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  • James O’Keefe, Donald Trump, And The “CNN Leaks” Disinformation Attempt

    Sad!

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Self-described “guerilla journalist” James O’Keefe has spent months hyping his plans to take on mainstream media. Today, his launch of a laughably underwhelming “CNN Leaks” project shows that O’Keefe was so eager to validate President Donald Trump’s war on the mainstream media that he hyped a blockbuster revelation before he actually discovered one.

    O’Keefe, a partisan activist who styles himself as a “citizen journalist,” purports to “investigate and expose corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct in both public and private institutions” through his nonprofit, Project Veritas. Under the guise of this mission, O’Keefe has spent years hyping and releasing secretly recorded and heavily edited videos aimed to discredit and attack almost exclusively progressive organizers, leaders, and government officials.

    O’Keefe’s videos often fall flat and rarely match their billings. He has had to issue public apologies, been arrested for trespassing, and foiled his own plots, yet his videos have been promoted by the president. O’Keefe also regularly incites his loyal internet followers to practice their own brand of “investigative journalism.”

    Since the election, O’Keefe has expanded his sights beyond progressive targets to “main stream media” and issued categorical threats of surveillance aimed at CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, among other figures. “The media is a huge target of mine right now,” O’Keefe told CNN’s Brian Stelter as he previewed his new “CNN Leaks” project earlier this week. O’Keefe also hyped “CNN Leaks” in a radio appearance with Fox’s Sean Hannity and in social media posts. The Associated Press also wrote about the anticipated release -- not to mention the numerous conservative blogs that breathlessly follow O’Keefe’s so-called investigations. Politico’s Hadas Gold wrote, “Some staffers at CNN were legitimately alarmed that O'Keefe would be releasing tapes that could be embarrassing for the network.”

    And then the release happened.

    What The “CNN Leaks” Don’t Show

    On Thursday morning, Project Veritas released 119 hours of raw audio recordings from inside CNN’s headquarters (with “more than 100 hours” yet to be released). The recordings were taken in 2009, and given to Project Veritas by an anonymous source. O’Keefe said his group has not had the time to review and transcribe all of the recordings, instead telling his supporters to listen, transcribe, and send tips about the hours of footage to him. These full audio recordings were not available until the late afternoon due to issues with Project Veritas’ website.

    O’Keefe did post a nearly eight-minute video on YouTube explaining the project and highlighting a few excerpts from the tapes that he claims show “profound liberal bias” and “CNN's misrepresentation of polling data.” As Politico explained, these assertions “fall flat.”

    O’Keefe’s press release led with two segments from the recordings that he suggests “show CNN's misrepresentation of polling data.” As Gold points out, the first section actually depicts “two producers talking about the use of certain polls and why then-CNN polling director (now NH1 News political director and anchor) Paul Steinhauser declined to use a poll by Rasmussen, a group whose polling methods are still not widely accepted.” The recordings did not, by any stretch, confirm Trump’s claim that CNN polls are “fake news,” as O’Keefe suggested.

    O’Keefe also described this accurate statement about the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change from the former news desk editor for CNN’s “The Wire” as “profound liberal bias”:

    That issue, climate change, I mean science is pretty much on board and there are a few dissenters. There's no debate. It's like you know, born-agains saying there's a debate over, you know creationism, and all that stuff. There is no debate.

    Speaking of bias, while this CNN editor was correctly describing the consensus on human-caused climate change in 2009, a Fox News executive was instructing staff to undermine that consensus on air.

    Among the supposedly incriminating statements O’Keefe singled out for the “CNN Leaks” press release was this from CNN’s Richard Griffiths, now a vice president and senior editorial director at the network (from Project Veritas transcript):

    If we are journalists, what is our role as a journalist? What is the fundamental role as a journalist, for us to do? Tell a story. Tell what's going on. There's a secondary corollary to that, right? Aid the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. To a degree, right? Is that not part of the traditional role of a journalist. It's actually one of the things I can be most proud of as a journalist. You know we try to show the ugly side of humanity so we can do something about it. It's hard, very hard.

    Shocking stuff.

    Trump, O’Keefe, And “Fake News”

    As Gold points out, it’s certainly possible something embarrassing from the network will be uncovered in the hours of footage. But right now, there’s no there there. The real story of the “CNN Leaks” -- at least in terms of what O’Keefe deemed newsworthy in his press release -- is how explicitly the "overrated" release seems aimed to confirm Trump’s anti-CNN assertions.

    On the campaign trail, Trump specifically cited distortions from O’Keefe’s videos, and his charitable foundation gave thousands to Project Veritas in 2015. Trump also personally validated and encouraged “new media” (as O’Keefe likely imagines himself to be) to combat “the total dishonesty of the press” during a Reddit discussion. The similarities between Trump’s attacks on the media (and CNN, specifically) and O’Keefe’s distortions of the concept of journalism are striking, and seemingly create an anti-fact echo chamber among the internet masses, O’Keefe, and the White House. The purposeful twisting of the term “fake news” is the latest iteration.

    O’Keefe’s video release for the “CNN Leaks” began with a clip of his announcement, made at the Deploraball Inauguration event, that he would “investigate and expose the media -- particularly the mainstream media." Before O’Keefe showed any excerpts from the 2009 audio recordings, he rehashed clips of Trump calling CNN and mainstream media “fake news.” After playing Griffiths’ quote about journalists’ duty to “aid the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” O’Keefe questioned whether the statement “now applies to President Trump.”

    The potentially ongoing anti-media mindmeld between Trump, O’Keefe, and other self-styled citizen journalists who follow them now includes O’Keefe’s newest offering (or, as the Drudge Report gleefully calls it, a "bounty"): a “citizen journalist” award of $10,000 to “anyone who comes forward with legally obtained materials exposing media malfeasance.” There are hours of years-old CNN recordings that have yet to be reviewed by his followers, but based on the highlights, Trump is sure to love whatever they decide is there.

    In fact, O’Keefe says the president already thinks the project is “so cool.” 

  • Sean Hannity Falls For Misleading Claim From Gateway Pundit (Again)

    Gateway Pundit, Which Recently Got White House Press Credentials, Is Known For Inaccuracy

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On February 22, Jim Hoft posted an article on his website The Gateway Pundit alleging that a “Wikileaks Document Shows John McCain Requested Donations From Russians!” Fox News’ Sean Hannity retweeted a tweet that both linked to the Gateway Pundit post and called McCain a “globalist war criminal,” adding, “Wow if true”:

    [Screencap via Mediaite]

    But Hoft’s article is wildly misleading. His source for the claim was “Reddit users,” and his blog failed to note that the incident had already been reported -- and dismissed -- as a mere clerical error. In 2008, McCain’s presidential campaign stated that the Russian Embassy in the United States had mistakenly received a standard campaign solicitation in the mail, with campaign spokesperson Brian Rogers calling it “just an error.” The Russians agreed with Rogers’ explanation, dismissing the fundraising request as “a computer failure,” according to a 2008 Associated Press report

    When McCain’s Senate office shot down Hoft’s slapdash reporting with a statement condemning Hannity for “attacking Senator McCain over a fake news story,” Hannity deleted the tweet and extended his “apologies” to McCain (and got defensive over people criticizing him for spreading false information).

    Unfortunately for Hannity, this is not his first experience being burned by Hoft’s amateur reporting. On November 2, Hannity was forced to “humbly apologize” for spreading a totally false Gateway Pundit story that claimed “Barack and Elizabeth Warren had wiped references to Hillary Clinton in their Twitter feeds.” 

    Jim Hoft’s Gateway Pundit is a known source of lies and misinformation. True to form, Hoft has not deleted the erroneous McCain article from February 22, nor has he deleted the now months-old lie about top Democrats scrubbing Hillary Clinton from their Twitter accounts. Such behavior is hardly surprising coming from Hoft, who he has been absurdly wrong about everything from his suggestion that the Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA championship parade was the crowd at a rally for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump to his claim that a Confederate flag lapel pin was allegedly made by Barack Obama’s campaign. Despite Gateway Pundit’s bipartisan reputation for being wrong, Trump’s administration saw fit to give the site White House press credentials.

    But Hannity can’t blame Hoft alone for his habit of spreading misleading and fake news stories. Back in 1989, Hannity was fired from a local radio show for peddling the homophobic lie that gay people are prone to disease because they eat each other’s feces during sex. More recently, Hannity has also embraced the world of supermarket tabloids, lending credence to the National Enquirer’s absurd lie that Rafael Cruz, Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) father, was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and hosting the former publisher of Weekly World News -- the supermarket tabloid responsible for “Bat Boy” -- to describe his alleged time as a Clinton “fixer.” 

  • CPAC Is Trying To Wash The “Alt-Right” Stench Off Breitbart

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The term “alt-right” is toxic. It should be. The loose confederation of neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and misogynists have spent the last year spreading fear, hatred, and conspiracy theories.

    The problem for conservatives is that the movement is directly connected to the major right-wing news outlet Breitbart.com; its former executive chairman, Stephen Bannon; and Bannon’s new boss, President Donald Trump.

    “The de facto merger between Breitbart and the Trump Campaign represents a landmark achievement for the ‘Alt-Right,’” Hillary Clinton said last year after Bannon was hired by the Trump campaign, highlighting the website’s promotion of “race-baiting ideas, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas, anti-woman [ideas].” “A fringe element has effectively taken over the Republican Party,” she added.

    That “fringe element” is now in the White House. But direct association with racists and misogynists isn’t great for the conservative movement’s brand -- or Breitbart’s bottom line. So the organizers of this week’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) are working hard to redefine the term “alt-right” in order to retroactively separate that movement from the White House and the website.

    In cable news interviews and speeches from the conference lectern, CPAC’s organizers have condemned the “alt-right” -- even having security very publicly remove from the premises Richard Spencer, the white nationalist who originally coined the term.

    But at the same time, they have vouched for Bannon, are hosting seven Breitbart staffers and accepting a sizable donation from the website, and they even claimed that the “alt-right” is really made up of liberals. Bannon’s “alt-right” ties went unmentioned this afternoon when he sat alongside White House chief of staff Reince Priebus for a fawning “conversation” with Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, which organizes CPAC.

    In a speech this morning titled “The Alt Right Ain’t Right at All,” the ACU’s Dan Schneider claimed that the term “alt-right,” which he claimed had previously “been used for a long time, in a very good and normal way,” had been “hijacked” by a “hate-filled, left-wing fascist group” that “stole the term specifically to confuse us.”

    The ACU is having trouble getting its story straight -- Schlapp claimed during an MSNBC interview this morning that he had never heard of the term before last year -- according to him, it is a “new term.”

    But Schlapp did want everyone to know that Bannon is definitely not associated with the “alt-right.” “Today, [Bannon] would repudiate what these people stand for,” he said. “He’s a good man, and he’s a tolerant man.”

    “I know Steve Bannon well. He's a good man; he is not a racist,” Schlapp added on CNN. “Yes, the conservative movement and voices in the conservative movement are changing. But I do not believe that he is associated with the ‘alt-right’ at all.”

    This is all bullshit. Bannon himself described Breitbart last year as “the platform for the alt-right,” and he led the website in an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, misogynistic, ethno-nationalist direction that appealed to that movement. He hired Milo Yiannopoulos and had no apparent problem with the despicable commentary and activism he wrought -- or the way he championed the “alt-right.”

    Notably, when Breitbart produced a list of “20 lies” in Clinton’s speech on the “alt-right,” it made no effort to distance itself from the movement or suggest that she erred in linking it to the website and its former leader.

    When Bannon was hired by Trump’s presidential campaign, white nationalists cheered. When his move to the White House was announced, they were ecstatic.

    Bannon was very happy to be associated with the movement when it was boosting Breitbart’s traffic, influence, and revenue. But now things have changed, as companies and ad vendors have pulled their advertising from the site in huge numbers due to its association with racism and misogyny.

    And so CPAC is helping the website out, repeatedly condemning the “alt-right” while very deliberately separating it from Bannon and Breitbart.

  • Enough Already: The NY Times Needs To Stop Coddling Trump Voters

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The New York Times sure picked a strange moment to start writing up tickets for allegedly rude political behavior this year. And the paper picked an odd target when it recently suggested that by so boisterously and passionately pushing back against President Donald Trump’s radical White House agenda, Democrats and liberals were being too mean, that they were offending voters who support the president.

    According to the Times, “moderate conservatives” and “seemingly persuadable conservatives” (whoever they are) are turned off by Trump’s critics.

    The message apparently being, if liberals and Democrats would be nicer in their critiques of Trump, if they could dial back the “righteous indignation” while the president tries to ban travelers from targeted nations from entering America, sets out to deport millions of people living here, and declares the news media to be the “enemy” of the people, they’d be more successful in slowing Trump’s agenda.

    If the left could drop the “moral smugness” and “name-calling,” as one Times reporter characterized the traits on Twitter, it could win over more converts. 

    The Times, however, made no suggestion that Trump supporters change their ways. In fact, the newspaper quoted one fan insisting that Democrats are "scarier to me than these Islamic terrorists. I feel absolutely disgusted with them and their antics.”

    So in a piece chastising Democrats for being too mean, the Times quoted a Trump supporter who equated Democrats with Islamic terrorists. And yes, that same piece questioning the tone of Democratic activists quoted zero Democratic activists.

    So much for balance.

    By the way, here are a couple of images that could have provided context for a story about Trump supporters supposedly having their feelings hurt in the current political climate:

    [The Daily Beast]

    Ever since Election Day, when lots of news executives decided they hadn’t paid enough attention to Trump supporters and had therefore “missed” his upset victory, The New York Times has stood out for its desire to relentlessly focus on Trump’s most ardent supporters. Showering them with constant attention, the daily has gone out of its way to give these supporters a platform to express their (mostly) unyielding support for the most unpopular new president in American history.

    Usually traveling to small, mostly-white towns inside pro-Trump states (Niles, MI; Monticello, IA;  Covington, LA; et cetera), the Times again and again types up hosannas from Trump fans and presents their praise and vociferous defense of the president as news.

    The whole genre reads like a weird brand of Trump damage control, courtesy of The New York Times.

    Trump’s many stumbles during the transition? His supporters don’t care. His stumbles during his first week in office? His supporters don’t care. The news that his victory was possibly aided by Russian hacking? His supporters don’t care. American cities erupt in anti-Trump protests? His supporters don’t care. Trump critics denounce his travel ban as unlawful? His supporters don’t care.

    That’s not all. The Times has also published a long profile on women who voted for Trump (explaining their support “in their own words”), a piece on Trump fans who traveled to the inauguration, and an adoring profile of a Trump fan who lied about Hillary Clinton during the campaign and profited from his fake news business. (The Times was especially enamored with what it called a fake news “masterpiece” about how the Clinton campaign stocked an Ohio warehouse with fraudulent votes.)

    There’s no question that the White House’s cornucopia of missteps and botched initiatives has provided journalists with plenty to report on. That, in turn, generates negative press coverage in places like the Times, which has certainly provided critical reporting and analysis regarding the new administration.

    By contrast, the Trump voter beat inside the newsroom seems to provide a respite from all of that bad-news-for-Trump coverage. These soft profiles seem to be a way for the supposedly liberal and “biased” Times to signal to conservatives that it’s willing to present their best side too.

    For the record, it’s perfectly appropriate for journalists to regularly take the temperature from all corners of the American political spectrum, and that certainly includes Trump supporters.

    And obviously, the Times isn’t the only news outlet that’s been spotlighting Trump supporters since the elections. Lots of journalists have showered attention on them in hopes of providing insight into Trump’s unexpected victory and what it means moving forward.

    But the Times does seem to be singular in its pursuit, having long ago sprinted past the role of providing insight into Trump supporters and since settled into the task of coddling them and giving them a safe space to detail their admiration of a relentless and purposeful liar.

    So the question persists: What exactly is the purpose of this exercise where the Times sends reporters to states that voted for Trump to interview voters who still really like Trump?

    Note that in the process of getting constant updates from Trump fans, the Times often lets them push lots of unfounded allegations and wild conspiratorial claims with little or no pushback. That’s bad journalism, as one Toronto Star reporter recently noted on Twitter.

    Trump voter in Ohio: “I’m tired of [immigrants] being here illegally and cutthroating the rest of us.”

    That claim is false.

    Trump voter in Iowa: “My view is [Obama] purposely got into the presidency so he could ruin America.”

    That claim is absurd.

    Trump voter in Georgia: “But there are allegations about killing people who get in [Hillary Clinton’s] way — Vince Foster, people like that.”

    That claim is also just completely divorced from reality.

    Here’s what’s especially odd about the Times’ feel-good coverage of Trump supporters: Back in August, the newspaper posted an unvarnished compilation video of Trump supporters at his campaign rallies as they wallowed in racist, sexist and anti-Muslim rhetoric. (“Fuck those dirty beaners.” Fuck political correctness.” “Fuck you, Hillary.” “Kill her!”)

    In that piece, the Times held up an unfiltered lens and revealed Trump supporters in their own words, and it wasn’t pretty. Today, though, that unpleasantness has been politely scrubbed from view. In its chronic coverage of Trump devotees since the election, the paper makes little mention of the dark cultural forces that may be propelling the president’s biggest fans. Instead, they’re simply presented as hardworking Americans in search of a new voice in Washington, D.C. (“I truly believe he cares about our country and wants to help everyone.”)

    Add it up and it’s just wave after wave of interviews with worshipful Trump voters, while the subject of their adultation rewrites all the record books by becoming the least popular new president in modern American history.

    It’s a very weird disconnect the Times is pushing.

  • The Breitbartification Of CPAC

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    “My biggest fear is that later this week I will be among the legions at CPAC rearranging the furniture,” wrote Andrew Breitbart just days before the first Conservative Political Action Conference of President Barack Obama’s administration. “Instead, the conservative movement needs to think in revolutionary terms.”

    Eight years later, Breitbart has passed away, but the revolution he started is at its peak: the media company he founded is everywhere at CPAC, and his successor is in the White House working for Breitbart.com’s chosen candidate.

    Former editor Milo Yiannopoulos is no longer on the program, but seven Breitbart editors and reporters will participate in panels and or give speeches at the conference this week. (In an almost certainly related note, Breitbart is a “Partnering Sponsor” of the event, the highest level.)

    White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, who took over the website following its founder’s death, will appear alongside White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp today for a “conversation” intended to show that the Republican Party establishment and the fringe outsiders who pushed President Donald Trump to victory in the 2016 presidential primaries are united.

    And of course, after he pulled out of speaking at last year’s conference following a backlash from conservative critics, Trump himself will loom over the conference, with an address scheduled for Friday morning.

    Andrew Breitbart himself dominated CPAC in the early years of the decade. He strode through the conference like a rock star, granting media interviews, greeting cheering supporters, confronting liberal provocateurs, and scouting for new talent. His annual speech-screeds drew large audiences far more interested in hearing his rants against journalists and other elites than they were a sober speech from a Republican politician or think-tanker.

    “I'm old, so I remember CPAC before Andrew Breitbart: Quiet,” wrote David Weigel in 2012. “Since 2010, the first CPAC after Breibart's Big Government released James O'Keefe's ACORN video investigations, Breitbart's appearances at the conference have begun with media interviews, continued with assorted people confronting him on video, and ended with his own speeches, full of nostalgia for the stuff that just happened.”

    Weeks after his 2012 CPAC appearance, at which he famously freaked out at liberal protestors, Breitbart suddenly passed away. Bannon took the reins, and began turning the website Andrew Breitbart founded into “the platform for the alt-right.”

    The following year, CPAC celebrated the first anniversary of Breitbart’s passing. Hundreds of CPAC attendees showed up for events intended to remember the right-wing media mogul. A standing-room-only showing of his final documentary was followed by a panel featuring his former colleagues and friends, followed by a cocktail party. In 2014, the paeans continued as CPAC rolled out the Andrew Breitbart First Amendment Award (radio host Mark Levin was the first recipient; Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson was the second).

    But even as CPAC showered love on Andrew Breitbart’s memory, under Bannon’s leadership, the website he founded was suggesting that the conference was too politically correct and overly dominated by the establishment. In 2013 and 2014, Breitbart.com hosted “The Uninvited” sessions during CPAC featuring anti-Muslim, anti-immigration, and fringe figures that were not welcome at the conference itself.

    Notably, The Uninvited sessions featured Frank Gaffney, the founder of the Center for Security Policy -- which the Southern Poverty Law Center characterizes as “a conspiracy-oriented mouthpiece for the growing anti-Muslim movement in the United States.”

    Andrew Breitbart once hired Gaffney to help run his national security website; he still contributes to Breitbart.com. And Bannon loves Gaffney, calling him “one of the senior thought leaders and men of action in this whole war against Islamic radical jihad.” But Gaffney was persona non grata at CPAC for years because he is a paranoid conspiracy theorist who accused two members of CPAC’s board of being secret supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood (he has returned in recent years and is on the 2017 agenda).

    The situation was bad enough that after he became chairman of the American Conservative Union, which oversees CPAC, Matt Schlapp invited Breitbart editor Matt Boyle to the ACU’s headquarters for a lengthy interview in February 2015. Schlapp and his staff, in fairly obsequious fashion, pitched Boyle on how that year’s CPAC would be more responsive to Breitbart.com’s concerns.

    CPAC had “drifted away from the core values of conservatism” but now, “concerted efforts by the ACU to listen to grassroots concerns about the direction of the landmark conference, the organization is now emerging as stronger, more conservative and more united,” Boyle concluded following the presentation.

    In the two years since, the Republican establishment has been routed by the Breitbart-led forces who pushed Trump to the front of the Republican presidential primary field and supported him at every step of the way. Bannon moved seamlessly from head of Breitbart, to head of Trump’s campaign, to Trump’s top White House aide.

    In addition to Trump and Bannon, attendees at this year’s CPAC will have the opportunity to see Breitbart Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow interview a Republican congressman on tax reform. They can watch Breitbart UK chief Raheem Kassam introduce Nigel Farage, his former boss at the right-wing UK Independence Party. Breitbart’s Frances Martel and John Carney will be moderating panels on “China’s Expansion” and “Repealing Obama’s Banking Monstrosity,” while Joel Pollak and Sonnie Johnson are on panels discussing trade policy and how the left hates cops. James Delingpole will be leading “CPAC Conversations” on energy.

    Breitbart.com spent years shilling for Trump’s candidacy. Now Trump will swagger through the conference that Andrew Breitbart once owned, while the news site he created is a dominant force at CPAC. An ascendent Breitbart.com and President Trump are truly Andrew Breitbart’s greatest legacy.

  • Don't Be Fooled By Milo Yiannopoulos' Latest Doe-Eyed Act. It's Hollow. Here's The Proof.

    The Former Breitbart Editor Has Used His Platform To Mock And Attack Sexual Assault Survivors For Years

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    Former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos revealed that he was a survivor of child sexual abuse during a press conference held to address the controversy that erupted after a video surfaced of him “condoning pedophilia.” Yiannopoulos apologized for his words (though with several caveats) and offered an olive branch by promising to donate a percentage of his book’s royalties to charities supporting survivors of child sexual abuse. The cornerstone of his apology is based on a shared understanding that survivors are to be trusted. This is an understanding that he has not just derided, but gleefully denied other survivors of assault. Yiannopolous has built his career as a self-appointed arbiter of rape culture, which includes deciding who are worthy victims, who were malicious perpetrators, and whether or not such a culture even exists.  

    After the video circulated, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) revoked Yiannopoulos’ speaking invitation, Simon and Schuster canceled his book deal, and Yiannopoulos resigned from his role at Breitbart. During prepared remarks on February 21, he announced his resignation and expressed regret for some, but not all, of his comments on sexual assault. Hedging his apology with an attack on the media, he called the circulation of the video and ensuing outcry “a cynical media witch hunt” aimed at “destroying” him and his career.

    Yiannopoulos also came out as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, citing this history as the reason for his “usual blend of British sarcasm, provocation and gallows humor.” He also said he was “horrified” that his videotaped comments may have been perceived as “advocacy” for pedophilia or “a lack of care for other victims.” Yiannopoulos continued:

    I will not apologize for dealing with my life experiences in the best way that I can, which is humor. No one can tell me or anyone else who has lived through sexual abuse how to deal with those emotions.

    But I am sorry to other abuse victims if my own personal way of dealing with what happened to me has hurt you.

    At the press conference, Yiannopoulos presented a public persona that was not in line with the values that he’s espoused for so long. Rather, he’s devoted a serious body of work to attacking survivors of sexual assault, attempting to function as an arbiter of who counts as a “victim” and who can -- or cannot -- be labeled a “perpetrator”. He has repeatedly denied that rape and sexual assault are major problems in the U.S., while summarily casting Muslims as the “real” perpetrators of rape culture. He's also peddled the dangerous, debunked myth that transgender people will commit sexual assault if given access to the appropriate facilities. Yiannopoulos has expressed a fondness for rape jokes and has made victims of sexual abuse the butt of his jokes, mocking “little boys” for “complaining” about clerical sexual abuse. Yiannopoulos has gleefully employed the term “slut’s remorse” when speaking about sexual assault allegations -- arguing that such allegations are often motivated by the accuser’s “self-loathing,” “spitefulness,” and “malice.” Yiannopoulos has also advocated for the right to anonymity for those accused of assault under this warped line of reasoning.

    Yiannopoulos has asserted that measures colleges have taken to raise awareness of and combat the shockingly high rate of sexual assault reported by campus women are a result of “a long-smouldering, insidious force” that “has nearly destroyed an otherwise pleasant and fun-filled relationship between the genders on campus.” He said that campaign was perpetuated by feminists with an “insane, irrational fear of men,” and he urged male students not to go to “consent classes,” cautioning that awareness and prevention measures will ultimately result in the criminalization of “ordinary male behaviour.” Most recently, Yiannopoulos urged the Trump administration to roll back sexual assault and harassment protections that were strengthened and clarified in a 2011 memo issued by the U.S. Department of Education.

    As part of his mea culpa, Yiannopoulos claimed that he would be donating 10 percent of the royalties from his (now nonexistent) book deal to charities for survivors of child sexual abuse. His last charitable endeavor spurred allegations that the funds had been embezzled rather than distributed. Considering his penchant for not delivering on promises of charity, it seems unlikely that any worthy group will ever see a cent from Yiannopoulos. Don't be fooled by the somber public performance at Yiannopolous' press conference, this is not the persona he's promoted and profited from over the last several years and he is certainly no champion of rights for survivors of sexual assault. 

  • Alex Jones Apologizes To Donald Trump For Missing His Calls

    9/11 Conspiracy Theorist Also Claims That Trump And His Sons Watch His Show “Every Night”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Radio host Alex Jones issued a bizarre and rambling message to President Donald Trump during which he touted his connections to the president, stated that he regrets having “missed” Trump’s phone calls, and claimed that Trump and his sons watch his videos and show “every night.” Jones also told his perceived enemies: "We're going to get you, assholes. ... How about you die?! Kill your fucking selves, you fucking globalists!”

    Jones is a toxic conspiracy theorist who has claimed that the United States government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks and the tragedies at Columbine, Sandy Hook, Oklahoma City, and the Boston Marathon, among others. Trump has helped mainstream Jones and his once-fringe website Infowars and has reportedly consulted him for political advice.

    Jones posted a February 21 video headlined “Emergency SOS To Donald Trump,” which features the host talking to a camera while driving a car and warning the president that his political enemies are attempting to censor pro-Trump media like Infowars and Breitbart.

    During the video, Jones repeatedly bragged about his access to the president. He stated: “I know that I have missed more of your calls than I’d like to, sir. I wish I always had the phone glued to me when you call. And I know that you’ve expressed your appreciation for the audience and what we do for this country.”

    He later said that Trump and “his sons, they end up watching these. They watch every night. We’re not bragging. We brought the president where he is -- doesn’t mean he didn’t have the will like a ship to be on the ocean, but we were on the ocean that Trump was on. He knows that.” Jones added, “People are like, ‘Oh, you want access to power.’ You goddamn idiots. We’ve got the frickin audience, dumbasses. But we don’t care about the audience for some peacock stuff -- we care about it to change destiny, to change the will of the people.”

    The New York Times’ Jim Rutenberg recently reported that “where Mr. Jones’s content fits in Mr. Trump’s broad media diet isn’t clear. White House officials declined to talk about it in detail.” He noted:

    Mr. Jones demurred when it came to his influence on Mr. Trump, which he said the “MSM” (mainstream media) overstated to undermine the president. “MSM tries to say Alex Jones is an eight-headed kook with all these warts and Trump’s copying everything he says,” Mr. Jones told me. “It’s just not true.”

    For instance, he said, when he urged Mr. Trump to address illegal voting allegations during one phone conversation, “he said, ‘I already know, I’m making a speech in two days.’” (Mr. Trump, he said, “was an Infowarrior before I was born.”)

    Mr. Jones said that conversation had taken place earlier in the campaign, not on the phone call immediately after the election that my colleague Maggie Haberman reported on, in which Mr. Jones said the president had thanked him for his support. Mr. Jones told me that he had spoken with Mr. Trump since that call, though an aide to the president, communicating on the condition of anonymity, played down the frequency of their contact.

    Jones has repeatedly bragged about his communication and influence with Trump, stating in August that it’s “surreal to talk about issues here on air and then word for word hear Trump say it two days later. It is amazing.”

    During the February 21 video, Jones also accused unnamed “globalists” -- his term for corporate and political elites who are purportedly trying to destroy the world -- of trying to kill Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and successfully killing Justice Antonin Scalia, claiming:

    ALEX JONES: Clarence Thomas was called in -- and everybody knows, because he was the only other conservative guy and they killed the other one -- he was told, “It’s all over. Shut up. It’s over.” They threatened him. And Thomas wanted to leave the country. They threatened his life. And I didn’t get that from Drudge, so I’m not going to have a source. I got it from two other people. They told Clarence Thomas, “We’ll kill your ass, OK? Shut your fucking mouth and stop ruling like this or you’re going to be dead.” And then they killed the other guy, Scalia, because he wouldn’t go along with it. That’s the fucking shit we’re dealing with, people!

    He also issued a violent warning to unnamed globalists, stating: “We’re going to get you, assholes. Just know that. It doesn’t mean we’re perfect. But we’re not out to screw women and children and hurt people. You understand that, assholes? You hate humanity because you project your own hatred of yourself on us, asshole. You wanna kill us? How about you die?! Kill your fucking selves, you fucking globalists! Go ahead, [Infowars writer Rob] Dew. … Fuck yeah, fuck them! I’m sick of their shit, I don’t fucking care anymore!”

  • On CNN, Hate Group Leader Praises Efforts To “Reclaim Our Schools” With Mass Deportations

    FAIR President: “If You Enforce These Laws, We Can Reclaim Our Schools, Our Hospitals, And Our Communities”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CNN’s New Day hosted Dan Stein, president of the anti-immigrant hate group the Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR), to discuss President Donald Trump’s planned mass deportations, which he characterized as a move to “reclaim our schools, our hospitals, and our communities once again for the American people.” Co-host Alisyn Camerota introduced Stein simply as “the president of the Federation for Immigration Reform” and as someone who supports Mr. Trump’s moves on immigration,” without mentioning FAIR’s track record of nativist bigotry. 

    FAIR, which helped influence Trump’s approach to immigration, including his planned mass deportations and Muslim registry, has ties to white supremacy through its founder, who also founded the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). FAIR has been described as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for its “ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists.” FAIR uses a veneer of impartiality to inject absurd myths into the immigration debate, assisted in large part by the media outlets that regularly cite them without mentioning their extremism. In the Trump era, it is more important than ever for media to properly label these hate groups and not afford them presumed respectability. From the February 22 edition of CNN’s New Day, which also featured Andre Segura of the American Civil Liberties Union:

    ALISYN CAMEROTA (CO-HOST): What is your biggest concern about the new guidelines as Mr. Trump has laid them out?

    ANDRE SEGURA: Where do we start? This is bringing to life President Trump's worst and most divisive campaign rhetoric. Like I’ve said before on this program, we have to take the president at his word, and he's going to bring these things to life. 10,000 new ICE agents throughout the interior. I think people have a misconception that this is not going to affect them in their daily lives. But when you have more ICE agents throughout the country, when you have more state and local officers doing immigration enforcement, you're going to see an uptick in racial profiling. Communities are going to become less safe. 

    CAMEROTA: Dan, what do you like about it? 

    DAN STEIN: Look, people come here illegally, that doesn't mean they just have the right to stay. You take a look at all of these orders, if you're here illegally, you need to be thinking about going out and buying some luggage. Because as Spicer made it clear, Trump administration says if you're here illegally you remain deportable with the exception of the so-called DACA group, and that's a dramatic change. Look, nobody ever decided in this country that immigration was unlimited, that you can break the immigration law and then demand to stay. That you could jump in front of the line, in front of millions of people who respect our laws all over the world and just come in and say, “OK, I'm here, I don't have to go.” If we -- if you enforce these laws, we can reclaim our schools, our hospitals, and our communities once again for the American people. 

  • Report: Facebook Continues To Placate Conservatives By Donating To CPAC

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Daily Beast reports that Facebook donated more than $120,000 to the American Conservative Union’s annual event the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Mark Zuckerberg’s donation comes after he held a meeting with conservative media personalities such as Glenn Beck and Fox’s Dana Perino following allegations that the website had been suppressing conservative views.

    During the meeting, Zuckerberg lauded President Donald Trump for having “more fans on Facebook than any other presidential candidate” and Fox News for driving “more interactions on its Facebook page than any other news outlet in the world.” Following the accusations of bias, Facebook laid off its entire editorial team and replaced it with an algorithm, a move which The Washington Post reported led to the rise and prominence of “fake news” trending on the website.

    According to The Daily Beast, Facebook continues to court conservatives with its “six-figure contribution to CPAC,” which includes a cash donation and “in-kind support.” From The Daily Beast:

    Sources with direct knowledge of the matter tell The Daily Beast that Facebook made a six-figure contribution to CPAC, the yearly conference for conservative activists which will feature President Donald Trump, White House advisor Steve Bannon, NRA president Wayne LaPierre, and other right-wing favorites.

    Facebook’s contribution is worth more than $120,000, according to our sources. Half of that is cash, and the other half is in-kind support for CPAC’s operations. Facebook will have a space at the conference for attendees to film Facebook Live videos, and will also train people on best practices for using the social network and Instagram.

    [...]

    The Wall Street Journal reported in October that Trump’s own Facebook posts fueled intense debate within the company about what kind of content was acceptable——particularly his calls for a ban on Muslims from entering the U.S. Mark Zuckerberg himself had to determine that Trump’s posts were okay, according to the paper’s report. And The New York Times reported that after Trump won the election, some company employees worried the spread of racist memes and fake news on the site may have boosted his candidacy.

    “A fake story claiming Pope Francis—actually a refugee advocate—endorsed Mr. Trump was shared almost a million times, likely visible to tens of millions,” Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina who studies the social impact of technology, told the Times. “Its correction was barely heard. Of course Facebook had significant influence in this last election’s outcome.”

  • Here Are Some Of The Worst Headlines Milo Yiannopoulos Published Attacking Rape Survivors

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    Just two days after news broke that Breitbart.com’s senior editor Milo Yiannopoulos would speak at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the conference’s hosts have rescinded his speaking invitation after a video circulated of Yiannopoulos “condoning pedophilia.” Over the next few days, Simon & Schuster canceled Yiannopoulos’ book deal, and Yiannopoulos resigned from his position at Breitbart. Though Yiannopoulos claimed he felt regret over his “poor choice of words,” his prior Breitbart headlines clearly display Milo’s long-standing history of attacking and mocking survivors of sexual assault, as well as denying the existence of rape culture. Here are Milo’s worst headlines:


    [Breitbart.com, 10/16/15]

    [Breitbart.com, 8/27/14]

    [Breitbart.com, 10/30/16]

    [Breitbart.com, 1/6/16]

    [Breitbart.com, 10/7/16]

    [Breitbart.com, 6/23/14]

    [Breitbart.com, 10/12/16]

    [Breitbart.com, 7/16/15]