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  • Wall Street Journal Invents Reasons For Trump To Gut Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

    Will Right-Wing Media’s Campaign To Destroy The Consumer Watchdog Succeed Under Trump?

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board joined Republican senators in urging the president-elect to fire the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Richard Cordray, for “a menu of reasons” ranging from the agency’s crackdown on racial prejudice in auto loans to the cost of building renovations.

    The CFPB was set up in the wake of the financial crisis as part of a new regulatory network constructed by the Dodd-Frank Act and has been a target of conservative media misinformation ever since, most of which has focused on the agency’s supposed overreach in protecting American consumers from predatory corporate behavior. The Journal’s editorial on January 9 calling on Donald Trump to fire Cordray “for cause” after Trump assumes the presidency followed calls for Cordray’s termination by Republican Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ben Sasse (R-NE). Among the reasons the Journal claimed as justification for Cordray’s termination was the CFPB’s allegedly poor handling of anti-discrimination regulations, its supposed failure to comply with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and reports of racial and gender discrimination from CFPB employees. From The Wall Street Journal:

    Meantime, Mr. Trump should fire Mr. Cordray for cause, and the President-elect has a menu of reasons. Take a CFPB auto-loan campaign, which involved guessing the race of a borrower by his last name, and then suing banks that seemed to offer better deals to people the government assumed are white. A House Financial Services Committee report detailed how Mr. Cordray and senior officers knew their statistical method was “prone to significant error” but hid that reality from the public.

    Mr. Cordray’s bureau routinely fails to show the reasoning behind its rules. In December the Cause of Action Institute filed a lawsuit against CFPB for refusing to produce more than 1,800 pages of documents on how the agency came up with a regulation on arbitration. Such disclosures are required by the Freedom of Information Act.

    [...]

    An investigation of CFPB employment practices by the Government Accountability Office found that a quarter of black, Asian and female respondents reported that they had been discriminated against. About 10% claimed to have personally observed retaliation against another employee. The bureau neglected to fulfill seven Inspector General recommendations in this area. Mr. Cordray also stood by while a CFPB office renovation notched more than $100 million in cost overruns.

    The Journal’s supposed evidence that the CFPB is a “lawless and unprofessional agency [that] deserves a dose of political accountability” does not hold up to scrutiny.

    The Journal has attacked the CFPB before for standing up to discrimination in auto lending after the agency drafted new guidance on interest rate markups and facilitated compensation for American consumers who had been the targets of discrimination. In November 2015, the Center for Responsible Lending concluded that the CFPB’s regulatory changes had the added benefit of saving all consumers money. The Journal's complaint that CFPB is not forthcoming enough with FOIA requests specifically cites a lawsuit from Cause of Action, a Koch-funded front group. The editorial’s allegation of rampant discrimination at the agency also ignored that it was the CFPB that initiated a self-assessment of its employee evaluations, as part of the “standards for equal employment opportunity” mandated by Dodd-Frank, and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report alluded to by the Journal actually found that the agency “has worked to strengthen personnel management practices and enhance its diversity and inclusion efforts.” Even the Journal’s accusation of mismanagement and cost overruns in the agency’s office renovation falls flat: The Federal Reserve Inspector General found that “construction costs appear reasonable” and that the agency’s building “costs are below the amount previously budgeted.”

    While the editorial attacked the CFPB, and Cordray, for problems that the agency took steps to fix years ago, it completely ignored the agency’s successes. According to a December 2, 2015, article in The New York Times, the CFPB has “seized upon its mission” to rein in abuses in financial services under Cordray, including cracking down on predatory for-profit colleges, arranging forgiveness of $480 million of student loans, and ordering the reimbursement of nearly $700 million to Citigroup customers swindled by illegal credit charges. Since its inception, the agency had “provided for $11 billion in relief for over 25 million customers,” according to the Times.

    The demands for Cordray’s termination mark the culmination of a years-long conservative campaign to undermine the agency. As New York magazine pointed out in a December 29 article, Cordray will be “one of the few adversaries of Wall Street” left after Republicans assume control of the federal government, and for conservatives, “Cordray’s success at enacting new regulations is a bug, not a feature.”

  • NRATV Offers Up A False History To Whitewash Sen. Sessions' Prosecution Of Civil Rights Workers 

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    The National Rifle Association’s NRATV defended attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) against allegations of racial bias by offering a bogus history of a controversial criminal case Sessions prosecuted when he was a U.S. Attorney.

    The NRA has endorsed Sessions for attorney general. During the first day of Sessions’ hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, longstanding allegations of racial bias resurfaced during questioning. (In 1986, the Judiciary Committee rejected Sessions’ nomination to the federal bench amid testimony that he directed racially derogatory language toward a subordinate and allegations that Sessions used his position as a prosecutor to unfairly target minorities.)

    During the January 10 broadcast of NRATV, host Grant Stinchfield defended Sessions by claiming that “when the left doesn’t agree with you, what they do is they throw out the race card and they accuse everybody of being a racist.”

    NRATV commentator and conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch agreed and said she is “pretty damn tired of these racial accusations.” She claimed that critics of Sessions are “mad because he busted one group in Alabama who was engaged in voter fraud.” But in fact, the group in question was not engaged in voter fraud. Instead, Loesch was mischaracterizing the 1985 voter fraud investigation in Alabama, led by Sessions after civil rights activist and Martin Luther King Jr. adviser Albert Turner tried to help African-Americans vote using protections secured by the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The defendants were acquitted on all charges, and Sessions’ handling of the case was later cited as the primary reason the Senate considered him unfit to serve as a federal judge in 1986.

    Here is what actually happened: Turner and two other activists formed the Perry County Civic League, aimed at helping African-Americans in their county register to vote. Like other organizations at the time, the Perry County Civic League helped people register to vote absentee. (At the time, polls in Perry County were only open for four hours on Election Day.) After a number of black candidates won in the 1982 elections, Sessions, who was then a U.S. attorney, headed up an investigation for voter fraud that culminated in a 29-count indictment against Turner and two other civil rights workers alleging mail fraud, conspiracy to commit voting fraud and voting more than once.

    Sessions’ case was incredibly weak, giving rise to the accusation that he was motivated by racial animus. According to The New York Times, “During the trial, the prosecution adopted an exceptionally broad theory, arguing that it was a crime for a voter to sign a ballot that someone else filled out for him.” As a result, “The judge ruled that this theory was contrary to election law and the Constitution, and at the close of trial, threw out many of the counts against the Turners and Hogue. They were acquitted of the rest by the jury.”

    The NRA’s scrubbing of Sessions’ 1985 prosecution isn’t surprising, given that the organization has campaigned for his “swift” confirmation. NRATV previously grossly exaggerated the number of murders that occur in Chicago in arguing that Sessions should be confirmed as attorney general.

    From the January 10 edition of NRATV’s Live Updates with Grant Stinchfield:

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): Any surprises so far during the hearing?

    DANA LOESCH: No, Grant. I’m not surprised at all. This is what happens when a dying ideology and grievance-mongers lose the election. They have to whine like crybabies about it for weeks after. Al Sharpton has promised a season of civil disobedience. I would love to see Al Sharpton demonstrate just a week of common sense before he really attempts to go that far with it. Look, I am not shocked by any of this. Jeff Sessions is a threat to a politicized Department of Justice. The DOJ has been weaponized, and has been used to go after individuals. We all remember how the DOJ went after the press, how they went after -- I told you this yesterday, Associated Press reporters, a number of other individuals, how they allowed for voter fraud and inflated fraud to take place on voter rolls across the country. How they wouldn’t prosecute a lot of cases that really deserved the DOJ’s attention. Jeff Sessions is a threat to this. Also, Jeff Sessions upholds that recognition. He did it as AG of Alabama, he’ll do it as AG here of the United States of America, as [NRA top lobbyist] Chris Cox said. He’s going to uphold that recognition, the federal recognition that our right to bear arms doesn’t just stop at a state line and this is something that goes across all of the United States, which is why I’m happy to see national reciprocity. And I’m going to tell you too, Grant. I’m getting pretty damn tired of these racial accusations going up against Jeff Sessions because Democrats right now are repeating discredited arguments that have been discredited since 1986. When you have Thomas Figures, who was indicted on bribery -- he was one of two accusers who tried to make up some accusation that Jeff Sessions was a racist. The other was Gerald Herbert, who was publicly put down by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals because he acted with impropriety. These are the two completely ineligible for consideration people that Democrats are relying on for the whole of their racial argument about Jeff Sessions. And I’ll end with this, Grant. A number of associates with Jeff Sessions, black and white, have defended his character, they’ve defended his integrity, they’ve defended his record, and that’s why they’re coming together. And that’s why, from some of these Democrat senators, you’re seeing such soft questioning, because they’ve been there shoulder to shoulder with Jeff Sessions and they know he’s the DOJ America needs.

    STINCHFIELD: Well you and I both know, Dana, that when the left doesn’t agree with you, what they do is they throw out the race card and they accuse everybody of being a racist. What really gets me is they look at Jeff Sessions as such a threat simply for one reason: He has vowed to uphold the law on the books already. That’s it, it's that simple. It’s how you change America around, it's how you make America safe again.

    LOESCH: Well they’re mad because he busted one group in Alabama who was engaged in voter fraud. I don’t like how there are groups that exist and they try to hide behind the guise of calling themselves a civil rights group. ACORN did it. 

  • Both Of Roger Ailes’ Replacements Have Now Been Accused Of Participating In Fox News’ Culture Of Sexual Harassment

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Fox News’ culture of sexual harassment did not end when founder Roger Ailes was given the boot. Instead, the network seems to have replaced him with men who engaged in or helped cover up similar behavior.

    Last year, longtime Fox executives Jack Abernethy and Bill Shine became the network’s co-presidents, replacing Ailes, who left the network after dozens of women accused him of sexual harassment.

    Abernethy has now been accused of retaliating against an employee who refused a personal relationship with him, while Shine was previously identified as playing “an integral role in the cover up” of sexual harassment allegations against Ailes.

    After the allegations against Ailes came to light, the network’s parent company launched an investigation by a law firm hired to review the allegations and provide legal advice. But in spite of numerous reports pointing to a broader culture of sexual harassment at the network, the inquiry was reportedly never expanded beyond Ailes. Fox got its “revenue machine back on track” and tried to move on, as Vanity Fair put it.

    But in promoting Ailes’ proteges to replace him, the network exposed itself and its employees to more of the same behavior.

    Soon after Ailes’ removal, Fox paid former on-air personality Juliet Huddy “a sum in the high six figures” not to sue the network after her lawyers sent Fox a letter alleging that she had been sexually harassed by host Bill O’Reilly, The New York Times reported today. The details are grotesque, and this is not the first time O’Reilly has been accused of such behavior.

    But the allegations extend beyond the network’s biggest star. The same letter reportedly indicated that Abernethy “had retaliated against [Huddy] professionally after she made clear that she was not interested in a personal relationship.”

    Shine has yet to be publicly accused of the same behavior. But he reportedly played a key role in keeping similar accusations from exploding into the public eye.

    New York magazine writer Gabriel Sherman -- the leading source on the Ailes scandal -- said that Shine “played an integral role in the cover up of these sexual harassment claims.” He explained on CNN that Shine “pushed women into confidential mediation, signing nondisclosure agreements in exchange for their contracts to be paid.” Other reporters confirmed hearing from Fox sources that Shine had known of Ailes’ misconduct.

    Since the initial accusations came out against Ailes, news reports have indicated that he was only part of the problem. At least a dozen other women told the Times in July they had experienced sexual harassment or intimidation at Fox, with many of them citing supervisors other than Ailes.

    It’s long past time for Fox to commission a real, independent investigation into its culture of sexual harassment. The network’s women should not have to live in fear of retribution from executives and hosts seeking sexual relationships.

  • With Finance Hire, Breitbart Tries To Wash Off The Stench Of The “Alt-Right”

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    In a transparent play to give the website a veneer of credibility, Breitbart.com has hired Wall Street Journal reporter John Carney to head up its new finance and economics section.

    Carney will “manage a roster of news contributors that includes former CNBC personality Larry Kudlow” for the Breitbart vertical when it launches following Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, Bloomberg Businessweek’s Joshua Green reported.

    Breitbart is currently defined by its bigoted content and popularity among the white nationalist and misogynist “alt-right.” Progressive activists have successfully urged the platform’s blue-chip advertisers to abandon it.

    Breitbart is ascendant in the political sphere; the candidate the site championed is on his way to the White House, accompanied by the outlet’s chairman, Stephen Bannon. But Breitbart’s position in the cultural sphere is waning due to scrutiny of its work. Its leadership wants to change the site’s narrative -- because, as Andrew Breitbart himself often warned, “politics is downstream from culture.”

    Over the past few years, Breitbart’s reach has expanded in two ways. The site has launched verticals that cover national security, technology, and sports (frequently with a heavy reliance on aggregation and wire service copy) in an effort to convince the members of its hard-right American audience to get their news about those subjects within the same ecosystem where they read about politics.

    And it has sought to expand its audiences in particular geographic areas by launching sections focused on California, Texas, the United Kingdom, Israel, and soon, Germany and France.

    The launch of the new financial and economic vertical sounds like a little bit of both.

    Breitbart has covered finance and economics in the past, but not with any real dedication or rigor; the website wants its audience to stay with it for that news, rather than going elsewhere.

    But Breitbart also seems to be seeking a new audience with the move: Wall Street professionals who are high value for advertisers but currently don’t get much from the website other than an association with the “alt-right.”

    That’s where Carney comes in.

    According to Green, Carney “writes about finance with a populist bent that often mirrors Breitbart’s outlook on politics.” He certainly seems on board with the Breitbart mission, telling Green that the section will promote “the economics of making America great again.”

    But he is also a professional journalist, with the Journal, Business Insider, and CNBC on his resume along with clips from other major publications. That makes him a dramatic departure from the editors the website has previously chosen to launch its new sections, a motley melange of conservative political operatives, conspiracy theorists, and fringe writers, often with a prior relationship with the website.

    Wall Street leaders who have worked with Carney in the past will likely continue to take his calls. Other mainstream journalists may be more willing to entertain offers from Breitbart now that they know Carney is helming part of the site.

    If that strategy holds, Breitbart may be able to generate enough independent reporting and scoops to attract that Wall Street audience. And with that audience comes more traffic and more advertising.

    While Carney suggests that the section will “hold [Trump] accountable,” Kudlow’s presence on the staff gives the game away. The longtime right-wing media personality lavished praise on Trump’s economic plans -- which he helped author -- during the presidential campaign. Trump has reportedly considered naming him to head the Council of Economic Advisors.

    Together, Carney and Kudlow will put a veneer of credibility over the same old Trump sycophancy.

  • Alex Jones Brags About Praise From “Top Putin Advisers” On Russian TV For His Pro-Trump Coverage

    Jones Was Feted As A “Hero” By “Putin's Rasputin”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Radio host Alex Jones recently appeared on a Russian television program where he was feted by pro-Kremlin commentators as a “hero” who exposed "the war crimes of Hillary Clinton” and “told the truth while everyone else lied” during the 2016 presidential campaign. The station’s editorial director, who has been nicknamed "Putin's Rasputin," also described Donald Trump’s electoral win to Jones as “when you and him and all of us won.”

    Jones, a prominent conspiracy theorist and one of President-elect Donald Trump’s key media allies, appeared on a late December broadcast of Tsargrad TV’s Our Point of View. In a segment on his show about the appearance, Jones bragged about the alleged influence of the Tsargrad TV program, claiming it was “Vladimir Putin’s favorite TV show” and “it’s private media -- a couple of these guys are Putin advisers, I mean, top Putin advisers.”

    Foreign Policy wrote in October 2015 that the recently launched Tsargrad TV aims “to put a conservative yet modern spin on global news.” Founder Konstantin Malofeev is a Russian tycoon who is “one of Putin’s loudest ideological supporters.” The magazine reported that “while some oligarchs who tried to get involved in TV in the early 2000s were exiled or jailed under Putin’s new regime, Malofeev is so far enjoying carte blanche with his channel, which he boasts is even more patriotic than the Kremlin’s own state-run TV stations.” Slate called Malofeev “one of Vladimir Putin’s favorite businessmen” and said he has “close ties to the Kremlin elite.”

    Alexander Dugin is the editorial director for Tsargrad TV. He has been widely referred to as “Putin's Rasputin” because of his ties and influence on the Russian president and his political apparatus. The Guardian’s Matthew d'Ancona wrote of Dugin’s influence in Russia:

    The extent of Dugin’s personal access to the Kremlin remains opaque: it has certainly waxed and waned over the decades. What is beyond dispute, however, is the influence his geopolitical vision has enjoyed in the general staff academy and the Russian ministry of defence. Putin’s intervention in Georgia in 2008, his invasion of Ukraine in 2014, and his tightening grip on Syria are all entirely consistent with Dugin’s strategy for Mother Russia.

    All of which is alarming enough. But what makes Dugin so suddenly significant is his growing influence in the west. It has long been alleged that he acts as a covert intermediary between Moscow and far-right groups in Europe, many of which are believed to receive funding from the Kremlin.

    Jones celebrated Tsargrad TV’s coverage during his December 28 show and played clips from the program, which were translated by an Infowars staffer. Jones’ appearance on the network began with a pre-taped package hailing the “legendary” Jones as a “journalist who had the true courage to show the truth of what is really going on in the United States” by “exposing the war crimes of Hillary Clinton.” The show praised Jones for discussing “the WikiLeaks dumps” and concluded that “Infowars.com was practically the only resource where the elections were covered thoroughly and objectively.”

    Our Point of View called Clinton a “war criminal” and claimed Trump’s words had been “taken out of context” by the media. It also called the former secretary of state “the lady kingpin of the world financial elites.”

    Dugin told Jones during the program that he’s a “hero” who “changed our view of who a real American is.” He began by stating that they “have been following" Jones "for many years” and he has “marveled at” the American broadcaster. Dugin said that Jones is “a hero of this campaign” because he “told the truth while everyone else lied.” According to Dugin, “When Donald Trump won, whom you supported and whom we were all also in solidarity with, when you and him and all of us won, I said this: Anti-Americanism is over.”

    He added that Jones is “a true American man” and “from the bottom of our hearts we thank you for being the genuine face of real America.” Here is Dugin’s monologue to Jones, which Infowars translated into English:

    ALEXANDER DUGIN (Infowars translation): I’m very happy that Alex Jones is live with us right now. We have been following you, Alex, for many years, including myself personally, and when you became truly celebrated in this new era of Donald Trump, I marveled at you. The fact that such people as yourself, who embody such free and independent points of view which are shared in reality by millions of people, Americans and worldwide, and millions of Russian people, how you became a hero of this campaign. How you told the truth while everyone else lied. How you held your ground fearlessly against all the attacks and all the dirt that they were throwing your way. And whether it be Russians, Europeans, Asians, or Turks, for us, you were an example of a true American man. The true American spirit. You, Alex, have changed our view of who a real American is. If the American people are anything like you, then the attitude toward your country, toward your people, will be radically changed. And when Donald Trump won, whom you supported and whom we were all also in solidarity with, when you and him and all of us won, I said this: Anti-Americanism is over. Now the people of the free United States, free Russia, and all the anti-globalist powers worldwide have to build a new world, new architecture. We are exceedingly glad to see you on our program broadcasting live right now and from the bottom of our hearts we thank you for being the genuine face of real America.

    Dugin previously said that Infowars is “the most powerful resource of true information in the U.S.” ThinkProgress’ Justin Salhani wrote that Dugin has links to white nationalists and his “ideology has infiltrated white nationalist circles in the United States and parts of Europe.”

    Andrey Afanasiev, another Tsargrad TV personality, praised Jones for playing “such an important role” in Trump’s victory and attacked Clinton supporters for not having the “strength of mind” to accept defeat.

    Infowars promoted the Russian show under the headlines “Must See: Russian Coverage Of The Infowar” and “Alex Jones Instrumental In Changing Russians’ Perception Of Americans; Russian TV hosts praise Alex for fighting Globalism in a recent interview.”

    Jones has claimed that the U.S. government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks and the tragedies at Columbine, Oklahoma City, Sandy Hook, and the Boston Marathon, among others. During the 2016 election, he frequently pushed false stories and conspiracy theories in a successful attempt to help elect Trump.

    Trump went on the Jones program in December 2015, and he reportedly thanked Jones’ audience after the election for helping him win. Trump has reportedly watched the show and he has repeatedly echoed Jones’ theories and rhetoric, prompting Jones to remark that it’s “surreal to talk about issues here on air and then word for word hear Trump say it two days later.”

    Top intelligence officials recently alleged that Russia orchestrated efforts to undermine the 2016 presidential election. The Washington Post also recently reported that “senior officials in the Russian government celebrated Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton as a geopolitical win for Moscow, according to U.S. officials who said that American intelligence agencies intercepted communications in the aftermath of the election in which Russian officials congratulated themselves on the outcome.”

  • Germany Investigating "Unprecedented Proliferation" Of Fake News In Wake Of Fabricated Breitbart Story

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    The German government announced it will use "all possible means" to investigate the spread of fake news online following Russian hacks and a dubious Breitbart news story that falsely claimed Muslim immigrants attacked a church.

    Reuters reported that German officials announced the government’s plan to investigate the “unprecedented proliferation” of fake news online amid growing concerns within German intelligence that Russia may attempt to interfere in the 2017 German parliamentary election.

    The announcement came following the backlash of a fake news story published by Breitbart.com that falsely claimed a “mob” of 1,000 Muslims attacked police and attempted to set a church on fire during New Year's Eve celebrations. German police immediately quashed the false story, and German newspaper editorial boards called out Breitbart for using “exaggerations and factual errors” to create “an image of chaotic civil war-like conditions in Germany, caused by Islamist aggressors.”

    In November, Breitbart announced it would open new bureaus in France and Germany to “help elect right-wing politicians” in the countries facing upcoming elections in environments where “anti-immigrant sentiment has been on the rise." Since that time, Breitbart has published a number of stories attacking Angela Merkel and German immigration policies.

    German officials also expressed concerns about Russian use of fake news in the country. The New York Times reported that Russia was behind the hacking into the German Parliament’s computer network in 2015 that left nearly 1 million Germans without internet access and increased fears that Russia will use fake news to “corrupt public debate and democratic processes.”

  • MSNBC Chyron Gives Trump Credit For Acknowledging Russian Role In Hacking During Segment Discussing His Repeated Refusal To Do So

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    A chyron during MSNBC Live erroneously claimed that President-elect Donald Trump had acknowledged Russia’s alleged role in hacking designed to swing the 2016 election in his favor, but during the same segment his repeated refusal to do so was the main topic of conversation.

    Trump has repeatedly and publicly refused to acknowledge Russia’s alleged hacking, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. On Friday, after being briefed about the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia sought to tilt the election in Trump’s favor, Trump released a muddled statement that largely downplayed Russia’s alleged actions. But you wouldn’t know that from MSNBC’s on-screen text.

    During the 3pm edition of MSNBC Live on January 9, on-screen text read, “Trump, Team Acknowledge Russia’s Role In Election Hacks.”

    But in the accompanying segment, host Kate Snow and guest Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff at the Department of Defense, were largely focused on Trump’s repeated refusal to accept the findings presented by U.S. intelligence agencies.

    Snow noted comments from senior Trump aide Kellyanne Conway indicating that Trump may roll back some of the sanctions imposed by President Obama in retaliation for the alleged election interference, and explained that other Republicans -- like Sen. John McCain -- have not shown the same reluctance to accept the conclusions of the intelligence agencies.

    Snow also displayed a tweet Trump sent this weekend, in which he brushed off concerns about the hacking and said that “the only reason” it is a topic of conversation “is that the loss by the Dems was so big that they are totally embarrassed.” She then asked Bash if Trump would keep up “this kind of rhetoric” and continue “to be skeptical of all this” as he takes office.

    In response, Bash told Snow that “in some ways, [Trump’s] statement Friday was a little better, because he actually didn’t dispute the core finding that Russia did try to hack our election, but I do think Trump team members will tell you -- and I’ve heard directly from them -- they see this in a political context.”

    Trump’s official statement, issued immediately after his briefing on the topic, refused to place direct blame on Russia, instead muddling both their potential involvement in the hacking and the allegation that they did so with the intention of aiding Trump’s candidacy: “While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.”

    As Politico reported, despite RNC chairman Reince Priebus’ statement that Trump accepted reports of Russia’s behavior,  “Trump has only indirectly acknowledged the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia interfered in the election and has consistently downplayed its significance — and the president-elect has a history of later contradicting what his surrogates tell the media.”

    Yet MSNBC’s chyron told a different story, one at odds not only with Trump’s repeated statements on the topic during the campaign but also with his behavior since the first details of the intelligence community’s findings began to be publicized. The chyron focused the conversation on Trump’s fleeting, begrudging, and inadequate reference to Russia’s potential role in hacking, letting him off the hook for his months of obfuscation and avoid the larger question of why Russia wanted to help him.

    As Brendan Nyhan, an assistant professor in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College who has “conducted several studies on fact-checking in recent years” explained to Poynter during the 2016 campaign when CNN began using chyrons to fact-check Trump in real time, it is crucial chyrons relay accurate information "because cable news chyrons often reinforce misleading messages or create doubt over relatively settled questions."

  • Alex Jones’ Infowars.com Attempts To Profit Off Fort Lauderdale Mass Shooting

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ radio show used the January 6 mass shooting at an airport in Fort Lauderdale, FL, to urge viewers to buy body armor from Jones’ online store.

    On January 6, a gunman killed five people and wounded six others when he opened fire with a handgun in the baggage claim area at Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport. The suspect, who was arrested at the scene, legally checked the firearm used for the shooting in his luggage on a flight from Anchorage, AK, to Fort Lauderdale.

    The day of the shooting, two guest hosts on The Alex Jones Show -- Infowars’ Owen Shroyer and David Knight -- used the violence to urge viewers to buy body armor.

    Citing the shooting and claiming “gun control areas are killing zones,” Knight said, “You need to make sure -- if they’re going to take your gun away, if they’re going to keep you defenseless -- you need to make sure that you can at least shield yourself. That’s why we’re selling tactical nanotechnology body armor that was previously available only to the military, only to law enforcement, is now available exclusively at InfowarsStore.com.”

    As he spoke, the screen showed body armor -- some of which costs more than $1,000 -- available for purchase at InfowarsStore.com.

    Apparently referencing the Fort Lauderdale shooting again, Knight then touted body armor inserts, saying, “You can get it in a vest form or you can buy something that you can stick into your backpack and turn your backpack into a shield, for you, for your children. So that when you’re in an airport where you're not allowed to carry a gun or you’re picking up your bags and you’ve got some idiot who decides he’s going to do this or you’re bunched up going through the TSA lines as they make you into a vulnerable target during their screening, you have something at least that will stop a bullet.”

    There is no evidence that gun-free zones pose a danger to the public or that civilians with concealed weapons are an effective deterrent to mass shootings. A strong majority of mass shootings actually occur where guns can be carried.

    Jones, a prominent conspiracy theorist and self-proclaimed “founding father” of the 9/11 Truth movement, has used The Alex Jones Show to claim that several high-profile incidents of gun violence were false flags carried out by the government, including the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 children and six educators dead.

    Jones was an important media ally of President-elect Donald Trump’s during the 2016 election. Trump appeared on Jones’ show in 2015 to praise Jones’ “amazing” reputation. Following Trump’s victory, Jones claimed that Trump told him he would appear on his show in the coming weeks, although the promised appearance has not materialized.  

  • Watch AM Joy Show How To Report The Impact Of Defunding Planned Parenthood

    Joy Reid Models Four Must-Do’s When Reporting On Reproductive Rights Topics During The Trump Administration

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    During the January 8 edition of MSNBC’s AM Joy, host Joy Reid put on a master class in how to cover anti-choice lawmakers’ latest attempts to defund Planned Parenthood.

    The Sunday after House Speaker Paul Ryan announced that Republicans would prioritize defunding the essential health care provider, Reid demonstrated four best practices for reporting on reproductive rights topics: hosting diverse guests, discussing the material consequences of policy decisions, including personal testimony in reports, and emphasizing the disparate impact of anti-choice laws on marginalized communities.

    Planned Parenthood is an essential health care provider for millions of Americans -- many of them low-income patients reliant on Medicaid to access primary care. To justify defunding Planned Parenthood, right-wing media and anti-choice politicians have falsely claimed that the organization’s primary goal is to coerce women into having abortions using taxpayer money.

    In reality, this could not be further from the truth. Due to the Hyde Amendment, the federal government is already barred from funding abortion services. Instead, the government reimburses Planned Parenthood for non-abortion services provided to low-income patients via Medicaid -- just like any other health care provider. Although right-wing media argue that so-called “community health clinics” (CHCs) could absorb this patient demand should Planned Parenthood clinics close, experts agree that CHCs lack the capacity, experience, and resources to replace Planned Parenthood.

    In its coverage of the defunding effort, AM Joy set the standard for reporting the consequences of congressional Republicans’ politically motivated attack on health care access -- and other outlets should take note.

    1. Host Diverse Guests

    During the January 8 segment, Reid hosted two women to discuss the impacts of defunding Planned Parenthood: the organization's president, Cecile Richards, and the executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), Jessica González-Rojas.

    In a previous study of prime-time cable news coverage of reproductive rights topics, Media Matters found that networks relied heavily on male panelists to discuss the consequences of policy decisions about abortion and reproductive rights issues. This problem of representation is also more generally borne out across the Sunday political talk shows, which have overwhelmingly relied on guests who are white, conservative, and male.

    Hosting diverse guests is essential to providing in-depth, quality coverage of many topics. Non-white and non-male perspectives in newsrooms are often rare, a trend that should incite concern not only about equality but also about coverage accuracy.

    2. Discuss The Material Consequences Of Policy Decisions

    AM Joy also focused on the material impacts of defunding Planned Parenthood -- not just the political spectacle of the legislative fight.

    At the start of the segment, Reid immediately debunked the pervasive conservative arguments about the consequences of defunding Planned Parenthood:

    JOY REID: Let’s be clear about this so-called defunding legislation -- what it would really do. It would prohibit Medicaid recipients from obtaining any kind of services from Planned Parenthood. We're not talking about abortion services because federal law already prohibits those being paid for with federal dollars. We're talking no cancer screenings, no contraception, no STD testing, no medical services as all. The defunding will be packaged with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, which is currently providing health insurance to 22 million people and counting.

    Richards and González-Rojas each provided examples of the consequences that defunding Planned Parenthood would have for a number of patients across the country. As Richards explained, “Any senator who votes [to defund] is hurting women in their own home state” because they are “essentially saying to low-income women, 'You can't go to Planned Parenthood for your cancer screenings and birth control.’”

    González-Rojas agreed, adding that when Indiana denied Planned Parenthood state Medicaid reimbursements, “we saw an STI outbreak,” and when Texas blocked the reimbursements, “we saw the rates of unintended pregnancy and birth increasing. We heard stories of women splitting birth control pills to make it last longer.”

    3. Include Personal Testimony About Reproductive Health

    Throughout the January 8 segment, Reid emphasized personal testimony from herself, Richards, and González-Rojas about relying on Planned Parenthood for essential health care.

    Reid noted that Planned Parenthood was “the place where, when I graduated from college and had no money and was broke and had a low-paying job, [I] got all my health care.” Richards echoed the sentiment, explaining that “one in five women in this country go to Planned Parenthood for health care in their lifetime, including me, including you.”

    The practice of including personal testimony should be a staple when reporting on the consequences of anti-choice laws, including -- while not directly relevant here -- abortion access.

    4. Highlight The Disparate Impact Of Anti-Choice Laws On Marginalized Communities

    AM Joy also provided a platform to discuss the disparate impact of anti-choice laws, which have a greater impact on marginalized communities than on other groups.

    As González-Rojas explained:

    JESSICA GONZÁLEZ-ROJAS: I think a good example comes from Texas when we saw the defunding of a lot of the family planning services in Texas. We saw a health crisis happen. We saw health disparities happen. Things like cervical cancer, which is largely preventable, Latinas had huge rates of cervical cancer and that's something that they shouldn't have happen in their life. If they have access to regular screenings, paps, mammograms -- all the services that Planned Parenthood provides -- those types of things would be prevented. So this is a disproportionate impact on communities of color, on immigrant communities, on low-income women and families, young people, so a fight against Planned Parenthood is a fight against our communities.

    Because the economics of accessing necessary health care are already so precarious for many communities, networks and outlets should emphasize the disproportionate impact anti-choice laws have on these groups whenever possible.

  • Breitbart Has A Literally Unbelievable Response To Its False German Church Story

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    As Breitbart.com prepares to export its brand of anti-establishment xenophobia to Germany, the website has come under fire for a false report suggesting that a “mob” of 1,000 Muslims tried to burn down a German church. Breitbart London’s editor-in-chief has now responded to critics with a 2,300-word rant that does not meet the laugh test.

    Breitbart, which is planning to expand to Germany ahead of national elections this fall, has frequently attacked Muslim communities in European nations and highlighted friction between those communities and white Europeans. The site aggregates instances of crimes allegedly committed by refugees in Germany and suggests German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her refugee policy are to blame -- a strategy that mirrors the political efforts of her far-right opposition, Alternative for Germany.

    Breitbart experienced a setback in this approach when a false story the website published on January 3 drew condemnation from local police and politicians as well as debunks from local, national, and international media outlets.

    Yesterday, Breitbart’s Raheem Kassam responded. According to him, the critics “have railed against Breitbart London’s reporting of an 1,000-strong crowd, many of whom were chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’, and firing fireworks at one of the oldest churches in Dortmund on New Year’s Eve.”

    But that's not what the outlet originally reported. According to the January 3 story, “a mob of more than 1,000 men chanted ‘Allahu Akhbar’, launched fireworks at police, and set fire to a historic church.”

    I can’t believe I need to write this, but there’s a difference between those three discrete facts all occurring -- 1,000 people being present, some of them chanting “Allahu Akbar,” and one of them at some point firing a firework that hit the church -- and 1,000 people who are all chanting “Allahu Akbar” collectively setting fire to said church.

    Breitbart reported the latter. That report was false.

    Kassam triumphantly claimed that media outlets that disputed Breitbart’s story “confirmed almost every substantive fact about the Breitbart London report on the issue: there were 1,000, mostly male, mostly non-native German people gathered in the Leeds Square; there were repeated chants of ‘Allahu Akbar’; the ‘Free Syrian Army’ flag was flown; and there was a fire at the St. Reinold’s Church caused by the fireworks.”

    Again, I can’t believe I actually need to write this, but the relationship that Breitbart claimed existed between those facts is also relevant in terms of whether its story is accurate.  

    The rest of Kassam’s piece is a painstaking, tiresome effort to prove that each of those individual facts is true, while ignoring that Breitbart’s report distorted and misrepresented their connection. It is also filled with whining:

    Whining about a reporter who wouldn’t help Breitbart with the story in the first place:

    One witness of the event — Peter Bandermann from the Breitbart-critical Ruhr Nachricthen (RN) website — refused to assist Breitbart London in the reporting of the event, despite reporting it at length himself.

    Whining about German journalists acting more like Russian propaganda outlets:

    The effect of journalists refusing, on ideological grounds, to ensure stories are reported across the international press is both a sign of a partisan media, but also protects criminals, police ineffectiveness, and failing state policies. This tactic, usually reserved for state-sponsored news outlets like Russia Today or TeleSUR, are becoming more commonplace in the West, especially in Germany.

    Whining about the German police:

    The police clearly failed in their attempts to stop this happening again, and are now lashing out against news organisations like Breitbart News for drawing attention to the matter.

    Whining that critical news outlets called out the Breitbart piece for pointing the finger at Muslims (we are the real racists, apparently):

    Despite this, outlets such as Mediaite, TeleSur, Sputnik, HuffPo, Media Matters, Deutsche Welle, the Washington Post and others decided to use words like “Muslim”, “migrant”, “Islam”, “Arab”, and “immigration” in their headlines or reporting on our story. Why? To stoke fears and division — and perhaps even to suggest that this behaviour would be somehow representative of all of the members of the aforementioned communities and backgrounds. That, to us, is the real “fake news” and “racism” and I am grateful that my journalists do not engage in that kind of scare-mongering.

    Whining about German politicians:

    Like the Rotherham rape scandal, the Hillsborough disaster, and even Cologne last year, police and politicians often collude in order to mask a true version of events that are inconvenient at best, or institutionally damning at worst.

    Kassam’s posture makes clear that in Germany, Breitbart intends to use the same us-against-them assault on the media and political establishment that it deployed in the United States. Given the results of the past year, German reporters should be extremely wary of what the website has in store for their country.