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  • Trump Allies Promote Rape Apologist Days After Sexual Assault Revelations

    Gen. Michael Flynn And Donald Trump Jr. Promoted Rape Apologist Mike Cernovich’s Defense Of Trump’s Confessed Abuse Amid Hot Mic Scandal

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Influential members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign promoted a defense of Trump from “alt-right” blogger Mike Cernovich, a sexual assault apologist who denies the existence of rape culture, as the GOP reeled from the revelation that Trump once bragged about committing sexual assault.

    On October 7, The Washington Post published 2005 audio and video of Trump saying on a hot mic: “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful -- I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.” Trump later added, “And when you’re a star they let you do it,’ Trump says. ‘You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” The comments have been widely condemned as an admission by the Republican presidential nominee of sexual assault.

    Late in the evening of October 8, Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn tweeted a link to Cernovich’s defense of Trump’s confessed abuse while promoting the blogger’s supposedly “terrific book” about masculinity. Hours later, BuzzFeed political reporter Rosie Gray noted that Donald Trump Jr. had retweeted the link. In the video linked to by Flynn, Cernovich and libertarian blogger Stefan Molyneux disparage concerns over Trump’s “locker room talk from 11 years ago,” which they portray as nothing more than “alpha male” exaggerations as they complain about a “selective outrage hysteria that seems to be the hallmark of the left”:

    As Media Matters has documented, Cernovich is a sexual assault apologist and noted conspiracy theorist prominent on the “alt-right” fringe of conservative media. Cernovich operates a website called Danger & Play where he peddles misogyny, Islamophobia, and other baseless conspiracy theories to the lowest common denominator. His social media accounts, particularly on Twitter, frequently dismiss the existence of date rape, which he claims is a natural male activity -- “the hotter the sex, the more closely it resembles rape.”

  • Television News’ Silence On Jill Harth's Sexual Assault Allegations Against Trump May Finally End

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Former Donald Trump business associate Jill Harth’s past allegations of sexual assault and harassment against the Republican presidential nominee have resurfaced this year in The Boston Globe, The New York Times, and most recently The Guardian. Television news, however, has remained nearly silent on these serious allegations of illegal and possibly criminal misconduct facing Trump. Following a October 7 Nicholas Kristof column in the Times detailing a new interview with Harth about her sexual assault allegations and The Washington Post’s explosive report on a 2005 recording of Trump bragging about the exact type of behavior Harth described, will major news networks’ virtual silence about the story continue?

    Harth first brought a sexual harassment lawsuit against Trump in 1997, which was later dropped as a condition for settling a separate contract dispute with Trump. In the original complaint and subsequent accounts, Harth described several alleged instances in which Trump sexually harassed and groped her, as well as one instance of attempted rape, when they were business partners in the 1990s. Her accusations were included in comprehensive reporting on Trump’s dangerous misogyny and behavior with women by The Boston Globe in April and The New York Times in May.

    In the weeks after the Times front-page story featuring Harth, television news largely ignored the accusations of unlawful conduct, aside from one report on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes.

    After several more months of news network silence, Harth and her lawyer, Lisa Bloom, gave interviews in July further detailing the allegations, which could at a minimum constitute illegal sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. In an exclusive interview posted on July 18 with ABC News legal affairs anchor and LawNewz founder Dan Abrams, Harth reiterated her accusations and demanded an apology from Trump.

    LawNewz later reported that “about 8 minutes” after the Abrams interview was posted, the Trump campaign and then the candidate himself contacted LawNewz in the middle of the Republican National Convention to deny the allegations, saying in a phone call, “If you look in the National Enquirer, there was a story in there that she was in love with me. The woman has real problems…It’s ridiculous, I’ve never touched this woman.”

    Two days later, The Guardian published an interview in which Harth described not only her allegations from the 1990s, but also her experience coming to terms with Trump’s presidential run and her decision to speak out once again. In August, Harth spoke to WNYC about the allegations, and the outlet published a copy of her original 1997 complaint as well as documents sent from the Trump legal team in an attempt to discredit her.

    A new Media Matters analysis found that television news has still remained virtually silent on Harth’s specific allegations of illegal sexual harassment and assault since her July 18 LawNewz interview. A search of available transcripts for ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC from July 19 through October 6 --  the day before the Kristof column was published -- revealed that Harth’s allegations were mentioned only four times across all six networks. Bloom was a guest for three of the four segments mentioning either Harth’s accusations specifically or allegations of sexual assault or harassment against Trump in general. Harth was mentioned once by name in the available Nexis transcripts for all six major networks -- in an August 2 segment, again on All In. Bloom, also an NBC legal analyst and CNN commentator, appeared as a guest to discuss Trump’s behavior with women and relationship with accused serial sexual harasser Roger Ailes.

    The relative television media silence on Harth’s allegations has persisted since July in spite of at least four major news stories related to Trump and sexual assault or harassment. Numerous segments across the networks tackled the Trump campaign’s threats to discuss Bill Clinton's past, Trump’s relationship with ousted Fox News chairman and accused serial sexual harasser Roger Ailes, and Trump’s comments about workplace sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military, without mentioning Harth’s alleged harassment and assault.

    On October 8, MSNBC’s AM Joy began its Saturday morning coverage reporting the release of the Trump recording and its aftermath and hosted Lisa Bloom to discuss Trump’s relationship with women, and Harth specifically, in detail. Bloom again reiterated Harth’s allegations against Trump and excoriated media for ignoring Harth’s case for so long. Host Joy Reid noted that the “hot mic” recording of Trump from 2005 “seemed to corroborate” what Harth has been alleging for years, a sentiment Kristof repeated in his column. Perhaps Bloom’s appearance on AM Joy and Kristof’s conclusion that Harth is “telling the truth” after interviewing her and “reviewing the lawsuits and depositions from the time” will signal to others that the time has come to report on these disturbing allegations against the presidential nominee in full.

    Methodology

    For the time period between July 19 and October 6, Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts for coverage on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC for any mentions of the terms “Jill Harth” and “Harth,” as well as any mentions of the phrases “sexual assault” or “sexual harassment” within 50 words of “Trump.” Nexis transcripts include all-day programming on CNN, evening programming on MSNBC and Fox News, and morning, evening, and Sunday news shows on the broadcast networks. 

  • Fox Contributor Robert Jeffress Defends Trump Despite Sexual Assault Boasts

    Pro-Trump Evangelical Leaders Confirm To The Daily Beast That They Still Support GOP Nominee

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Fox News contributor Robert Jeffress was one of several right-wing evangelical leaders who reconfirmed their support of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump despite the recent discovery of a 2005 recording of Trump profanely bragging about sexual assault.

    An explosive October 7 article from Washington Post reporter David Farenthold revealed video and audio of Trump bragging during a private conversation “in vulgar terms about kissing, groping, and trying to have sex with women” with or without their consent. The revelation of the nominee’s apparent admission that he had committed sexual assault set off a firestorm of criticism of the Republican nominee from journalists and political commentators, as the recording corroborated what has been alleged about Trump for years  

    Despite this torrent of criticism and the flight of would-be supporters, several of the far right conservative evangelical leaders who have been supportive of the GOP nominee for months remain solidly behind him. According to an October 7 report from Daily Beast reporter Betsy Woodruff, right-wing leaders Ralph Reed, Robert Jeffress, and David Bozell believe “the audio won’t change how conservative voters view the candidate,” and Fox contributor Jeffress is “still voting Trump.” From The Daily Beast:

    The fact that Donald Trump said in 2005 that he could grab women “by the pussy” because he’s famous doesn’t seem to be changing how social conservative leaders feel about him.

    Evangelicals who opposed him before still aren’t fans. And the ones in his camp aren’t phased by the recording. That’s because this isn’t about how much they like the brash billionaire; it’s about how unflinching they are in their opposition to Hillary Clinton.

    “People of faith are voting on issues like who will protect unborn life, defund Planned Parenthood, defend religious liberty and oppose the Iran nuclear deal,” said Ralph Reed, who heads the Faith & Freedom Coalition. “A ten-year-old tape of a private conversation with a talk show host ranks low on their hierarchy of concerns.”

    Robert Jeffress, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and a member of Trump’s Evangelical Executive Advisory Board, said the comments were “lewd, offensive, and indefensible.”

    But, he added, he’s still voting Trump. He said he moderated a meeting between the candidate and Evangelical and Catholic leaders, and he was forthright about his hesitations about Trump’s moral

    “I said at that time, with Trump sitting next to me, I would not necessarily choose this man to be my child’s Sunday School teacher,” [Robert] Jeffress said. “But that’s not what this election is about.”

    He added that he doesn’t think Hillary Clinton is morally superior to Trump.

    Both Ralph Reed and Robert Jeffress are members of Trump’s anti-LGBT and anti-choice “Evangelical Executive Advisory Board” and Jeffress is a long-time Fox News contributor. David Bozell spent 11 years at the right-wing Media Research Center, which serves as a prominent clearinghouse for misinformation parroted by right-wing media outlets.

  • NRA Continues To Victim-Shame And Ridicule Kim Kardashian West: “Maybe [She] Should Butt Out Of Our Lives”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Rifle Association continues to ridicule and attack Kim Kardashian West for being the victim of a robbery at gunpoint.

    Over the weekend, several men broke into the apartment Kardashian West was renting in Paris, France, making off with millions of dollars worth of jewelry. The men bound her with duct tape and placed her in a bathtub during the robbery, and she reportedly thought they were there to rape her.

    On October 3, the NRA mocked Kardashian West -- who has previously called for Congress to take action on gun violence -- on social media, drawing widespread condemnation for attacking the victim of a crime.

    The NRA and members of the group’s leadership frequently blame victims of crimes, including victims of mass shootings, for supposedly failing to protect themselves from violent attacks.

    In an October 4 article, the NRA’s magazine, America’s 1st Freedom, doubled down on the NRA’s attacks on Kardashian West, calling her an “anti-gun zealot,” and offered a false attack on her past comments about gun violence. The NRA article claimed that Kardashian West is a “gun-banner” and said, “If an out-of-touch millionaire elitist like Kim Kardashian isn’t safe from crime, despite being able to afford 24/7 security -- even in a place like Paris, whose gun bans she would presumably like to see imposed on all of us -- can any of us mere mortals feel safe?”

    “Maybe Kardashian should butt out of our lives and worry about her own security,” the article concluded.

    Along with continuing to lob an offensive attack on the victim of a crime, the NRA is making a false representation of what Kardashian West has said about the gun issue.

    Following the massacre of 49 people at gay night club Pulse in Orlando, FL, Kardashian took to Twitter to call for stronger gun laws:

    In August, Kardashian West expressed her support for gun safety laws at several events, attending a lunch organized by the groups Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and speaking about the need for stronger gun laws at an annual conference for women bloggers. Kardashian West wrote on social media that at the lunch she met with “families of loved ones who were killed by gun violence” and “learned a lot from listening to their stories. Life is so precious! What will it take for this to stop?”

    In no instance did she call for the type of gun ban that the NRA is claiming she supports. And this isn’t the first time the NRA has misinterpreted her advocacy: After Kardashian West wrote about attending the lunch, the NRA’s radio show attacked her as a hypocrite for supporting gun safety laws while employing a bodyguard,  and suggested that she “get rid of her armed security.”

  • Alicia Machado Didn’t Kill Anyone, But Don King Did

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    CNN political commentator and former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski attempted to smear former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, by claiming that she “has been part of a murder.” While no charges were brought against Machado and she long ago denied involvement, Lewandowski ignored the role of Don King in Trump’s campaign -- the former boxing promoter who was “found guilty of second-degree murder for killing a gambling associate who owed him $600.”

    Lewandowski attempted to deflect from the criticism over Trump’s public shaming of Machado by smearing her on the September 29 edition of CNN’s New Day, asserting that “The Clinton campaign took a person and brought her into a debate who has been part of a murder.”

    While Machado “was accused of being an accomplice to an attempted murder” in 1998, according to a Los Angeles Times report, “A judge later said there was insufficient evidence to arrest her and ordered only her boyfriend’s arrest.” New Day co-host Alisyn Camerota explained to Lewandowski that Machado was “never charged, never indicted,” and “never convicted” of the accusations, facts reported by The New York Times as well.

    In his attack on Machado, Lewandowski ignored that Trump has leaned on Don King in efforts to court minority voters, who in 1966 was found guilty of murder for reportedly stomping his employee to death. King also shot and killed a man in 1954 (later ruled a “justifiable homicide”) who, according to ESPN.com, “tried to rob one of his gambling houses.” King’s 1966 murder charges were reduced by the judge at sentencing to manslaughter, and King was later pardoned in 1983.

    Lewandowski’s attempt to smear Machado while ignoring the role of King in Trump’s campaign isn’t surprising given his sycophantic support for Trump. Despite being a paid CNN contributor, Lewandowski is still very much involved in the Trump campaign. Lewandowski’s company Green Monster Consulting LLC received $20,000 for “strategy consulting” for the Trump campaign in August, which the campaign claimed was “severance.” Lewandowski announced September 29 that he is no longer receiving payments from the Trump campaign and it is reported that “the campaign paid off the remainder of his contract in one lump sum.” Lewandowski’s claim cannot be confirmed until future rounds of FEC filings.

    Lewandowski has also traveled with Trump on the campaign trail and was reportedly involved in preparing the Republican nominee for the first presidential debate.

  • Trump And The Pitfalls Of Relying On Stop-And-Frisk Myths Three Years Too Late

     After Lester Holt Fact Check, Trump Now Confused About What Version Of Stop And Frisk He Wants

    Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    One of the dangers of haphazardly reviving right-wing media myths is that some falsehoods are much trickier than others to walk back. During the first presidential debate of 2016, GOP nominee Donald Trump learned this the hard way, when moderator Lester Holt of NBC News fact-checked him cold about the unconstitutional version of stop and frisk that the Republican presidential nominee recently proposed as a nationwide model.

    During the September 26 debate, Trump once again invoked his support for New York City’s past application of stop and frisk, which was struck down by a federal judge three years ago and abandoned on appeal, much to the disappointment of right-wing media proponents of “order” over constitutional protections. When Holt responded that “stop and frisk was ruled unconstitutional in New York, because it largely singled out black and Hispanic young men,” Trump snapped back, “No, you’re wrong. … If you look at it, throughout the country, there are many places where it's allowed.”

    But Holt was right. And that’s true without even getting into the fact that contrary to Trump’s assertions, the tactic was a proven failure at reducing violent crime in New York City.

    The generalized police practice of stop and frisk may be a common one used across the country, but if the way it’s specifically practiced results in racial profiling, it violates the federal Constitution’s protections against equal protection violations and unlawful search and seizure. That’s exactly what happened in the since-abandoned version practiced in New York City, which was exactly what Holt pointed out. If that’s the version Trump supports, he is supporting an unconstitutional policy that impermissibly discriminates on the basis of race. If he instead merely supports the version that is “allowed” “throughout the country,” then how is that a solution for reducing crime rates when it’s already in effect?

    This issue first cropped up during this campaign season on September 21, when Fox News’ Sean Hannity hosted a town hall for Trump, this one advertised as part of the nominee’s outreach to African-American voters. During the recorded event (which was bumped from airing that night due to protests over another questionable police shooting of a black man, this time in Charlotte, NC), Trump made the surprising proposal that his plan for protecting black residents of the “inner cities” was to bring back the widely reviled New York twist on stop and frisk that was struck down in federal court as unconstitutional racial profiling.

    When Trump’s unaired comments leaked, media outlets immediately began calling out his support for an abandoned and racially discriminatory policing method as a peculiar form of outreach to black voters. In response, the next morning Trump falsely claimed on the September 22 edition of Fox & Friends that he really only meant that it should be brought back in Chicago – a city he apparently was unaware already employs the practice.

    It was these confusing contradictions -- and Trump’s refusal to admit that his much-promoted “outreach” to African-American voters included a promise to stop and search them on the street because of the color of their skin -- that led Holt to try to set the record straight during the debate.

    In the wake of this and the many other aspects of Trump’s disastrous debate performance, the nominee’s supporters began spinning hard, including by making the false claim that Holt had somehow claimed stop and frisk was unconstitutional everywhere. Trump supporter, former New York City mayor, and frequent stop-and-frisk defender Rudolph Giuliani was particularly vocal. First he falsely smeared Holt’s fact check, arguing on Fox News that “Lester Holt's statement was completely ignorant and completely uncalled for, and he shouldn't get involved in a legal issue he doesn't know a darn thing about.” Later, Giuliani added Clinton to his criticism on the issue, saying she’s “totally wrong and completely ignorant” about stop and frisk. He also tried to separate himself from the actions of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who were at the helm when the stop-and-frisk policies they inherited from Giuliani’s mayorship were ruled unconstitutional. “It’s not unconstitutional if you do it the right way -- and that's what [Trump] is talking about, doing it the right way,” said Giuliani. “It was never found unconstitutional when I did it.”

    But Trump has specifically praised Kelly’s stop-and-frisk policies that were ruled unconstitutional – and he recently affirmed (intentionally or not) that this unconstitutional version of the practice still has his support.

    And this was the dilemma Trump faced as Holt accurately fact-checked his embrace of New York City’s past application of unconstitutional stop and frisk. The right-wing media bubble out of which Trump plucked his stop-and-frisk soundbite has regularly been concerned with “order” first and the U.S. Constitution second (if ever). If he stuck with that, at least it would be intellectually honest. On the other hand, the “doing it the right way” stop and frisk approach Giuliani is falling back on to cover up for Trump has been in place for almost 50 years under the Supreme Court decision Terry v. Ohio -- so there’s no need for Trump to claim he’ll bring it back.

    So which one is it?

    It’s not Lester Holt’s fault that Trump and his surrogates can’t or won’t explain themselves. Some myths can’t survive outside the bubble.

  • Fox's Alternate Reality On New York City's Murder Rate

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News used a misleading chart featuring incomplete data to defend Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s false claim made during the first presidential debate that “murders are up” in New York City. Fox’s chart used data from 2014 to 2015 to demonstrate a rise in murder rates, but did not include complete data showing that murder rates in New York City are down in 2016 from the same point last year.

  • WATCH: Three Minutes Of Race Baiting From CNN’s Paid “Law Enforcement Analyst” Harry Houck

    "Where Is The Crime? African American Neighborhoods. Hispanic Neighborhoods."

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    On September 22, CNN’s law enforcement analyst Harry Houck attempted to defend the police shooting of Terence Crutcher, the unarmed black man who was killed in Tulsa, OK, after his car broke down on the road. Houck argued Crutcher was being uncooperative and might have been making a “furtive move” for a weapon in his car. Prior to that appearance, Houck accused critics of the shooting of “playing [the] race card,” describing outrage over Crutcher’s death as part of “the war on police.”

    Since being hired as CNN’s law enforcement analyst in May 2015, Houck has used his national platform to defend police officers accused of violence and other misconduct by peddling racist tropes about black criminality, demonizing the Black Lives Matter movement, and blaming black victims of police violence.

    One month after the death of Freddie Gray -- as cable news networks debated racial bias in the criminal justice system -- CNN hired former New York Police Department Detective Harry Houck as a “law enforcement analyst.” During one of his first appearances on the network as a paid analyst, Houck specifically thanked anchor Anderson Cooper for helping get him the job, saying, “This man is responsible for this occurrence.”

    Houck appeared on CNN 204 times between May 18, 2015, and August 1, 2016. And while he’s often invited to discuss crime stories like active shooter situations, Houck is best known for his absurd defenses of police officers accused of mistreating African-Americans. In dozens of segments, Houck has found ways to blame black victims of police violence, deny the existence of racial profiling in law enforcement, and peddle racist tropes about black criminality.

    Race Baiting And Black Criminality

    Houck has repeatedly suggested that African-American and Hispanic communities are policed more aggressively than white communities because “they’re not behaving.” He frequently echoes the racist myth that people of color are more likely to commit crimes, prompting pushback from other CNN guests who have repeatedly had to respond to his race-baiting remarks. During the July 11, 2016, edition of New Day, when asked by a fellow guest if he was suggesting that black people are “prone to criminality,” Houck responded, “They are!”

    Houck also downplays the reality of racial profiling in the criminal justice system, calling it “something that somebody made up.” He regularly dismisses evidence showing unequal treatment for minorities in the criminal justice system, mocking comprehensive studies and academic research showing that African-Americans are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement. In Houck’s view, African-Americans are targeted by law enforcement because they’re the ones committing crime.

    On Twitter, Houck is even less subtle about his race baiting. He regularly tweets about the threat posed by “black thugs,” decries what he calls “black thug privilage” (sic), and even tweeted a link to a white supremacist website. In July, Houck posted a link to a video from “men’s rights” activist Tommy Sotomayor calling on President Obama to “ban niggas.”

    Victim Blaming

    Houck has also used his CNN platform to blame high-profile African-American victims of police violence, going to absurd lengths to defend police officers while denying the existence of racial bias. Houck consistently finds ways to blame black victims for their mistreatment by police -- in his view, Eric Garner was resisting arrest, Sandra Bland was being “arrogant” and “uncooperative,” and Alton Sterling wasn’t complying with officers. He defended the police killing of Tamir Rice, saying officers “didn’t have a choice” but to shoot the 12-year-old boy. He defended a police officer who grabbed a South Carolina high school student and yanked her from her classroom desk, claiming the student “probably has no respect at home or on the street.”

    Houck’s victim-blaming often leads him to make blatantly false statements about these incidents on national television, like falsely claiming Bland refused to identify herself to police, and falsely claiming an officer informed a pregnant California woman she was being arrested before attempting to arrest her.

    Criticizing Black Lives Matter

    Houck has also used his CNN platform to demonize the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Houck has described the movement as part of the progressive “war on police,” claiming that “the left does not give a damn about police officers’ lives.” During the August 30, 2015, edition of CNN Newsroom, Houck compared BLM to hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. Houck also blames the murder of police officers on protests against police brutality. After the December 2014 killing of two NYPD police officers, Houck went on CNN and declared, “Two dead police officers, and I guess Al Sharpton got what he wanted.”

    Houck has also used Twitter to attack BLM, describing it as a “thug group” and a movement to “turn criminals into victims and cops into criminals.” On August 15, 2016, Houck retweeted an image calling BLM “the new KKK.”

    Petition To Drop Houck

    CNN’s decision to continue employing Houck has been criticized by the group ColorOfChange, which launched a petition in October 2015 asking CNN to stop hosting him. ColorOfChange criticized Houck’s “character assassination” of the black 16-year-old South Carolina student who was thrown from her desk by a police officer, also noting Houck’s “blind hero worshiping of the officer.”

    In July 2016, following Houck’s comments about black criminality, ColorOfChange again asked the network to stop inviting him to discuss racial bias in law enforcement, writing:

    Racist statements like this drive the attitudes and stereotypes that lead police officers to regularly commit brutal acts of violence that result in Black people like Alton Sterling and Philando Sterling being killed.

    We are sick of CNN contributor and ex-NYPD detective Harry Houck’s one-man crusade against Black victims of law enforcement violence. Houck’s blind support of police abuse and reinforcement of racist stereotypes is dangerous.

    The group’s petition has garnered over 70,000 signatures, but that hasn’t stopped CNN from continuing to employ Houck as the network’s “law enforcement analyst.”

    Methodology

    Media Matters used iQ media and Nexis to search CNN transcripts for the name “Houck” between May 18, 2015 -- Houck’s first appearance as a network “law enforcement analyst” -- and August 1, 2016. Reruns and snippets from pre-recorded interviews were excluded. For blocks of ongoing coverage of active shooter situations, segments were counted only when the host would begin by introducing and identifying Houck for the audience.

    Top image created by Sarah Wasko.