”

    Asked if he believed there was a conflict of interest in his role, where he is doing political commentary on Trump’s presidential campaign while still being paid by them, Lewandowski again referred questions to CNN.

    CNN’s continued employment of Lewandowski runs contrary to their previously stated policy that a person being “paid” by a campaign “would not be permitted to be a CNN contributor.”

    In the Trump campaign’s most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission, it was revealed that Lewandowski’s company Green Monster Consulting LLC received $20,000 for “strategy consulting.” That payment was made in August, while Lewandowski was hired by CNN in June. The campaign has claimed the payments to Lewandowski are for “severance,” but did not explain to the New York Times “why the payments were not described as severance to the F.E.C.”

    While he serves as a CNN contributor and continues to draw a monthly 5-figure payday from the campaign, Lewandowski has continued to work with Trump -- he was reportedly involved in helping to prepare the Republican nominee for this week’s debate.

    On the same day he declined to answer Media Matters’ questions, Lewandowski appeared on CNN and blamed debate moderator Lester Holt for Trump’s poor performance in the event.

    CNN should cut its ties with Lewandowski immediately.

  • 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.