Conservative media appear to be drafting Donald Trump's talking points.
It's been one month since the real estate mogul officially entered the Republican primary, after years of using regular Fox News appearances to promote previously-elusive presidential ambitions and push absurd conspiracies. In that time, Trump has already managed to prominently trumpet at least four right-wing media myths to explain his positions on the economy, immigration, gun safety, and the presidency, launching the long-debunked claims back into the spotlight.
Trump exaggerated the nation's unemployment rate by nearly 800 percent during a Fox News appearance on July 15, telling Sean Hannity that unemployed, impoverished Americans are "very important," and declaring: "Somebody actually last week said we have a 40 percentunemployment, so I've been saying 19 - 21 percent, but somebody actually came out last week and said we have a 40 percent, and they might very well be right."
Just a couple weeks ago, Rush Limbaugh repeatedly claimed that "the actual unemployment rate in the United States of America is not 5.5 percent ... It is 42.9 percent," citing a blog written by former Reagan official David Stockman.
According to the Bureau Of Labor Statistics, notably, June's unemployment rate stood at 5.3 percent.
Last week, Trump tripled the U.S.' undocumented immigrant population during a July 8 interview on CNN's The Lead, claiming, "We have 34 million [undocumented immigrants] in the country. I used to hear 11, now I hear it's 34 million." The real number of undocumented immigrants is nearly 20 million less -- experts confirm that the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. actually hovers around 11 million, according to a Washington Post analysis that compared Census, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Pew Research Center data.
Trump appears to have relied on a year-old, long-debunked report from conservative website Breitbart.com. In 2014, Breitbart.com misrepresented a contracting bid the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for card stock to print a maximum of 34 million green cards and work authorization cards over a five year period, spinning the listing to claim the Obama administration was preparing a massive "executive amnesty." Neither of these cards are specific to undocumented immigrants. And as The Hill explained at the time, not only is such a contracting bid "typical," these cards are for use by immigrants who have been legally granted permanent residency and "a single recipient could receive up to five work permits over the life of the contract." Because this is not, in fact, an estimate of the undocumented population, both the White House and USCIS called suggestions that it was a "precursor" to the president's executive action on immigration "crazy" and "too clever."
Discussing his views on gun safety regulations in a July 7 interview with Ammoland.com, Trump revived conservative media's false claim that former President Bill Clinton banned guns on military bases. He asserted that "President Clinton never should have passed a ban on soldiers being able to protect themselves on bases."
Trump's misinformation originated from conservative media's attempt to blame Clinton for the 2013 mass shooting at Washington D.C.'s Navy Yard facility, seizing on a March 1993 Army regulation they claimed banned the carrying of guns on military bases. In fact, the 1993 regulation came from a 1992 directive issued under former President George H.W. Bush -- which actually allows guns to be carried on military bases under a substantial number of circumstances. Military experts have said more permissive gun carrying rules are a bad idea.
Trump is even still pushing perhaps the most infamous conservative media myth of the Obama presidency -- birtherism. "I really don't know" where President Obama was born, Trump declared in a July 9 interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, an accusation that follows years of the candidate teaming up with Fox News to push the absurd conspiracy theories that Obama had not released a valid birth certificate and may have been hiding the fact that he was not born in America.
The pervasiveness of right-wing media talking points in Trump's positions is not surprising given that he's been a Fox News fixture for years. He reportedly met with Fox president Roger Ailes before announcing his presidential candidacy, and since then, the network has only increased his exposure. In Media Matters' most recent study of appearances by likely and declared Republican presidential candidates on the network, Trump topped the entire field in airtime. During the month of June, Trump appeared on Fox 10 times, racking up 1 hour and 48 minutes of airtime, 23 minutes more than his nearest competitor, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Since the beginning of May, Trump has the most airtime of any of the candidates.
In a report on the Murdoch restructure of Fox News' parent company, Fox's Howard Kurtz glazed over the 2011 phone hacking controversy that implicated the Murdoch family in England -- a stark contrast to Kurtz's critical reporting of how Fox News avoided coverage of the scandal while he worked for CNN.
Rupert Murdoch is reportedly planning to step down as CEO of Fox News' parent company 21st Century Fox. According to CNBC, Murdoch's son James will take over as CEO and son Lachlan will assume the role of "executive co-chairman" of the company in coordination with their father. James Murdoch previously resigned his role as the head of News International -- which published several tabloids and newspapers abroad -- amid the widespread scandal over phone hacking at News of the World, a since-shuttered UK tabloid he oversaw. As part of the fallout from that scandal, Murdoch also resigned his position as chairman of UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
On the June 14 edition of Fox News' Media Buzz, host Howard Kurtz used news of the company restructuring as an opportunity to highlight Rupert Murdoch's career, praising him for bringing "huge changes to the media landscape," including "conquering the world of British newspapers, revolutionizing TV sports here in the states, launching the fourth American broadcast network, and of course building a hugely successful and profitable cable news network." To highlight Murdoch's influence, Kurtz added that "when something goes wrong like the phone hacking scandal at the now defunct News of the World, he gets the blame."
Kurtz's report glazing over Murdoch's involvement in the phone hacking scandal and mentioning it only as a way to highlight the former CEO's influence stands in stark contrast to the way Fox's media critic covered the scandal while working for CNN.
In July 2011, as the host of CNN's Reliable Sources, Kurtz criticized Fox News for underplaying coverage of Murdoch's phone hacking scandal which involved Fox's then-parent company News Corp., and said that news networks that avoid covering their own controversies create "a double standard" and "undermine your credibility":
KURTZ: I feel very strongly about this. I mean, we do it on this program all the time when CNN has controversy, I always cover it. And otherwise, what you're signaling to viewers is there's a double standard. We're only aggressive when some other organization is in trouble. And I think that can undermine your credibility.
Kurtz has made a habit of ignoring controversies related to Fox News during his employment at the network, despite promising to bring an "independent brand of media criticism" to Fox.
Fox News' Chris Wallace cast doubt on the fact that many journalists have donated to the Clinton Foundation, asking to see a list for proof while ignoring the fact that the co-chief operating officer of the parent company of his own network donated money to the Clinton Foundation.
After ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos disclosed charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation "in support of the work they're doing on global AIDS prevention and deforestation," media falsely equated donations to the Foundation with contributions to a Democratic political campaign, ignoring the fact that the Foundation's work is expressly nonpartisan, and has been supported by numerous Republicans and conservative media figures.
On the May 17 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, host Wallace expressed skepticism that "lots of journalists gave money" to the Clinton Foundation after Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers asserted the Clinton campaign "is making a point of" noting donations made by journalists, adding that he'd "like [to see] that list."
But the non-profit arm of Fox News' then-parent company donated to the Clinton Foundation. The News Corp. Foundation, the charitable arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which at the time was the parent company of Fox News, donated between $500,001 to $1,000,000 to the foundation. James R. Murdoch, the co-chief operating officer of Fox News' current parent company, 21st Century Fox, and son of Rupert Murdoch, donated between $1,000,001 to $5,000,000.
Fox News is outraged that an ABC News anchor waited to disclose charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation, despite the network's marked history of failing to disclosure its pundits' political and financial conflicts of interest.
Fox News worried over the country's crumbling infrastructure following an Amtrak derailment, ignoring their own role in cheerleading persistent Republican efforts to obstruct investments in rebuilding infrastructure.
An Amtrak train bound for New York City crashed May 13 in Philadelphia, leaving at least six dead and over a hundred injured. Speed is being investigated as a possible factor in the crash, though an official cause is not yet known.
Speculating on possible causes for the deadly crash, Fox News' Fox & Friends decried the country's crumbling infrastructure. Co-host Steve Doocy asserted that "infrastructure in this country is falling apart," while former New York City mayor and frequent Fox guest Rudy Giuliani added "We do know for sure, whether it is the cause or not, that the infrastructure in this country has not been fixed. It badly needs it," concluding, it's "an investment we have to make."
Yet Fox News itself and other right-wing media have long been champions of cuts to infrastructure spending, suggesting that federal, state, and local funds for infrastructure are being abused or stolen, and dismissing the role of Republican obstruction in rebuilding crumbling infrastructure.
Indeed, the nation's infrastructure is crumbling due in part to Republican efforts to block public spending on infrastructure.
The vast system of public infrastructure in the United States -- ranging from roads and park trails to canals and ports -- is currently graded as D+, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers' (ASCE) most recent report card for America's infrastructure, and would need an investment of $3.6 trillion by 2020 to improve.
One in ten bridges in the U.S. are structurally deficient, and states have been forced to convert roads to gravel due to a lack of sufficient funding for repairs. Nearly 14,000 dams are considered high-hazard, meaning failure of the dam would likely cause the loss of life.
But public investment in infrastructure has fallen to its lowest level since World War II, according to analysis from the Financial Times, which attributes the record-low public investments to Republicans blocking President Obama's push for more spending on infrastructure.
Republicans have consistently blocked infrastructure spending proposals. And the recently passed GOP-controlled House and Senate budgets each call for significant cuts to highway construction and transportation infrastructure funding, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). Both budgets would cut transportation funding by 22-28 percent over ten years, at a time when experts are urging more investment in infrastructure "in order to reduce congestion, increase capacity, and improve the performance and safety of our nation's highways, bridges, and transit systems."
Broadcast media and major newspapers are ignoring the State Department's determination that there is no evidence to support allegations made by Republican activist and discredited author Peter Schweizer in his book, Clinton Cash, that Hillary Clinton's actions as secretary of state were influenced by donations to the Clinton Foundation -- despite the fact that many of these media outlets previously highlighted Schweizer's allegations after receiving advanced excerpts of the book and entering into exclusive agreements with the author to report on its storylines.
On May 4, State Department spokesperson Jeff Rathke said that the department is "not aware of any evidence that actions taken by Secretary Clinton were influenced by donation to the Clinton Foundation or speech on honoraria of former President Clinton." The statement came ahead of the official release of Clinton Cash, Republican activist and consultant Peter Schweizer's book which alleges unethical ties between Hillary Clinton's actions as secretary of state and foreign government donations to the Clinton Foundation.
Broadcast media and major newspapers have fallen silent following the State Department's assertion that they "are not aware of any evidence to suggest that there was any influence." Neither Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, nor NBC reported on State's assertion in their May 4 evening broadcasts. Major newspapers including The New York Times, Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Politico, and Time magazine failed to report on the State Department's response, despite many having received advanced excerpts from the book and having previously entered into "exclusive agreements" with Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer to report on "storylines found in the book."
There are over 20 errors, fabrications, and distortions in Clinton Cash, which is being released May 5. Many of the media outlets with advanced excerpts of the book have since admitted it contains "no smoking gun," but The New York Times and Washington Post have failed to report on the book's errors since entering into exclusive editorial agreements with the Clinton Cash publisher.
Peter Schweizer is backtracking on his false allegation that the decision to exempt the telecommunications industry from Iranian sanctions while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state was connected to Bill Clinton's speaking fees from a Swedish telecommunications company, now admitting that there is no "evidence of a quid pro quo in that case."
Schweizer tried to link Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson's payment to former President Bill Clinton for a speech in November 2011 with the exemption of the telecommunications industry from sanctions against Iran, which does business with Ericsson, during an April 24 Fox News special, The Tangled Clinton Web. Host Bret Baier and Schweizer highlighted allegations from Schweizer's upcoming book, Clinton Cash, that attempts to link donations to the Clinton Foundation and speaking fees earned by Bill Clinton to decisions made by the State Department during Hillary Clinton's tenure in the Obama administration.
The author's speculation is baseless, as the Iran sanctions in question actually took the form of executive actions from President Obama, and not State Department initiatives.
Schweizer is now admitting that there's no evidence of a connection between Clinton's speaking fee and the Iran sanctions decision, walking back his false allegation during an appearance on the April 28 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe. Schweizer claimed that he was "not implying" a link between the decision to exclude the telecommunications industry from sanctions against Iran and Clinton's Ericsson speech and conceded, "Is there evidence of a quid pro quo in that case? No."
Indeed, when Yahoo News reviewed the chapter of Clinton Cash featuring this allegation, they noted that there was "no smoking gun" connecting the speech and the sanctions. Yahoo News further noted that a Clinton aide pointed out that telecommunications manufacturers like Ericsson have not been added to the sanctions since Clinton left the State Department, casting doubt on the suggestion of a connection between the 2011 Bill Clinton speech and U.S. sanctions policy.
Serial misinformer and GOP activist Peter Schweizer's forthcoming book Clinton Cash speculates that Clinton Foundation donors may have influenced State Department activities during Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state. Consistent with the author's long history of shoddy reporting, media are highlighting how the book presents "little evidence" and "no smoking gun" proving that speculation.
Fox News' Special Report helped GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) reframe the reproductive choice debate by misleadingly hyping a poll that found that a majority of Americans support a legal ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy are extremely rare and studies show a majority of Americans continue to support access to abortions in cases of rape, incest, and various other health care reasons.
According to Politico, on April 8, Sen. Paul "refused to tell The Associated Press whether he would support exceptions for abortions in instances of rape or incest or if the birth of a child would risk the mother's life." Later that day, Paul told journalists in New Hampshire, "Why don't we ask the DNC" whether it is "OK to kill a 7-pound baby in the uterus."
Paul's comment was lauded by right-wing media, and on the April 16 edition of Fox News' Special Report host Bret Baier and correspondent Shannon Bream claimed his statement put Democrats on the "defensive" over "views on abortion most Americans find extreme." During the segment, Bream highlighted a Quinnipiac poll showing "a majority of Americans support legislation that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy," to paint Democrats as extreme. Later in the show, panelists A.B. Stoddard, Charles Krauthammer, and Steve Hayes applauded Paul for "flipping the script" and exposing Democrats' "extremism" on reproductive choice. Hayes called him "absolutely brilliant" saying he "reframed the issue entirely," and Charles Krauthammer praised Paul's move saying banning abortion is "the right thing to do, and it's a winning issue."
Fox's praise for Paul's misleading characterization of the reproductive choice debate is unsurprising given the network's history of helping the GOP rebrand itself - as Bloomberg Politics' David Weigel pointed out, Paul's attempt to flip the script was "exactly what the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List PAC ha[s] been advising Republicans to do since 2012."
The Outdoor Channel's new documentary on gun-free zones, hosted by Katie Pavlich and hyped by Fox News, will feature right-wing media's favorite gun myths -- including the false claim that gun-free zones encourage mass shootings and may "creat[e] an environment for criminal activity to run rampant."
The April 1 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends hyped the Outdoor Channel's Safe Haven: Gun-Free Zones In America documentary premiering later that day, featuring its trailer and highlighting film-host and Fox contributor Katie Pavlich. Using the premiere to push the conservative myths that shooters specifically target locations that don't allow guns and that more guns would prevent mass shootings and other crimes, host Steve Doocy asserted that "you think gun-free zones, that's going to be safe, but that means if you don't have a gun, the bad guys do and you're in trouble." Pavlich agreed, adding, "gun-free zones are not gun-free, it gives criminals an ability to have the upper hand on people who are simply following the law."