Cabinet & Agencies

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  • An Anti-LGBTQ Hate Group Is Wielding Growing Power On Trump's Transition Team

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Wired spotlighted the growing influence of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council (FRC) on President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team. The publication wrote that FRC is now “as well positioned as ever” to propagate its brand of regressive anti-LGBTQ pseudoscience through “lower level government officials” who have the power to “overrule scientific advisory committees.”

    FRC has been designated as an anti-LGBTQ “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center since 2010 due to FRC’s “distortion of known facts to demonize gay men as child molesters and similar false claims.” Despite initial reservations about Trump’s candidacy, FRC president Tony Perkins quickly embraced and endorsed him as a “teachable” candidate after he secured his party’s presidential nomination. Their relationship gave Perkins an opportunity to “shape” Trump into a nominee who embodies the former’s anti-LGBT extremism and to garner support from evangelicals for Trump.

    Wired’s Emma Ellis revealed just how much Perkins has taken advantage of that opportunity in a November 30 article about Trump’s transition team members who are affiliated with the hate group. They include:

    • Ken Blackwell, Trump’s domestic policy chair as well as an FRC senior fellow;
    • former FRC Vice President Kay Coles James, who co-leads the transition team in management and budget affairs;
    • Ed Meese, who has written for FRC and is co-leading the team in management and budget affairs; and
    •  Ken Klukowski, the transition team’s “constitutional rights” leader, Breitbart editor, and the former director of FRC’s center for religious liberty.

    Ellis’s profile also noted that many of Trump’s “cabinet appointees and soon-to-be staffers” have spoken at FRC’s annual conference, the Values Voter Summit, as did Trump.

    Despite FRC’s reputation for peddling misinformation and extremism, the group’s members “are treated as reasonable by many in Congress,” Ellis wrote. This is largely due to FRC’s success in what an English professor who studies homophobic language referred to as “‘cultivating a scientific identity,’” and in pushing an ideology that Ellis wrote “comes packaged in a way that looks like real science but is really just cherrypicked data stitched together to serve its agenda.”

    Media outlets a have largely ignored Trump’s selections for his transition team, instead mostly focusing on his cabinet picks, whom they’ve dissected in long articles exploring their professional histories and affiliations and speculating on their potential impact on policy. But Ellis noted that the “lower level political hires the transition team has the authority to make-- the undersecretaries, the assistant undersecretaries--have the power to overrule scientific advisory committees” -- and they could do so with FRC’s brand of anti-LGBTQ pseudoscience.

    From the November 30 Wired article:

    The Family Research Council isn’t content to oppose homosexuality on religious grounds; instead, it uses pseudoscience to give its homophobia a flimsy veneer of objectivity. And it could wind up shaping the incoming president’s policies.

    “They’ve been highly sophisticated in cultivating a scientific identity, which makes them powerful,” says David Peterson, an English professor who studies homophobic language at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. (The FRC and Trump transition team did not respond to requests for comment.)

    [...]

    The group has been making political moves since the early 1980s. Since then, it’s grown to become the most successful progeny of an effort among social conservatives to move the basis of their policy recommendations away from Scripture and toward sociology. Not that legitimate sociology is where the FRC has arrived. Rather, the group is to homophobia what the National Policy Institute is to the alt-right—a bland, respectable-sounding, quasi-academic front for a hateful, regressive ideology. It comes packaged in a way that looks like real science but is really just cherrypicked data stitched together to serve its agenda.

    [...]

    Nevertheless, FRC members perspectives are treated as reasonable by many in Congress. And now it appears they’ll enjoy similar esteem from the Trump administration. In part, that success owes itself to the group’s public relations effort to appear of respectable. Their website is well designed and hides some of the FRC’s most outré work. Perkins seems like a pleasant enough fellow on television.

    With current and former FRC staff all over the Trump transition team, the group seems as well positioned as ever to propagate its ideology. Perhaps most importantly—and least conspicuously—it may find a way to accomplish its goals through lower level government officials who buy into the FRC’s beliefs. “The headlines are about who is the secretary of this or that, but they deal with broad policy,” says David Himmelstein, a professor of public health policy at the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College. But the lower level political hires the transition team has the authority to make—the undersecretaries, the assistant undersecretaries—have the power to overrule scientific advisory committees, Himmelstein says, and have done so even under the relatively pro-science Obama administration. Such actions by a presidential administration can also provide political cover for more radical policy shifts at the state level.

  • Morning Joe Hosts, After Carrying Water For Trump And Meeting Him Privately, Aghast That Anyone Questions Their Impartiality

    ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, co-hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, have met privately with Donald Trump while Scarborough is reportedly advising the president-elect, yet both still reject media criticism of their overly positive coverage of the former reality show celebrity. On the November 29 edition of Morning Joe alone, the hosts carried water for President-elect Trump on five separate topics, including criticizing journalists for scrutinizing his extensive conflicts of interest and reporting on Pro-Trump “fake news.”

  • Why Won’t Fox News Ask Potential Trump DHS Head David Clarke Why Inmates Are Dying In His Jail?

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly considering Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke -- a frequent Fox News guest -- to head the Department of Homeland Security. In April, an inmate in Sheriff Clarke’s Milwaukee County Jail was found dead of “profound dehydration.” Since that incident, three other individuals, including a newborn infant, have died in Clarke’s Milwaukee County Jail, but in more than 40 prime-time appearances on Fox News since the first reported death, Clarke has not once been asked about the disturbing trend of people dying in his jail. Clarke’s tenure as Milwaukee County Sheriff has been filled with controversy and legal action, and on Fox News and Twitter, Clarke has a history of using incendiary rhetoric directed at government officials and protesters.

  • Media Should Not Sanitize Trump Immigration Adviser Kris Kobach’s Extremism, Ties To White Supremacists

    Kobach “Wrote The Book” On Muslim Registry And Was Behind Anti-Immigrant SB 1070

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    A reported architect behind President-elect Donald Trump’s extreme immigration proposals, radio host and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has received significant media attention following the announcement that he was joining Trump’s transition team. However, media outlets are failing to note his ties to hate groups and nativist organizations and his attacks on immigrants and LGBTQ people.

  • Eric Bolling Is Trying To Cover His Bigoted Tracks (And Failing)

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Bolling

    Eric Bolling, a Fox News host who is reportedly discussing a possible position in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, deleted a five-year-old racist tweet about President Obama immediately after Media Matters unearthed it.

    Bolling drew criticism in May 2011 after tweeting that Obama had been “chugging 40’s” in Ireland “while tornadoes ravage” Missouri. Earlier today, Media Matters called attention to that tweet in a post exploring Bolling’s history of making bigoted commentary and pushing conspiracy theories.

    Moments after I flagged Bolling’s May 2011 comment on Twitter, he deleted the tweet and blocked me.

    Unfortunately for Bolling, we have a screenshot of his tweet:

    And a screenshot of his identical Facebook post, which he hasn’t yet deleted:

    And video of him saying the same thing on his Fox show, which he can’t delete:

    Bolling is trying to hide his racism, and he’s doing a terrible job of it. He is both too bigoted and too dumb for public service.
  • ABC’s Martha Raddatz Falls Into The Trap Of Normalizing Trump’s Anti-Muslim National Security Adviser Pick

    Raddatz Briefly Mentions Michael Flynn’s Anti-Islam Views At The Beginning Of This Week, But By The End Ignores Them Entirely

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    ABC chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz demonstrated how easily journalists can normalize bigotry while hosting ABC’s This Week. Raddatz noted the anti-Muslim views of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn at the beginning of This Week, but in subsequent discussions of Flynn she refrained from mentioning them at all.

    President-elect Donald Trump has named Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, as his pick for national security adviser on Friday. In addition to holding international conflicts of interest, Flynn is also explicitly anti-Muslim. Flynn has said that “fear of Muslims is rational,” is a board member of the anti-Muslim hate group ACT! For America, defended Trump’s proposed Muslim ban during the presidential campaign, compared Islam to cancer, and denied that Islam is a religion.

    During her guest hosting of the November 20 edition of This Week, Raddatz briefly referenced some of Flynn’s anti-Islam comments while reviewing who Trump has selected to serve in his administration so far. When highlighting at the top of her show the criticism that some of Trump’s picks have drawn, Raddatz noted that Flynn “is under fire for calling Islam a cancer and his tweet that ‘fear of Muslims is rational.’”

    Next, when interviewing Trump’s incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus, Raddatz said Flynn “has a history of controversial views about Islam,” noting that Flynn has said that “Islam is not a real religion, but a political ideology masked behind a religion.” When asked if Trump shares that view, Priebus answered, “I think so,” but “phrasing can always be done differently.”

    Later, when leading into an interview with former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden, Raddatz merely said Flynn is known “for his controversial views on Islam.”

    During her interview with Hayden, Raddatz said Flynn was “praised for his intelligence gathering” and asked about his qualifications as national security adviser -- but made no mention of Flynn’s anti-Muslim bigotry.

    And during a panel discussion near the end of the show, Raddatz lumped Flynn in with other retired military personnel, framing him as just someone with military experience, and made no mention of his anti-Muslim bigotry.

    The media’s coverage of Trump -- including his policies, rhetoric, and hires -- will set the tone for the national political dialogue about his presidency. 60 Minutes showed what not to do in Trump’s first sit-down interview after the election, allowing him to reintroduce his most criticized positions as reasonable while glossing over the most dangerous features and promises of his campaign. There has also been a concerted effort in conservative media to rehabilitate Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief adviser who until recently ran Breitbart News, the “platform of the alt-right.”

    One pitfall media has run into is describing the bigoted rhetoric and draconian positions of Trump -- and the people he surrounds himself with -- as “controversial.” Media use neutral-sounding words like controversial to avoid making what they consider editorial judgments about Trump’s rhetoric and policies, but doing so ultimately treats bigotry as a valid political belief.

    Over the course of one show, Raddatz described Flynn as “controversial” and painted him as highly respected, while essentially disappearing his anti-Muslim bigotry. In doing so, Raddatz helped normalize Trump and the bigots he is choosing to staff his incoming administration with.

  • Laura Ingraham Shows How She Would Fight Back Against Journalists As Trump's Press Secretary

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    On Fox News Sunday, radio host and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham -- who is under consideration for White House press secretary -- was confronted with concerns over President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. Ingraham deflected, claiming that “these types of lines against true patriots” are “the kind of stuff that has turned people against Washington, D.C.” By ignoring Flynn’s conflicts of interest and concerns about him raised by members of the intelligence community, Ingraham previewed the opaque and adversarial way she would handle criticism of the Trump administration as press secretary.

    Last week, Trump offered Flynn the position of national security adviser in his administration. Flynn, who gained prominence in the Republican Party with frequent appearances on Fox News, has conflicts of interest with Russia and Turkey and has a long history of anti-Muslim statements, including that “fear of Muslims is rational.”

    On November 20, Fox News’ Juan Williams highlighted concerns from members of the intelligence community that Flynn is “unhinged” and shares “facts that don't comport with what others in the intelligence community believe to be true.” Williams also pointed out that “Americans … are concerned” by Flynn’s “ties to Russia” and “ties to Turkey.” Specifically, Flynn recently had dinner with Russian president Vladimir Putin at Russian state news site Russia Today’s gala and has a lobbying firm that has accepted money from an ally of the Turkish president. Ingraham sidestepped Williams’ arguments, instead questioning his intentions and telling him that comments like his are “the kind of stuff that's turned people against Washington.” From the November 20 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday:

    JUAN WILLIAMS: I think the question really is about the appointments and the appointment process. So you have people who I would say don't fit into exactly a team of rivals, but to many people a team of radicals -- a team of radicals in terms of what are these people representing? Flynn, Mike Flynn, I don't think he could be confirmed, so he's getting the national security adviser job. I think his past in national security and a number of people --

    CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): Defense Intelligence Agency.

    WILLIAMS: Yes, specifically as head of Defense Intelligence, and the way that he left there and questions about his management style and about sharing information and what some in the intelligence community call “Flynn facts,” which is facts that don't comport with what others in the intelligence community believe to be true. Colin Powell writing in the WikiLeaks leak that he thought he was unhinged. I think this tells you it would be very difficult.

    [...]

    I think when you think about someone like Flynn, Americans, Lisa, are concerned when you look at his ties to Russia, his ties to Vladimir Putin. When they think about his ties to Turkey --

    LAURA INGRAHAM: What are they, Juan? What are you talking about? You’re just throwing out these --

    WALLACE: He did go to a dinner.

    WILLIAMS: Thank you. He not only go to a dinner, he went to a dinner for Russia Today and was with Putin, and he was taking money from the Turkish government. These are facts, Laura.

    INGRAHAM: Here’s what I think --

    WALLACE: We’re almost out of time, so a quick answer.

    INGRAHAM: Well, OK, there was a lot said by Juan, but you said “team of radicals.” This is the kind of stuff that has turned people against Washington, D.C., and these types of lines against true patriots who sacrificed for their country, who are beloved among the men and women in the military, who actually do the heavy lifting for all of us. [James] Mattis, General Mattis, is one of the most beloved Marines of the last 50 years. General Flynn is considered one of the pre-eminent intelligence experts of our age. So to throw out these lines, “a team of radicals,” that serves nobody's interest. If you have a substantive disagreement with their approach to fighting terror or their approach to intelligence, that's fine. But these blithe comments, I think, have poisoned political discussion in this country, and I think it's exactly why people despise this city.

    Ingraham, who is reportedly under “serious consideration” to be White House press secretary in President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming administration, has repeatedly expressed disgust of members of the media who report things she deems negative about Trump. Ingraham’s media appearances have also included numerous attacks on Latinos, civil rights groups, LGBTQ people, and others.