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Republican presidential primary campaign operatives blasted CNN President Jeff Zucker for his network’s obsessive coverage of now president-elect Donald Trump, calling it “unfair” and obsessive.
In October, Zucker admitted that he recognized “there was a little bit of a phenomenon to Donald Trump” and acknowledged that the network gave “him quite a bit of coverage,” but said he had no regrets.
Politico’s Hadas Gold and Gabriel Debenedetti wrote that Zucker “was jeered and heckled” during a conference at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute Of Politics with operatives from several campaigns that criticized his networks’ obsessive coverage of Trump. Former GOP candidate Carly Fiorina’s deputy campaign manager refuted Zucker’s claim that the network “continuously asked the other candidates to come on and do interviews,” saying, “I don’t remember getting invited to call in.” According to Politico, others piped in that they “didn’t get that call,” would “be invited for eight seconds,” or would be invited on “at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.” One of former GOP candidate Marco Rubio’s senior advisers explained that it wasn’t just interviews CNN gave to Trump, the network also aired “empty podiums” awaiting Trump rallies and “hours upon hours of unfiltered unscripted coverage of Trump.” From the December 1 article:
GOP campaign managers who worked for President-elect Donald Trump's primary opponents shouted Zucker down with increasing anger as he defended how much airtime the network gave Trump, and claimed it allowed other candidates to dial in to shows by phone.
Zucker defended CNN’s coverage, though he admitted it perhaps aired too many of Trump’s early rallies “unedited” -- an admission he has made before.
But the room grew more and more animated as Zucker went on to say that many campaign managers thought it was “unfair” how much coverage and attention Trump was getting.
"I have to respectfully push back on the campaign managers who spoke here today, because frankly, respectfully, I think that’s bullshit. Donald Trump was on CNN a lot,” Zucker said, refusing to back down. “That’s because we asked him to do interviews and he agreed to do them. We continuously asked the other candidates to come on and do interviews."
“I don’t remember getting invited to call in, though,” Sarah Isgur Flores, Carly Fiorina’s deputy campaign manager said, kicking off a parade of comments.
More irritated voices across the room quickly chimed in: “We didn’t get that call.” “We’d be invited for eight seconds.” “At 2 o’clock in the afternoon we’d be invited on,” another said sarcastically.
“All of the Republican candidates were invited to come on,” Zucker said. “Cable news in general, CNN in particular, should not be held responsible for the fact that Donald Trump said yes to those interviews.”
"It’s not the interviews,” Rubio senior advisor Todd Harris said as another audience member shouted, "You showed empty podiums!"
"You showed hours upon hours of unfiltered unscripted coverage of Trump, this was not about interviews,” he added.
In fact, Zucker gave Trump his start in reality TV during his time as the head of NBC Entertainment when he launched The Apprentice, later giving him “astonishing amounts of free exposure in the Republican presidential primary … often unfiltered and without critical fact-checking.” Zucker repeatedly defended his network’s “heavy focus” on Trump and their hiring of Trump boosters -- including the ethical nightmare of CNN’s hiring of Corey Lewandowski, who was at times simultaneously paid by the Trump campaign and the network and was likely prevented from criticizing Trump.
Conspiracy theorist radio host Alex Jones has claimed the government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks and the tragedies at Columbine, Oklahoma City, Sandy Hook, and the Boston Marathon, among others. He also alleges that a shadowy cabal of global elites are planning to kill or enslave most of the world’s population; argues the government is using airplanes to spray “chemtrails” to enact population control; and claims the government is putting chemicals into everyday products to turn children gay.
And now he has the ear of the president-elect.
Donald Trump has taken Jones from the fringes into the mainstream and is now set to make the toxic conspiracy theorist a “valuable asset” for his administration.
Jones is perhaps the country’s biggest producer of conspiracy theory media, which he distributes through his eponymous internet/radio show, Infowars.com website, and YouTube channel.
He received his biggest career boost when the Trump campaign partnered with Jones during the 2016 presidential election to bolster support for his candidacy. Trump himself went on the program, and top adviser Roger Stone serves as a surrogate to Jones’ followers through frequent guest appearances. Trump has reportedly watched Jones’ program, 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.”
Jones ultimately believes that a cabal of global elites (the globalist “New World Order”) is bent on killing 80 percent of the population and corralling the survivors into prison camps. He interprets tragedies and acts of terrorism as staged or “false flag” events perpetrated by globalists -- including members of the U.S. government -- who are trying to eliminate rights or pass legislation. (Jones’ Infowars website defines false flag events as those where the “government engages in covert operations designed to deceive the public in such a way that the operations seem as if they are being carried out by other entities.”)
Jones has repeatedly claimed that the 9/11 attacks were an “inside job” perpetrated by the government and that Osama Bin Laden worked for the CIA. He alleged the Oklahoma City bombing was a “staged event” by “criminals in Washington” to get sympathy to pass President Clinton’s policy agenda. He claimed mass shootings in Sandy Hook, Aurora, Columbine, Tucson, San Bernardino, and Orlando were false flag events. And Jones said the Boston Marathon bombing was “staged” and the bombers were “recruited by globalist intelligence agencies and set up horribly.”
He’s also pushed fringe conspiracy theories about how government elites are trying to manipulate or control the world through other covert actions. Jones claimed the government is secretly encouraging “homosexuality with chemicals so that people don't have children.” He’s claimed vaccines are part of a covert population-control program to give the country cancer or autism. And he also said the government is controlling weather through a “weather weapon,” spraying chemicals into the air for “genocide and population reduction,” and that the singer Beyoncé is a CIA operative who's been deployed to cause mayhem in cities.
Jones will likely become a leading Trump administration media ally despite his role as one of the worst purveyors of false stories and conspiracy theories. Trump adviser Roger Stone said that during Trump’s time in office, Jones will be “a valuable asset," noting that "somebody has to rally the people around President Trump’s legislative program.” And Trump himself reportedly indicated his relationship with Jones will continue: Jones said the president-elect called him after the election to thank his audience and promise he would return to the program.
Below is a guide to many -- but far from all -- of Jones’ conspiracy theories.
Alex Jones Is A Conspiracy Theorist Radio Host And Prolific Producer Of Web Content. Alex Jones is the host of The Alex Jones Show, which is syndicated by Genesis Communications Network. He also runs Infowars.com, which posts dozens of articles a day promoting conspiracy theories and attacks against progressives. The Washington Post wrote that it’s “difficult to confirm Jones’s audience size, but the host has said he has 5 million daily radio listeners and recently topped 80 million video views in a single month. He claims to have a bigger audience than Rush Limbaugh. Jones is able to multiply his audience by simulcasting his radio programming via his website and further spreading its reach on his YouTube channel.” [The Washington Post, 11/17/16]
Jones’ Overarching Belief Is That “Globalist” Elites Are Plotting To Kill And Enslave The World. Jones believes that a cabal of global elites -- sometimes referred to as the New World Order -- are running secret programs designed to kill and enslave the world’s population, and it is up to patriots like himself to spread news of their plans for world domination. In his 2007 film Endgame, Jones laid out that scenario:
ALEX JONES: In the near future, Earth is dominated by a powerful world government. Once free nations are slaves to the will of a tiny elite. The dawn of a new dark age is upon mankind. Countries are a thing of the past. Every form of independence is under attack, with the family and even the individual itself nearing extinction. Close to 80% of the Earth’s population has been eliminated. The remnants of a once free humanity are forced to live within highly controlled compact prison-like cities. Travel is highly restricted. Super highways connect the mega cities and keep the population from entering into unauthorized zones.
No human activity is private. A.I. super computers chronicle and categorize every action. A prison planet dominated by a ruthless gang of control freaks, whose power can never be challenged. This is the vision of the global elite. Their goal: a program of total dehumanization where the science of tyranny is law. A worldwide control grid designed to ensure the overlords’ monopoly of power forever. Our species will be condemned to this nightmare future, unless the masses are awakened to the New World Order master plan and mobilized to defeat it. [Endgame, 2007]
Trump Appeared On Jones’ Program During The Presidential Campaign And Praised His “Amazing” Reputation. Donald Trump appeared on Jones’ program on December 2, 2015, and told Jones: "Your reputation's amazing. I will not let you down." [Media Matters, 12/2/15]
Trump Called Jones A “Nice Guy” During January Campaign Event. [YouTube, 1/19/16]
Trump Adviser Teamed Up With Infowars For Get-Out-The-Vote Pitch During Republican Primaries. In February, Trump senior policy adviser Stephen Miller praised Jones and Infowars for having "been on top of ... the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and on the immigration issue." Miller then pitched Trump to Jones' audience, telling them that "if you want to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership, if you want to close the border, if you want to protect American jobs and wages, then you have to support Donald J. Trump." Responding to a question about whether anti-Trump Republicans might try to block Trump's nomination at the convention, Miller added, “The easiest thing to do if we want to have Donald J. Trump be our nominee is to show up and vote tomorrow in New Hampshire and then to vote in South Carolina and all across this country." [Media Matters, 2/10/16]
Roger Stone Is Trump’s Surrogate To Jones And His Audience. Roger Stone is a top adviser and ally to Trump. He is also one of the most frequent guests on Jones’ program, where he serves as a conduit between Trump and Jones’ audience. Stone has said he helped set up Jones and Trump and “they hit it off.” Stone also said that Trump “has watched Infowars.” [Media Matters, 11/17/16; YouTube, accessed 11/29/16]
Jones Said He "Personally Talked To" Trump To Give Him Advice. Jones said in August that he “personally talked to” Trump and encouraged him to push the conspiracy theory that the election is rigged, which Trump did. [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 8/31/16]
Trump Reportedly Praised Alex Jones For Having “One Of The Greatest Influences” He’s Ever Seen. Jones told author Jon Ronson that Trump complimented him as having “one of the greatest influences I’ve ever seen. … It’s greater than you know. Just know that your influence is second to none.” [Media Matters, 10/7/16]
Trump Has Frequently Echoed Jones’ Conspiracy Theories “Word For Word.” Trump has repeated Jones’ claims that President Obama and Hillary Clinton are the founders of ISIS; that Muslims were celebrating in New Jersey after the 9/11 attacks; and that the 2016 election would be “rigged” against him. Following his election, Trump also adopted the false claim promoted by Jones that “millions of people” “voted illegally” in the presidential election. Trump’s regular echoing of his rhetoric caused Jones to remark in August that it’s “surreal to talk about issues here on air and then word for word hear Trump say it two days later. It is amazing.” [Media Matters, 8/11/16, 8/12/16, 11/28/16; Infowars, 11/26/15]
Trump Called Jones To “Thank” His Audience After The Election. Jones said on November 11 that Trump personally called him to "thank" Jones' audience for its support during the campaign. Jones boasted that the newly elected Trump “gave me a call, and I told him, ‘Mr. President-elect, you’re too busy, we don’t need to talk.’ But we still spent over five minutes -- he said, 'Listen, Alex, I just talked to the kings and queens of the world -- world leaders, you name it.' But he said, 'It doesn’t matter, I wanted to talk to you to thank your audience, and I’ll be on in the next few weeks to thank them.'” Jones added that Trump said it wasn’t a “private call” and told him, “I want to thank your viewers, thank your listeners for standing up for this republic. We know what you did early on and throughout this campaign to stand up for what’s right.” [Media Matters, 11/14/16]
Stone Said Jones Will Be A “Valuable Asset” For “Trump’s Legislative Program.” The Washington Post reported that Stone envisions Jones acting as an important media component for Trump’s presidency. Stone said of Jones: “He’s a valuable asset -- somebody has to rally the people around President Trump’s legislative program.” [The Washington Post, 11/17/16]
Jones’ Biography Described Him As “One Of The Very First Founding Fathers Of The 9-11 Truth Movement.” A biography for Jones that was posted on his Infowars website -- and has since been replaced -- stated that he “predicted the attacks on September 11th, 2001 and is considered one of the very first founding fathers of the 9-11 Truth Movement.” [Infowars, via Internet Archive]
Infowars Headline: “Flashback: Alex Jones Said 9/11 Inside Job On The Day It Happened.” Jones’ website posted audio of Jones’ September 11, 2001, broadcast and carried a headline stating that Jones said 9/11 was an “inside job” following the attacks that day. [Infowars, 9/11/11]
Jones On September 11, 2001: The Government Is “Either Using Provocateur Arabs And Allowing Them To Do It Or This Is Full Complicity With The Federal Government.” Jones said during his September 11, 2001, broadcast that the government was behind the 9/11 attacks.
ALEX JONES: Well I’ve been warning you about it for at least five years. All terrorism that we’ve looked at from the World Trade Center to Oklahoma City to Waco has been government actions. They need this as a pretext to bring you and your family martial law. They’re either using provocateur Arabs and allowing them to do it or this is full complicity with the federal government. The evidence is overwhelming.
What am I saying? I’m saying who stands to gain from this? Who has the motive? Who can bring you martial law and destroy your freedoms? The government -- it’s not our government. [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 9/11/01]
Jones Recalls His 9/11 Broadcast: "I Went On The Air And Said, ‘Those Were Controlled Demolitions. You Just Watched The Government Blow Up The World Trade Center.’” Rolling Stone interviewed Jones for a 2011 profile and wrote of his broadcasts on the day of the attacks:
Seven weeks later, Jones became the only radio host in America to begin his September 11th broadcast with a tirade against the U.S. government. "I went on the air and said, 'Those were controlled demolitions. You just watched the government blow up the World Trade Center.' I lost 70 percent of my affiliates that day. Station managers asked me, 'Do you want to be on this crusade going nowhere, or do you want to be a star?' I'm proud I never compromised." [Rolling Stone, 3/2/11]
Jones On September 19, 2011: Attack Was “A Federal Operation,” Bin Laden “A CIA Asset.” Jones said on his show on September 19, 2001, that 9/11 was “a federal operation, that’s right, a federal operation.” He later added that he had “smoking gun evidence” that Osama Bin Laden was “a CIA asset” and “a CIA hireling doing his job” for the government. [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 9/19/01]
Jones: The “Facts And Evidence" Show "That 9/11 Was An Inside Job.” Jones released the 2005 film Martial Law 9-11: The Rise of the Police State, which purported to document that the 9/11 attacks were an “inside job.” He claimed during the film that the hijackers were agents for the “U.S. government,” and the government flew the planes into the twin towers and Pentagon through “remote control systems.” Jones also alleged that the “globalists” were thwarted in completely incapacitating the government and want to carry out a more devastating attack to enslave the planet. From the film:
ALEX JONES: In summation, it’s important to note that we only covered a tiny portion of the facts and evidence that clearly shows that 9/11 was an inside job. Number one, the official story of 9/11 has been completely disproven. At every point we’ve caught them lying, manufacturing evidence or covering up evidence. From high-level government inside sources and publicly available facts, we now have a very clear picture of how 9/11 was carried out.
Number one, we know that the men who were on board the aircraft who were supposedly the hijackers had their houses, cars, credit cards paid for by the U.S. government. They were in truth agents taking part in drills and nothing more. Supposed computer malfunctions at American and United [Airlines] ensured that all four planes only had 20 percent occupancy on board on a day when flights on the East Coast were an average of 80 percent full. Once the decoys, known as hijackers, were on board the planes, a gas was released knocking out the occupants of the aircraft. Then a small criminal group in control of remote control systems patented for over 20 years took control of the aircraft and flew them into the World Trade Centers and Pentagon. The CIA controlled drills that morning, confused NORAD for over an hour until it was almost too late for them to shoot down the hijacked planes. I said almost too late. When they did find out, Dick Cheney wouldn’t let the planes fly over 350 miles an hour so three of the aircraft were able to hit their targets. The fourth wasn’t able to because our sources in the Pentagon have told us generals didn’t follow their orders and had Flight 93 shot down. If it would have hit its target, the capital, the government would have been completely decapitated and the president could have declared total martial law.
By the grace of god, everything didn’t go as planned. And so now the globalists have spent the last three and a half years trying to cover up the sloppy job they did on 9/11. They’re counting on the public not being able to face the horror of what really took place so they can carry out another, even more devastating attack and finish the job they started: enslaving America and using the country as an engine to take over the planet. [Martial Law 9-11: The Rise of the Police State, 2005]
Jones: 9/11 Was A “Hoax” And “Fraud.” During a 2006 speech at a 9/11 truther conference, Jones said: “The 9/11 hoax, the 9/11 fraud is collapsing. The government’s ridiculous conspiracy theory is filled with millions of holes.” [Speech at Cooper Union, 9/10/06, via YouTube]
Jones: There Are Over 300 Pieces Of “Absolutely Iron-Tight Proof That The Official Story’s A Fable And An Inside Job Is The Only Explanation.” [YouTube, 9/12/12]
Jones’ Infowars Store Sells “9/11 Was An Inside Job" T-Shirt. A description for the item states: “These great shirts are both a show of support for the 9/11 truth movement and Alex Jones' Infowars. Let others know where you stand when you wear this shirt and show the world that 9/11 Truth is not a minority movement anymore.”
[Infowars, accessed 11/29/16]
Jones: “Federal Fingerprints Were All Over” Oklahoma City Bombing; Clinton “Needed A Crisis” To Enact Gun Laws And A “Socialized America.” Jones released the 2002 film 9/11 The Road to Tyranny, which claimed to document false flag events throughout history, including the Oklahoma City bombing. Jones accused the government of perpetrating the 1995 terrorist attack so President Clinton could pass his policy agenda. [9/11 The Road to Tyranny, 2002]
Jones: Justice Department “Did It To Blame Us, It’s A Frame-Up. … The Real Criminals In Washington, They Blow Up Daycare Centers And Blame It On Us.” [YouTube, 4/10/15]
Jones: Bombing Was A “False Flag,” “Staged Event.” Jones said the bombing was a “false flag” and “we’ve never had one so open and shut.” He added that convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh “was a patsy, that was a staged event.” [YouTube, 4/19/15]
Infowars Headline: “Proof The OKC Bombing Was An Inside Job.” Jones’ website posted videos promoting the film A Noble Lie, which claims to document that the bombing was an inside job. [Infowars, 12/17/11]
Jones: “Oklahoma City Was A Total False Flag With NATO, The ATF, And The CIA And The FBI.” Jones said in August 2016 of the Oklahoma City bombing:
ALEX JONES: Now let’s talk about Oklahoma City. Let’s talk about Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City was a total false flag with NATO, the ATF, and the CIA and the FBI. And we know the names of the men from the witnesses in the building, from the police officers, and from the declassified information that came out. The bombs in the building. [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 8/25/16]
Jones: Sandy Hook Was A “Giant Hoax. … The Whole Thing Was Fake.” In December 2014, as PolitiFact noted, Jones said of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT:
ALEX JONES: The whole thing is a giant hoax. And the problem is, how do you deal with a total hoax? I mean, it’s just -- how do you even convince the public something’s a total hoax?
The general public doesn’t know the school was actually closed the year before. They don’t know they’ve sealed it all, demolished the building. They don’t know that they had the kids going in circles in and out of the building as a photo-op. Blue screen, green screens, they got caught using.
I mean the whole thing -- but remember, this is the same White House that’s been caught running the fake bin Laden raid that’s come out and been faked. It’s the same White House that got caught running all these other fake events over and over again. And it’s the same White House that says, “I never said that you could keep your doctor” when he did say you could keep your doctor. People just instinctively know that there’s a lot of fraud going on. But it took me about a year with Sandy Hook to come to grips with the fact that the whole thing was fake. I mean, even I couldn’t believe it. I knew they jumped on it, used the crisis, hyped it up. But then I did deep research -- and my gosh, it just pretty much didn’t happen. Unbelievable. [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 12/28/14, via PolitiFact]
Jones: Sandy Hook Was “Completely Fake With Actors.” As PolitiFact noted, Jones claimed in January 2015 that the shooting was “a synthetic completely fake with actors, in my view, manufactured. I couldn’t believe it at first. I knew they had actors there, clearly, but I thought they killed some real kids. And it just shows how bold they are, that they clearly used actors. I mean they even ended up using photos of kids killed in mass shootings here in a fake mass shooting in Turkey -- so yeah, or Pakistan. The sky is now the limit.” [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 1/13/15, via PolitiFact]
Jones Mocked Grief Over Sandy Hook Victims, Complained They’re Putting “Them In Our Face.”
ALEX JONES: They’ll put al Qaeda in Libya or Syria to murder the Christians en masse. Our government and then -- “but oh he -- the Newtown kids! Oh!” [fake sobs] They take them, put them in our face, tell us their names, who they were. I heard an ad this morning on the radio, Bloomberg paid for it locally, going, “I dropped Billy off and watched him go around the corner and he never came back all because of the guns. Won’t you just turn your guns in for my son? Why’d you do it to him, gun owners? Well listen, I didn’t kill your kids! [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 4/9/13]
Jones: “Sandy Hook, It’s Got Inside Job Written All Over It.” [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 4/9/13]
Jones: The Government “Staged Sandy Hook.” Jones stated: “Folks, they staged Aurora, they staged Sandy Hook. The evidence is just overwhelming.” [Media Matters, 4/15/13]
Jones: “We’ve Clearly Got People Where It’s Actors Playing Different Parts Of Different People ” At Sandy Hook. Jones said of the school shooting:
ALEX JONES: We’ve clearly got people where it’s actors playing different parts of different people.
I’ve looked at it and undoubtedly there’s a cover up, there’s actors, they’re manipulating, they’ve been caught lying, and they were pre-planning before it and rolled out with it. [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 3/14/14]
Jones: “I Don’t Know If Kids Really Got Killed” At Sandy Hook. [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 7/7/15]
Jones Smeared Parents Of Sandy Hook Victims As Actors. During a November broadcast of his program, Jones claimed that parents of the Sandy Hook victims were actors because there are purportedly “weird videos of reported parents of kids laughing and then all of a sudden they do the hyperventilating to cry to go on TV.” [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 11/17/16]
Jones Regarding Site Of The Shooting: “That Place Is Like Children Of The Corn Or Something. I Mean, It Is Freaking Weird.” [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 11/17/16]
Jones: “The Official Story Of Sandy Hook Has More Holes In It Than Swiss Cheese.” [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 11/18/16]
Jones: “100 Percent Chance That The Mass Murder Committed” In Aurora, CO, “Was A False Flag, Mind-Control Event.” Hours after James Holmes shot and killed 12 people in a movie theater in Aurora, CO, Jones announced to his audience that there was a “100 percent chance” the incident was a “false flag.” [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 7/20/12]
Jones: Aurora Shooter Worked For Government And Was “A Patsy. He Was Set Up.” Jones claims that Holmes was an agent for the government. Jones stated: “He was totally set up, on government payroll, said he was drugged, told people in the jail -- that was even in the local paper. Then they came out and said it was never said. He’s a patsy. He was set up. He was drugged outside.” [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 4/27/15]
Jones: “All The Evidence Points Toward” Aurora Shooting Being “A Staged Event.” Jones claimed the government staged the Aurora shooting in an effort to pass stronger gun laws. [YouTube, 7/20/12]
Jones: 1999 Columbine, CO, School Shooting Was An “Extremely Suspicious Event That Had Globalist Operations Written All Over It.” [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 7/20/12]
Jones: “Columbine We Know Was A False Flag -- I’d Say 100 Percent False Flag.” [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 7/20/12]
Jones On Tucson Shooting: “The Whole Thing Stinks To High Heaven.” In 2011, Jared Loughner went on a deadly shooting spree in Tucson, AZ. Jones told Rolling Stone that the shooting was “a staged mind-control operation”: "‘The whole thing stinks to high heaven,’ he says. ‘This kid Loughner disappeared for days at a time before the shooting? My gut tells me this was a staged mind-control operation. The government employs geometric psychological-warfare experts that know exactly how to indirectly manipulate unstable people through the media. They implanted the idea in his head by repeatedly asking, 'Is [Rep. Gabrielle] Giffords in danger?’” [Rolling Stone, 3/2/11]
Jones Labeled San Bernardino, CA, Shooting A “False Flag” Because Government Wants To “Blame The Second Amendment.” [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 12/3/15]
Infowars Headline: “San Bernardino Shooting Highly Suspicious.” [Infowars, 12/2/15]
Jones: Orlando, FL, Shooting A “False Flag” To Take “Your Guns” And Speech. Jones responded to the deadly 2016 mass shooting at the Orlando gay nightclub Pulse by calling it a “false flag” event. Jones explained that the government “let it happen” so they can “pass laws and hate laws banning your speech” and taking “your guns.”
ALEX JONES: The attacks in Orlando were a false flag terror attack. But before the mainstream media takes that out of context, I want to be clear. Our government and the governments of Europe allowed these huge hordes of radical jihadis in and have even allowed them in without vetting them on record, landing at airports across the country and not even checking their passports, IDs or visas. Our governments are bringing these people in and they’re allowing them to operate openly in our society so they can attack us and then have our freedoms taken.
Yes it’s a false flag in that our government let it happen, run by Obama, just like Merkel did in Germany, so they can then say, “Oh, we’ve got to pass laws and hate laws banning your speech because you’re making the Muslims angry.” Or, “Oh my gosh, we’ve got to pass other hate laws to deal with right-wingers and stuff, and we need your guns, of course, so you can’t protect yourself.” [Media Matters, 6/13/16]
Jones On 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing: “This Thing Stinks To High Heaven #Falseflag .” [Twitter, 4/15/13]
Infowars Headline: “Proof Boston Marathon Bombing Is False Flag Cover-Up.” [Infowars, 4/18/13]
Jones: “I Have Never Seen A False Flag, Provocateured, Staged Event By A Government Come Apart Faster Than It Is Right Now.” [YouTube, 4/26/13]
Jones: Boston Marathon Bombing “Is A False Flag. It Is A Staged Event.” Jones stated that the Boston Marathon bombing was a “false flag” and “a staged event” and the bombers were “patsies that were set up” and were actually recruited by “globalist intelligence agencies”:
ALEX JONES: This operation is a false flag. It is a staged event. These guys are definitely patsies that were set up and they’re manipulating our tribalism that, “Hey, the guys from the other tribe bombed us but we got them.” When the truth is they were young men recruited by globalist intelligence agencies and set up horribly. And they could do it to any of us. We’re all in grave danger. [YouTube, 4/26/13]
Jones Claimed Boston Marathon Bomber "Was Totally Set Up," "We Know It Was Fake." Jones claimed that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was convicted of the Boston Marathon bombing, “was totally set up, ladies and gentlemen, to sell the police state.” Jones also claimed that his deceased brother worked for the CIA. [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 4/8/15]
Jones Claimed The Government Is Trying To "Encourage Homosexuality With Chemicals So That People Don't Have Children." Jones said that being gay is a “destructive lifestyle, but I don't hate these people. But the reason there's so many gay people now is because it's a chemical warfare operation. I have the government documents where they said they're going to encourage homosexuality with chemicals so that people don't have children.” Jones went on to use a juice box as an example of how chemicals make people gay. [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 6/11/10, via Media Matters]
Jones Blamed LGBTQ Community For Orlando Attack. During a show in July, Jones blamed “the LGBT community” for the deadly mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL. Jones stated: “I charge the left and I charge Obama and I charge the LGBT community in general with endangering America and with the blood of these 50-plus innocent men and women who did not deserve to die, who did not deserve to have bullets fired into them and all the other hundreds of thousands of other liberals and gays and others in the Middle East that have been murdered in the last five years under the Al Qaeda/ISIS onslaught that our government and CNN has pushed and said is a good thing.” [Right Wing Watch, 6/13/16]
Jones: Giving Transgender People Rights Will Lead To Them "Vomiting And Crapping All Over The Place." Jones responded to efforts to enact non discrimination protections for transgender people, including in bathrooms, by stating: “I don't want my daughters growing up in a country where some transvestite comes walking into the thing hopped out of their brain on drugs, vomiting and crapping all over the place.” [Genesis Communications, The Alex Jones Show, 4/30/13, via Media Matters]
Jones: Push For Same-Sex Marriage Leads To “The Breakdown Of The Family.” As the Southern Poverty Law Center noted, during a 2013 exchange, Jones said that people "have the right to do what they want as long as it doesn't hurt others" but the globalists are encouraging same-sex marriage because they “want to encourage the breakdown of the family, because the family is where people owe their allegiance. That's why they want to get rid of God. Not because they're atheists, but because they want the state to be God. And so they are taking the rights of an ancient, unified program of marriage and they are breaking it. So it's a major revolution, and they're destroying the dictionary and the definition. And now they're on television in the U.S. saying, by the way, now your kids belong to the state.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 11/22/16]
Jones: “Trannymania” Will Lead To “The Collapse Of Civilization” And “Destruction Of The Family.” Jones claimed that the push for transgender protections is actually “the collapse of civilization, it’s the destruction of the family, it has nothing to do with somebody’s sexual preference. It is about messing with everyone and making everyone adopt this particular lifestyle.” [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 11/4/15]
Jones: Elites Want To “Take Heterosexuals’ Kids -- They’re Hunting Us -- And Give Them To The Gay Couples.” Jones warned during a June 2013 program that global elites are going to “take heterosexuals’ kids -- they’re hunting us -- and give them to the gay couples. That’s what goes on.” Jones later warned that gangs of gay men are going to go door to door and “rape you.” [YouTube, 6/26/13]
Jones: President Obama Married "A Man" (Michelle Obama) Because He's "Obsessed With Transgender" Rights. Jones has claimed that President Obama is obsessed with transgender rights so he entered into a “completely fake” “arranged marriage” with Michelle Obama. He purported to explain of the Obamas’ marriage: “I think it’s all an arranged marriage, it’s all completely fake and it’s this big sick joke because he’s obsessed with transgender, just like some weird cult or something. I think Michelle Obama is a man. I really do. I really do. I believe it.” [Right Wing Watch, 5/17/16]
Jones: Vaccines Are Part Of A Global “Covert Sterilization” Program. [YouTube, 9/1/10]
Jones: Vaccines Are Part Of A “Soft Kill” Program To See How Many Children They Can Kill Or Maim. Jones said in an October 2016 YouTube that vaccines are part of a global conspiracy to kill and maim children:
ALEX JONES: They’re testing to see how many children they can give neurological disorders and see if the nurses and doctors and public don’t notice. They’re testing soft kill on the public to see if they can manage massive numbers of dead and dying and maimed children. [YouTube, 10/29/16]
Jones: Global Elites Are Pushing Vaccines So “Half Of Us Have Got Cancer, The Other Half Have Got Autism. This Is The Culling Of The Population.” [YouTube, 10/29/16]
Jones: If You Take Vaccines, “You Will Become Disabled Or You Will Die.” [YouTube, 10/29/16]
Jones: Government Has A “Weather Weapon” That “Can Create And Steer” Natural Disasters. Jones has claimed that the government possesses a weather machine that can create floods and tornadoes. He said in 2013 that "of course there's weather weapon stuff going on -- we had floods in Texas like 15 years ago, killed 30-something people in one night. Turned out it was the Air Force." He added that while there are some “natural tornadoes,” the government "can create and steer groups of tornadoes." [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 5/21/13, via Media Matters]
Jones: The Emanuel Brothers Are The Leaders Of “The Jewish Mafia” And “They’re Going To Scam You.” Jones said of Jewish brothers Ari, Ezekiel, and Rahm Emanuel:
ALEX JONES: Oh but its okay because the Emanuels [Ari, Ezekiel, Rahm] are liberals. This is a guy who famously in the Clinton administration whenever they were talking about Democrats that weren’t doing what they were told, that would take a knife at the table and start stabbing it, breaking the table, breaking the knife screaming death, murder, [unintelligible noise]. Just start, in front of everyone -- and then when he [unintelligible] on the sidelines during the Clinton administration, with Obama, in the first administration is what I meant to get to. He would then tell Obama to shut up in cabinet meetings, I’m in command. And Obama would do what he said.
‘Cause let me tell you, the Emanuels are mafia. And you know I was thinking, they’re always trying to claim that if I talk about world government and corruption I’m anti-Semitic, there’s mafias of all different stripes and groups but since you want to talk about it, the Emanuels are Jewish mafia. So there you go. But, I mean it’s not that Jews are bad, it’s just they are the head of the Jewish mafia in the United States. They run Uber, they run the health care, they’re going to scam you, they’re going to hurt you.
And then they got weirdos that they’re allied with like George Soros who’s a literal Nazi collaborator, and then you’ve got Madeleine Albright who’s a Nazi collaborator, her dad was, rounding up Jews, I mean it’s like, if being against Jews that are weirdo Nazi collaborators and gangsters makes me anti-Semitic then fine. I’m not against Jews, but at a certain point, when you people call you out, I’ve been called out in hundreds of newspapers in the last month, as being anti-Semitic, because I talk about a global, corporate, combine.
Well why are you labeling the TPP Jewish, I mean it’s got Jews involved in it just like it’s got everybody else. It’s communist Chinese, global government, Japan, I mean all these groups -- but again, I’m gonna skip this break, it’s injected into it that you must be anti-Semetic. So, I was just sitting back and -- let me then, I guess I better do some exposes on the Jewish mafia. And a guy foaming at the mouth with knives at cabinet meetings, basically threatening the president. Totally crazed. Who’s got his fingers in everything, screwing us over. I mean, how do you come up with this stuff? Where does this come from? Why? It’s disgusting. [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 10/25/16]
Jones Released Film Claiming To Prove “The Existence Of A Secret Network Of FEMA Camps.” Jones released the 2010 film Police State 4: The Rise Of FEMA. Infowars’ description for the film states that “Jones conclusively proves the existence of a secret network of FEMA camps, now being expanded nationwide. The military industrial complex is transforming our once free nation into a giant prison camp. A cashless society control grid, constructed in the name of fighting terrorism, was actually built to enslave the American people. Body scanners, sound cannons, citizen spies, staged terror and cameras on every street corner — it’s only the beginning of the New World Order’s hellish plan.” In reality, no such FEMA camps exist. [Infowars, 3/19/10; Popular Mechanics, 12/26/14]
Jones Claimed Las Vegas Cop Shooting Was “Absolutely Staged” By Government. In June 2014, Jerad and Amanda Miller ambushed and killed three people, including two police officers, in Las Vegas, NV. Jones claimed that the shooting was "absolutely staged" and said, "There is so much proof of this being staged yesterday, when I first read about it, and this morning, that my mind exploded with hundreds of data points, and quite frankly it's conclusive." Jones later suggested Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and the Obama administration were responsible for perpetrating the shooting. [Media Matters, 6/9/14]
Jones: Government Spraying Chemicals Into The Air For “Genocide And Population Reduction.” Jones has repeatedly pushed claims about chemtrails, the conspiracy theory that government airplanes are spraying chemicals into the air for nefarious purposes. During a November 2011 segment on his program, Jones claimed that there’s a “total global government program that’s hiding in plain view” in which they spray chemicals into the air. Jones explained that they’re “spraying this every day” and “it’s hurting us.” He added that the “endgame” for the government is “genocide and population reduction.” [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 11/14/11]
Jones Said “Globalists” Caused Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster To Serve As A “Distraction” From Iraq. Jones wrote that "globalists" were involved in the deadly 2003 disaster, stating on his website:
Three weeks ago, on my syndicated radio show, I said that there was a very good chance that the globalists would do something horrible concerning the latest Colombia mission. Understand, the psychological warfare technicians do not even need to publicly blame Iraq for the Columbia disaster. It will serve as a distraction in the global press during the final weeks of war preparation in the gulf. It Will Serve The Dual Purpose Of Unifying The Country Behind President Bush as he grandstands (See N YT --President Bush Had Tears In His Eyes On Saturday When He Spoke The Words That Became The Headline "The Columbia Is Lost" and Reuters -- Again, Bush Thrust Into Role As National Mourner), talking about how horrible the death of the astronauts has been.
I pointed out many times on the air that they are using primitive psychological mechanisms built into our most primitive programming to unify and control us. Child kidnappings are actually down by two thirds since the late 1980's and early 1990, but the unified bureaus of propaganda (ABC, CNN, FOX etc.) have been playing it up as an incredible epidemic. We have seen an emerging pattern over the last few decades of playing up child kidnapping right before a war.
If you are asking what this has to do with Columbia blowing up on reentry, let me explain it in simpler terms. What happens if you hit a beehive with a baseball bat? The bees will come out and attack anything in the vicinity. To give you a human example, in primitive societies when a large predator takes a member of the tribe, especially a young member, the tribe will go into a vicious seek-and-destroy hunting frenzy that we call "war" today. This is why they play up child kidnappings before a war.
Similarly, the space program is at the core of American pride, and we see our astronauts as our greatest heroes -- great explorers. Their deaths cause insecurity, fear and anger. But don't worry, your gracious leader Lord Bush will feel the pain with you. Many weak-minded Americans will shift into mindless group-think and poll numbers for the war will rapidly rise. [Infowars, 2/1/03]
Jones Has Repeatedly Claimed That President Obama’s Birth Certificate Is Fraudulent. Jones has said that President Obama’s birth certificate is “fake. Of course it’s fake.” He has released numerous videos through his YouTube channel claiming that President Obama’s birth certificate is fraudulent. The videos’ headlines include, “PROOF!!! Obama Birth Certificate Fraud,” “Obama's Birth Certificate Proven Fraudulent,” and “Obama Bombshell: New Birth Certificate a Forgery.” [YouTube, 7/18/12, 4/27/11, 7/19/12, 5/19/11]
Jones Claimed Sources Have Told Him Obama And Clinton Are Possessed By Demons. Jones claimed that he “was told by people around" Clinton that "she's demon-possessed," and “high up” people have told him “Obama and Hillary both smell like sulfur.” [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 10/10/16]
Jones Suggested President Obama Killed Justice Antonin Scalia. Following Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February, Jones said that “my gut tells me they killed him and all the intellectual evidence lays it out.” He suggested that Obama murdered Scalia so he could push gun control legislation. [Right Wing Watch, 2/14/16, 2/16/16]
Jones Claimed There’s "An Alien Force Not Of This World Attacking Humanity." [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 3/16/16]
Jones: Beyoncé Is “Funded By The” CIA To Cause Mayhem. Jones reacted to Beyoncé’s music video Lemonade by claiming that it’s “high-level” “CIA propaganda because that’s their domestic job.” Jones claimed that Beyoncé has been “funded by” the government to “play us all off against each other” to create a police state. [Infowars, 4/25/16]
Jones On Female CNBC Anchor: "Whore," "Trash, Tramp, Filth, Scum." Jones defended friend Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) from media attacks by lashing out at CNBC anchor Kelly Evans, who challenged the senator during an interview. Jones called Evans a "whore" and "pimp" for "signing on to a system of murder, you little piece of trash, tramp, filth, scum woman!" [Media Matters, 2/4/15]
Jones Attacked Female Reporters At Fox News As “Cutesy Infobabes.” Jones responded to criticism of friend Rand Paul from Fox News by attacking female reporters as “cutesy infobabes.” [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 4/10/15]
Jones Said Chelsea Clinton Looks Like Mister Ed The Horse. [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 8/23/15]
Jones: Clinton Aide Huma Abedin Isn’t “Good-Looking,” “Looks Like Bin Laden.” [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 6/14/16]
Jones To Hillary Clinton: “You Bitch.” During an August 2015 program, Jones repeatedly called Clinton “a witch” and then asked, “Hey Hillary, you got bodyguards. Are their guns bad too? Why can’t I have a gun to protect myself, you bitch?” [Right Wing Watch, 8/27/15]
Jones: Women Shouldn’t Be In Combat Because Of Their “Menstrual Period” And Because They "Fight With Each Other.” Jones complained that the efforts to include women in the military are a form of “social engineering” designed to destabilize the military and the American family. He added, “can you imagine being in combat with a bunch of women? I mean, can you imagine that? I mean, do you know how much women fight with each other?” [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 1/14/15]
Government ethics experts say President-elect Donald Trump needs to divest himself completely of his business holdings to avoid any conflict of interest, and that he should give reporters legal documentation of his plan when he unveils it in two weeks.
The president-elect has recently faced heavy criticism over a vast array of potential conflicts of interest between his business empire and his upcoming administration.
On Wednesday, Trump issued a series of tweets announcing a “major news conference” with his children in which he will “discuss the fact that [he] will be leaving” his business “in total.” Trump claimed that while he was not legally “mandated” to make this move, he felt it “is visually important, as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses.”
Many major media outlets responded to Trump’s announcement with headlines parroting Trump’s suggestion that he will be completely cutting ties to focus on the presidency and avoid conflicts.
But legal experts tell Media Matters that Trump’s vague announcement does little to address the potential conflicts, and any plan short of Trump completely selling his interests will leave the window open for an ethical mess. They also point out that Trump simply claiming to be separate from the business but leaving his children in charge is another major ethical red flag.
Geoffrey Hazard, professor of law and a government ethics expert at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and University of California Hastings Law School in San Francisco, said the president-elect should sell all of his business holdings: “Get it as far away from your personal control as you can. Legally, it is not too complicated.”
Hazard said the Trump children should "clearly not" be given control of the organization "because they are still his children. They can communicate with each other by nods and winks and they will.”
“He ought to be able to point to a set of legal documents and say about them, ‘Here’s what we’ve done,'” Hazard added. “He ought to turn over a stack of papers that [journalists] could give to their legal people to look at.”
Stephen Gillers, New York University Law School professor of legal ethics, also said complete divestiture is needed.
“To really cut the concerns he has to sell all of his interests in all of the Trump properties,” Gillers said. “The conflict concern is those might influence his decisions as president. He has to have no financial interest in the profit or loss of any of the Trump enterprises. Give no reason to question whether he made a decision because it’s good for the business.”
Gillers suggested reporters should directly ask Trump on December 15, “Will you divest yourself of any financial interest of any properties of Trump Enterprises? And if you don’t, how will we know that the decisions as president have not been influenced by business considerations?”
“To divest himself will require a lot of lawyering,” Gillers said. “It will not be easy but it can be done and proof of that should be made available to the public.”
(An illustration of one of the many potential conflicts of interest looming for the Trump administration, via The New York Times.)
Kathleen Clark, a government ethics expert at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, MO, said his tweets do not detail how far he will remove himself from the businesses. She said that needs to be asked by the press.
“That addresses whether he will focus on the presidency, but that does not address in any way the initial conflicts he has through his ownership interests,” she said of his tweets. “He needs to divest from his business interest. It means to sell it -- that’s the only way that he can move forward in the government without people reasonably being concerned that his government decisions are motivated by his personal financial interests.”
As for reporters seeking answers, she said they “need to see the documents, we all need to see the documents because Mr. Trump has a habit of saying two things that are mutually exclusive and he does them at the same time. The focus has to be on whether he has actually divested or not.”
Richard Painter, a former ethics attorney for the George W. Bush White House, said via email that any separation from The Trump Organization “is not enough unless he is going to sell the businesses.”
Painter followed that with a long list of potential conflicts that could arise otherwise. Those include:
“Payments from foreign governments that violate the Emoluments Clause (foreign diplomats staying in hotels, parties thrown by foreign governments in hotels, loans from the Bank of China, rent paid by foreign governments and companies controlled by foreign governments in office buildings, etc.); appearances of quid pro quo (bribery, solicitation of a bribe or offering a bribe) every time ANYBODY working for either the government or the Trump business organization talks about both government business and Trump organization business in the same conversations or even with the same people; and litigation risk.”
“Under the Jones v. Clinton case the President can be sued in his personal capacity and presumably also can be required to testify in other lawsuits,” Painter explained. “If Trump owns the businesses it will be a lot easier for plaintiffs lawyers to sue him personally and even if they do not to require his testimony, than it would be if he sell the businesses.”
He said reporters need to ask, “Is he going to divest and if not how is he going to deal with these problems that I mention?”
An Agence France-Presse article highlighted the “disturbing” number of instances in which President-elect Donald Trump has “recycled” claims from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his website Infowars and discussed the danger a conspiracy theory-inclined president could present to U.S. policy making.
Jones has a long history of making inflammatory, conspiracy theory-laden comments that had previously been confined to far-right arenas. However, Trump made clear early in his campaign that he had sympathy for Jones’ ideas and throughout his campaign appeared or had allies appear on his show. As Jones himself explained, the two are “totally synched” and Trump “finishes” Jones’ sentences when they speak. Media have highlighted how conspiracy theories and “information” make their way from Jones’ show to Trump -- whether it's pushing the false assertion that Trump actually won the popular vote, denouncing “globalism” in his acceptance of the Republican nomination, or claiming that Clinton was “wearing an earpiece” during a campaign forum.
In a November 30 article, Agence-France Presse discussed Media Matters’ efforts to document many of the more outlandish claims Jones has made, and it noted that though many of them are “pure nonsense,” as Media Matters vice president Angelo Carusone said, Trump seems to be echoing them. "‘What [Jones] is presenting is an alternative universe,’” Carusone continued. “‘He is advancing a broader world view that there is a global world government and every day they are going out there to take away your power.’" From Agence France-Presse:
Left-leaning media watchdog group Media Matters for America has documented dozens of instances where Trump has recycled claims from Jones and infowars.
Trump has not repeated some of the most outlandish claims on infowars -- that aliens from space had landed in Florida or that the mass killing of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School was faked to win support for gun control -- but critics say that it would be troubling for the president-elect to rely on the site for information.
"A lot of what he (Jones) says is just pure nonsense," said Angelo Carusone of Media Matters.
"What he is presenting is an alternative universe. He is advancing a broader world view that there is a global world government and every day they are going out there to take away your power."
For Carusone, it remains unclear if Trump believes what was published on infowars or is merely pandering to its readers, but he said either scenario would be disturbing.
'Fear Of Sharia'
For example, Carusone said that infowars ran "completely fabricated" stories saying that Muslims were imposing sharia law in US cities.
"If the president believes that and starts to make policy based on the belief that we have sharia law, we have a problem," said Carusone.
In the most recent incident, Trump appeared to echo the claim by infowars that he would have won the popular vote against Clinton in addition to the Electoral College if votes by illegal immigrants were discounted.
As it stands, Clinton won the popular vote by more than two million ballots and both experts and officials across the political spectrum have disparaged Trump's unsubstantiated claim of mass fraud.
Trump was interviewed during the campaign by Jones, who also claimed to have had several phone conversations with the Republican billionaire, raising concerns about influence on policy.
The process by which the media continue to normalize President-elect Donald Trump and the extreme elements that now define his pending administration is achieved story-by-story, headline-by-headline, and even adjective-by-adjective.
Language, and the way journalists deploy words during the Trump transition, are a central avenue for downplaying and whitewashing what’s now taking place.
Just look at some of the recent in-depth, page-one newspaper profiles of Steve Bannon, the former Breitbart.com executive who Trump has tapped to be his chief strategist and senior counselor. I’m sure much to Bannon’s delight he’s been awarded the “populist” label. But that description is wildly misguided, completely inadequate, and continues a long-running problem of the press mislabeling extreme right-wing movements and politicians as populist. (See: The Tea Party.)
Populism is supposed to represent a running struggle on behalf of regular people against powerful and elite economic forces. Bannon and Trump’s pro-corporate, anti-worker politics pretty much represent the opposite of that.
How best to accurately describe Bannon? Vox did a pretty good job of it: “He’s a leading light of America’s white nationalist movement accused of using misogynistic, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, and barely hidden racist language throughout his professional life.”
How far is that from feel-good “populism”? Very, very far. “Far from populism, this is Revolutionary-era elitism drawn along racist lines,” noted Laurel Raymond at Think Progress.
Yet the problem persists.
New York Times headline, November 27: “Combative, Populist Steve Bannon Found His Man in Donald Trump.”
Washington Post headline, November 19: “For Trump Adviser Stephen Bannon, Fiery Populism Followed Life In Elite Circles.”
It’s true that both the Times and Post articles did explore in detail Bannon’s controversial past and the fringe nature of his unseemly politics. The Times even detailed how Bannon once discussed “genetic superiority” with a business colleague and suggested that maybe only property owners be allowed to vote.
But “populist”? No. Reactionary white nationalist? Yes.
Note that Bannon himself this summer called Breitbart “the platform of the alt-right.” And what is "alt-right" synonymous with? White nationalism. “In the past we have called such beliefs racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist,” wrote John Daniszewski, the Associated Press’s Vice President for Standards, as he outlined to writers how to employ “alt-right” in AP coverage.
The weird part is that this week the Times published an article looking at how news organizations, including the Times, are using the phrase “alt-right” to describe the radical movement Trump and Bannon have become the face of, and whether the relatively new moniker sufficiently captures the movement’s rough and often offensive edges. “The term has attracted widespread criticism among those, particularly on the left, who say it euphemizes and legitimizes the ideologies of racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and white supremacy,” the newspaper reported.
So, "alt-right" might not properly convey the outlier politics of people like Bannon, but the Times itself this week published a headline labeling Bannon a “populist.”
Meanwhile, when you thumb through Bannon’s resume it’s nearly impossible to see any threads of “populism” running through it. He is a Harvard Business School graduate who became a Goldman Sachs banker before opening up a boutique investment bank in Beverly Hills, CA, Bannon & Co., which he eventually sold to the French bank, Société Générale. Last decade, Bannon also operated some dubious penny stock ventures, which attracted a number of lawsuits. He has also been a Hollywood movie producer.
After he exited the world of finance, Bannon became the chairman of Breitbart. Under his leadership, the white nationalist echo chamber called for the hoisting of the Confederate flag (“high and proud”), weeks after shootings at a black Charleston, South Carolina, church. It claimed that political correctness “protects Muslim rape culture.” It has referred to conservative writer Bill Kristol as a "renegade Jew." It ran a piece last year encouraging male readers to tell women that "this isn’t going to suck itself."
None of that garbage remotely fits under a breezy umbrella of “populism.”
Of course, the Bannon “populist” coverage flows from the media’s long-running Trump “populist” campaign coverage, which has been ill-advised for more than year. And it continues to this day.
Here are highlights of the likely Trump and Republican Party agenda for next year. Good luck finding lots of “populist” proposals aimed at boosting quality of life for regular Americans:
*Repeal healthcare for 20 million Americans who are insured through Obamacare.
*Pass massive new tax cuts for the wealthy.
*Drastically cut Medicare.
*Defund Planned Parenthood.
*Defund public broadcasting.
*Vastly expand the Pentagon’s budget.
*Block overtime pay for workers making less than $47,000 a year.
*Deport millions of undocumented workers.
This is all part of the larger Beltway media failure of playing nice with radical right-wing politics under the auspices of populism.
Especially during President Obama’s first term, reporters and pundits spent way too much time portraying the Obama-hating Tea Party movement has a "populist" one, when it most certainly was not. Most “populist” movements, as a rule, don’t passionately defend oil companies, insurance conglomerates, and AIG banking executives. And most “populist” movements don’t compare the president to Adolf Hitler and parade around with swastika posters. They don’t claim the president’s a “racist” who wants to put a spike in the heads of babies. And they usually don’t call for a military coup to overthrow the White House.
But the Tea Party did, and the media rewarded them with the honorary titles of populism.
And now they’re doing it again with Trump and his white nationalist appointments.
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In the aftermath of the election, conservative media figures have alleged that Democratic candidates’ emphasis on climate change was a reason they lost, claiming this focus alienated or drove away voters. But numerous polls conducted in the run-up to the election indicated that a majority of Americans consider climate change an important issue and favor government action to address it, and an exit poll similarly revealed that most voters in Florida view climate change as a serious problem. While these polls indicate that a focus on climate change didn’t harm environmentally friendly Democratic candidates, a plausible explanation for why the issue may not have helped them is the lack of attention it received from the media, including during debates.
President-elect Donald Trump is not a normal politician, which is evidenced by his actions, statements, and tendency to make and promote outright lies. But Trump’s break from the norm would not be clear to readers who only glance at headlines, as most do. For months, media have helped normalize Trump with headlines that sanitize his ties to extremists, uncritically echo his lies, and whitewash his incendiary comments. As media prepare to cover a Trump administration, they must work harder to craft headlines that portray Trump’s actions and statements accurately.
Headlines about the appointments Trump has made to his cabinet and White House staff have helped sanitize his nominees, despite their bigoted rhetoric. After Trump appointed Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart.com, to serve as his chief strategist, newspapers labeled Bannon as a “Conservative flame-thrower,” a “conservative firebrand,” and a “tormenter of establishment GOP.” These descriptions downplay the fact that Bannon ran an unabashedly white nationalist and anti-Semitic website, as well as Bannon’s own history of alleged anti-Semitism. Even when The New York Times reported that Bannon “occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners,” the headline referred to him as “Combative, Populist Steve Bannon,” ignoring completely his remarks. When Trump appointed Ret. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to serve as his national security adviser, headlines downplayed his Islamophobia and his conflicts of interest and branded him as someone who “brings experience and controversy” and is “not afraid to ruffle feathers.” While the headlines may be accurate, they do not give readers the essential information they need to know about the people who will have Trump's ear.
Headlines have also left out important context about Trump’s lies. After Trump falsely claimed that he “worked hard” to keep a Ford plant “in Kentucky,” media promoted Trump’s spin in headlines, leaving out the fact that the plant in question was never going to close. After Trump lied in a tweet claiming that he would have “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” mainstream media uncritically echoed him in their headlines and on social media. Trump is an unprecedented liar, and by simply echoing Trump’s statements, the headlines might as well have come from a Trump press release.
This problem persisted before the election as well. When Trump addressed his history with the birther movement, headlines failed to mention that Trump had not apologized for his years-long crusade to delegitimize President Obama and that he lied by asserting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had started the rumors that President Obama was born in Kenya.
In the run-up to the election, headlines also helped normalize Trump’s behavior, which would be unacceptable for anyone else, let alone a candidate for president. Following the release of a 2005 Access Hollywood video where Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women, media headlines characterized the conversation as “lewd.” Lewd is correct, but it misses the point. Trump was talking about imposing himself physically on women without consent. That is sexual assault. Media shouldn’t hide behind creative adjectives to normalize this behavior.
Headlines are indisputably the most important part of an article. As The Washington Post reported, “roughly six in 10 people acknowledge that they have done nothing more than read news headlines in the past week,” and “that number is almost certainly higher than that, since plenty of people won't want to admit to just being headline-gazers but, in fact, are.” By continually refusing to use headlines to call out Trump’s ties to extremists, incessant lying, and his atrocious behavior, media are normalizing his actions. There have been pleas from many in media to stop normalizing Trump. Headlines would be a good place to start.
New York Times editors and reporters might’ve thought they were going to be congratulated by readers for Sunday’s front-page, six-reporter expose on President-elect Donald Trump’s nearly endless business conflicts. But a chorus of media observers and critics had other ideas.
Rather than applaud the Times for its report, lots of commentators wondered why the newspaper waited until after the election to wave large red flags about Trump’s obvious conflicts, especially when the Times -- and so much of the campaign press -- spent an extraordinary amount of energy obsessing over potential conflicts of interest, and possible ethical lapses, supposedly surrounding Hillary Clinton.
It is somewhat maddening this is getting so much attention *now* https://t.co/pWOFd6KlWX
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) November 26, 2016
— David Rothschild (@DavMicRot) November 26, 2016
Where was all this "deep-dive" before the election—even as these outlets spent so much time on trivia in Wikileaks hacks & other innuendo? https://t.co/kv83CwRz4C
— Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) November 26, 2016
Looking back, there certainly seems to be a perception that the political press didn’t really care about Trump’s looming, impossible-to-miss conflicts or the bad “optics” they might produce. And it appears that the press was overly infatuated with conflict questions about Clinton -- questions today that seem quaint compared to Trump’s far-flung business dealings, which represent a possible gateway to corruption.
That’s not to say the topic wasn’t addressed or that some journalists didn’t tackle it in real time during the campaign season. Kurt Eichenwald at Newsweek produced a helpful deep dive back in September. And the business press was urgent and upfront in detailing the unprecedented nature of Trump’s looming problem. Bloomberg in June: “Conflicts of Interest? President Trump's Would Be Amazing.”
But in general, the political press seemed less engaged with this issue and appeared reluctant to tag the obvious Trump storyline as a campaign priority. There didn’t seem to be an institutional commitment to pursuing and documenting that storyline, even though the potential problems for Trump were obvious and the story might have disqualified him.
Even today, the story isn’t being treated with the urgency it deserves. Yes, more new organizations are tepidly acknowledging the colossal conflicts and looming inside deals, but so much of the coverage still lacks resolve. Question for journalists: If Clinton arrived at the White House with open and boundless business conflicts, how would you cover that story? What kind of outraged, lecturing tone would you take? Now treat the Trump story the same way.
Newsrooms need to learn from their lackluster campaign coverage and treat the unfolding Trump controversy as a permanent beat inside newsrooms for the next four years. It certainly demands that kind of attention and focus.
Note that aside from the Times’ big Sunday Trump conflict piece, the newspaper also published detailed articles on the topic November 21 and 14, and before the election on November 5. But aside from a few exceptions, in the months prior to Election Day, when voters were assessing the candidates, the intense focus on Trump’s conflicts just wasn’t there. (As Media Matters reported, the same trend played out on network newscasts, which devoted scant time to Trump’s conflicts of interest before the election only to ramp up coverage after Trump’s victory.)
Recall that the Times and The Washington Post considered potential Clinton conflicts stemming from the family charity to be so pressing that both newspapers entered into unusual exclusive editorial agreements with Peter Schweizer, the partisan Republican author who wrote the Breitbart-backed book Cli
And that was 18 months before Election Day. The topic remained a media priority throughout the campaign.
Clinton Cash, a hodgepodge of innuendo and connect-the-dot allegations, was riddled with errors. U.S. News & World Report described the book as a "somewhat problematic" look at the Clintons' financial dealings, while Time noted that one of the book’s central claims was "based on little evidence.”
Yet Clinton’s alleged conflicts were considered to be so important inside newsrooms -- and it was deemed so crucial for the Beltway press to suss out every conceivable detail -- that the Times and the Post were willing to make dubious alliances with GOP operatives.
Needless to say, no such partisan unions were formed to report out Trump’s massive business conflicts. Indeed, most news consumers would be hard-pressed to suggest Trump’s obvious business conflicts constituted a centerpiece of his campaign coverage for the previous 18 months.
Meanwhile, recall that lots of media elites demanded Clinton take action before the election in order to eliminate the supposed conflicts surrounding the Clinton Foundation. During August and September, that topic created yet another wave of frenzied Clinton coverage, fueled by the media’s “optics” obsession.
At the time, NBC’s Chuck Todd perfectly summed up the media’s weird pursuit when he announced, “Let’s be clear, this is all innuendo at this point. No pay for play has been proven. No smoking gun has been found.” Todd then quickly added, “But like many of these Clinton scandals, it looks bad.”
There's no question the optics are bad for Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. But no proof has emerged that any official favors -- regulations, government contracts, international deals -- were curried in exchange for donations or pledges.
And from Time:
If she didn’t do anything wrong, why won’t she defend herself? By avoiding taking responsibility, Clinton only exacerbates the perception she is dishonest and untrustworthy, the primary hurdle on her path to the White House. Optics matter when the issue is transparency.
According to the media mantra, Clinton’s possible big-money conflicts looked really, really bad. Reporters hammered the theme for weeks and months, while only occasionally glancing over in the direction of Trump’s concrete conflicts.
Today, coverage of Trump’s conflicts and self-dealing has belatedly arrived. But it often comes with an odd sense of delayed wonder, as if journalists are just now realizing the epic size of the pay-for-play problem at hand for the country, while still hedging their bets.
For instance, the headline for the Post’s November 25 article announced, “Trump’s Presidency, Overseas Business Deals And Relations With Foreign Governments Could All Become Intertwined.”
Could? The president-elect’s business dealing could be a conflict for U.S. foreign policy? That Post framing seems to dramatically underplay what’s currently unfolding. As the Post itself has reported, “Trump has done little to set boundaries between his personal and official business since winning the presidency.”
Indeed, Trump’s refusal to divest himself from a sprawling array of business interests is certain to create an ethical morass that even Republican attorneys insist will produce endless, possibly debilitating, conflicts for Trump.
The media mostly missed this pressing story once during the campaign. They can’t afford to overlook it a second time.
Media outlets failed to hold President-elect Donald Trump accountable for his false claim that “millions of people” illegally voted in the 2016 presidential election by failing to state in their headlines and tweets -- which are what most news consumers see -- that the allegation was a lie. The claim, which Trump used to dismiss his loss in the popular vote and to attack a recount effort in Wisconsin, was originally pushed by far-right “conspiracy-theory hawking” websites. Even though fact-checking organizations debunked the idea, numerous mainstream media outlets writing about the issue on social media and in headlines either reported Trump’s lie without noting that it was false or hedged by writing only that it lacked evidence.
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