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  • The Breitbart Clauses In Trump’s Executive Orders

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Two executive orders signed by President Donald Trump last week include clauses that seem designed to provide Breitbart.com and other xenophobic right-wing media outlets with fearmongering content about the supposed criminality and dangerousness of immigrants, particularly Muslim ones.

    The orders create a feedback loop between the Trump administration and the right-wing media: Both want to crack down on immigration and immigrants, so the administration is providing its media allies with fuel to inflame their audience, building support among Trump’s base for those policy shifts.

    A little-noticed clause in Trump’s executive order temporarily banning nationals from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States and barring admission of refugees, signed Friday, states that in order to “be more transparent with the American people,” the federal government will release biannual reports detailing terrorism-related offenses and gender-based violence and honor killings committed in the U.S. by foreign nationals.

    Trump’s executive order on immigration enforcement likewise included a clause calling for the weekly publication of “a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens” in jurisdictions that don’t honor federal requests to hold arrestees in jail due to their immigration status (so-called “sanctuary cities”).

    Critics note that the data does not support the implication that “large numbers of foreigners are coming to the United States and committing acts of terrorism here.” Likewise, studies show immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans.

    But the purpose of these orders is not to provide the American people with accurate information in proper context. It’s to scare the hell out of them -- particularly Trump’s base -- by taking advantage of a network of right-wing outlets that have spent years driving their audiences into a frenzy with horror stories of crimes committed by foreign nationals.

    Steve Bannon is the nexus point for this strategy. As Trump’s chief strategist, he reportedly helped draft the Muslim ban. And before joining the Trump campaign, he helped turn Breitbart, where he served as chairman, into the “platform for the alt-right,” in part by driving these xenophobic storylines.

    The website infamously has a tag devoted to “Black Crime” that aggregated stories of offenses committed by African-Americans. They’ve used similar practices to dehumanize undocumented immigrants and Muslims living in the United States and abroad.

    Breitbart aggregates reports of Muslim “honor killings” from around the globe. As with “black crime,” they have an entire tag devoted to the subject. They have a similar tag for stories about child marriage in Muslim countries. And one detailing instances of “female genital mutilation.” They also regularly suggest that American Muslims are secret operatives of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    Breitbart’s reports often portray Muslim refugees as disease-carrying criminals who are a danger to the countries in which they seek asylum, and specifically to those countries’ women. As they have sought to expand their presence in Europe, the website has frequently attacked Muslim communities in European nations and highlighted friction between those communities and white Europeans.

    Here are some headlines Breitbart has published about Islam, Muslims, and refugees:

    Likewise, Breitbart regularly aggregates reporting on crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. Their singular focus creates the false impression that such crimes are far more prevalent than the data show. Here are some Breitbart headlines on undocumented immigrants:

    Thanks to Bannon and Trump, Breitbart’s efforts to stoke fears about refugees, Muslims, and immigrants will have the official aid and imprimatur of the federal government.

    The actual numbers of cases the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department will report will likely end up being relatively low. But because they will come in a steady stream, on a weekly or semi-annual basis, the reports will generate a regular set of fresh news hooks for right-wing media to stoke outrage.

    This creates a synergy between the right-wing media and the Trump administration. The Trump administration wants excuses to limit immigration and crack down on undocumented immigrants, so they need an inflamed base focused on those issues.

    Outlets like Breitbart want to be able to report horror stories about refugees, American Muslims, and undocumented immigrants, both for ideological reasons, and presumably because such stories get good traffic with Trump’s base.

    By making the information available, Trump and Bannon help those outlets, and thus gain momentum to push even harsher anti-immigrant policies.

  • Fox’s Chris Wallace Ignored Constitutional And Diplomatic Concerns Over Trump’s Muslim Ban

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace failed to mention any of the constitutional and diplomatic problems with President Donald Trump’s executive action banning visitors, immigrants, and refugees from several Muslim-majority countries in an interview he conducted with White House counselor Kellyanne Conway about the order.

    According to CNN, the executive order “bars all persons from certain ‘terror-prone’ countries from entering the United States for 90 days and suspends the US Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days until it is reinstated ‘only for nationals of countries for whom’ members of Trump's Cabinet deem can be properly vetted.” The executive action impacts immigrants and refugees from seven majority-Muslim countries, including Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. The order has a religious exception, giving “the Department of Homeland Security leeway to prioritize refugee claims made by people ‘on the basis of religious based persecution.’” Trump himself said he will prioritize Christians refugees over Muslims refugees in an interview with the Christian Broadcast Network.

    After Trump’s executive action caused chaos for incoming refugees and immigrants at airports nationwide, a federal judge “blocked deportations nationwide late Saturday of those detained on entry to the United States after” Trump had already signed the order.

    Many cable and network news shows on Sunday explained the array of legal and diplomatic problems associated with Trump’s order. NBC’s Chuck Todd questioned the constitutionality of green card holders reportedly also being subject to the executive order. CBS’ John Dickerson grilled White House chief of staff Reince Priebus about the diplomatic backlash of the order from allied countries. ABC’s Terry Moran explained that Trump’s insistence that Christians would receive special treatment is “probably unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause.” On CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS, ACLU president Anthony Romero gave a thorough explanation of how Trump’s executive order violates international treaties, several clauses and amendments of the Constitution, and federal statutes. And Republican strategist and CNN commentator Ana Navarro pointed out that the order amounts to -- and is perceived widely as -- a Muslim ban.

    Yet Wallace noted none of those constitutional and diplomatic problems in his interview with Conway. He briefly mentioned the judges that temporarily blocked some parts of the order, but neglected to explain why, and allowed Conway to dismiss the effect of the rulings on Trump’s order without any pushback. Watch Wallace’s interview of Conway about the executive order below:

  • Trump Administration Continues Its Blackout Of CNN

    Blog ››› ››› CHRISTOPHER LEWIS

    The Trump administration’s blacklisting of CNN has continued into a second week with a refusal to send a representative to appear on CNN’s Sunday political talk show, State of the Union, while booking appearances on the four other major Sunday political shows.

    On the January 29 edition of State of the Union, host Jake Tapper reported that CNN “invited the Trump White House to offer us a guest who could provide some clarity and explanation” for Trump’s executive order limiting travel to the United States from seven majority-Muslim countries, but the administration “declined our invitation.” Members of the administration did appear on the other major Sunday political talk shows. White House chief of staff Reince Priebus appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press and CBS’ Face the Nation. Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway appeared on Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday. And White House press secretary Sean Spicer appeared on ABC’s This Week.

    The administration also declined to send a representative to State of the Union last week, while sending representatives to all the other major Sunday shows. A Media Matters review of Nexis transcripts for CNN programs over the past week also found that no senior members of the administration appeared during any weekday programs -- although CNN does employ a number of paid Trump supporters who appear regularly and parrot the administration's talking points.

    This apparent blackout is yet another illustration of Trump’s escalating war on CNN. Trump has repeatedly referred to CNN as "fake news," refused to take a question from CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta at a press conference (Spicer admitted to threatening to have Acosta removed from the press conference), and called anchor of CNN Tonight Don Lemon a “lightweight” and “dumb as a rock.” Trump ally Newt Gingrich has admitted that “Trump is deliberately trying to shrink and isolate CNN.”

    More broadly, Trump and his administration have been engaged in an unprecedented war on the press, which began during his presidential campaign and continued into the transition period and his presidency.

    UPDATE: On January 31, Politico quoted a White House official admitting to a “ban” of CNN by the Trump administration. The official claimed “the ban is not permanent,” but gave no details on why the ban was put in place or when it may be lifted.

    For more on Trump’s attacks on the press, check out Media Matters’ First Amendment Watch.

  • Former Breitbart Chief Now Writing America's Foreign Policy: Trump Gives Stephen Bannon Place On National Security Council

    Media And Security Experts React To Bannon's NSC Appointment: "Unprecedented," "Lunacy," "Truly Dangerous"

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    National security experts and media figures denounced President Donald Trump’s “dangerous” decision to give his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, a prominent role on the National Security Council. Bannon is an extremist anti-Semite who formerly ran the white nationalist “alt-right” website Breitbart.com.

  • Potential DHS Hire Jon Feere Promoted Anti-Immigrant White Nationalist Website

    Feere Also Discussed Immigration In Interview With Holocaust-Denying Anti-Semitic Website

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Policy analyst Jon Feere, who is reportedly “in line” to join the Trump administration, has promoted the work of the white nationalist website VDare.com and given an interview about immigration to an anti-Semitic newspaper that promotes claims that the Holocaust is a “hoax.”

    The Washington Post reported that Feere “is in line to join the Trump administration in an immigration-related position at the Department of Homeland Security, according to two former U.S. officials informed of transition changes by department personnel.” The paper noted that Feere is a “prominent advocate of ending U.S. birthright citizenship” and has worked as a legal policy analyst for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

    CIS is an anti-immigrant group founded by John Tanton, a white nationalist who has claimed that “a European-American majority” is required to maintain American culture. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has heavily criticized the nativist group for releasing shoddy research and pushing misinformation about immigrants.

    Feere wrote on Twitter that the “reality is that many pro-illegal immigration people simply hate Americans and believe that foreigners are superior in every way.”

    Feere has also promoted the work of the white nationalist anti-immigrant site VDare on his Twitter account. He linked to an article on the site in an April 9, 2016, tweet:

    The VDare article claimed that it’s “deeply disturbing the lengths to which honest citizens must go to convince the government to do its basic job of protecting us from violent foreigners -- from killer jihadists to all-too-common drunk-driving illegal aliens.” VDare added that “citizens are expected to accept lesser status than that of illegal aliens, who are favored by leftists as friendly to oversized government and comfortable with gangster-style politics.”

    VDare states that it “is named after Virginia Dare, the first English child to be born in the New World.” The website is run by prominent white nationalist Peter Brimelow.

    Civil rights groups have heavily criticized VDare.com. SPLC wrote that it is a white nationalist website that “regularly publishes articles by prominent white nationalists, race scientists and anti-Semites.” The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) described VDare.com as a “racist, anti-immigrant site.”

    Numerous media outlets have correctly identified the site as white nationalist, including The Washington Post, The New York TimesThe Associated Press, and CNN.

    When a Twitter user criticized Feere for linking to the white nationalist website, Feere replied: “It's simply the most link-filled account of the killing, allowing people to read other Boston newspapers via one link.”

    Feere also discussed immigration in a May 2012 interview with the anti-Semitic publication American Free Press. The May 28, 2012, piece is headlined “‘Big Ag’ Favors Illegal Immigration,” and it notes that Feere spoke with American Free Press:

    In an attempt to dissuade other states from following suit, Big Ag has embarked upon a ruthless media campaign, insisting that the recently enacted legislation has crippled the growth of the fruit and vegetable industry and left farmers with no qualified pickers to harvest their crops.

    “These businesses make claims that they have produce rotting on the vines, but there’s very little evidence of it,” said Jon Feere, a legal policy analyst with the Center for Immigration Studies, who recently spoke with AFP. “If there’s produce to be pulled, they’re going to find a way to do it. That means paying a better wage that attracts a legal workforce. In many of these states, unemployment is at an all-time high. So to suggest there are no willing workers is just silly.”

    Contrary to an oft-recited cliché, said Feere: “There is no job that Americans can’t do. What these businesses are really saying is that they can’t find willing workers to pull produce at the wages they’re willing to offer.”

    Feere goes on to say that even if farms did have trouble finding workers, other options are still available. “Most industries can be mechanized so that fewer humans are needed for harvesting,” he said. “However, there are some upfront costs to mechanization, and businesses have been unwilling to invest in the needed technology because they assume there will be a continuous supply of cheap, exploitable labor.”

    Concerns that a higher wage will drive up food prices are unfounded. According to Feere: “We’ve learned that the average labor cost for a piece of produce is somewhere around three cents to a dollar. These businesses could actually double the wages they were offering and you really wouldn’t see more than a few pennies tacked on.”

    After the article ran, the ADL criticized Feere for “associating” “with anti-Semites,” writing that American Free Press is a “conspiracy-oriented anti-Semitic newspaper run by long-time anti-Semite and Holocaust denier, Willis Carto.” SPLC also criticized Feere for granting “an interview to the anti-Semitic newspaper.”

    American Free Press promotes Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism. On March 21, 2012, it promoted the book The Holocaust Hoax Exposed: Debunking the 20th Century’s Biggest Lie. The website praised the book for purportedly ripping “apart, in lay language, the veil-thin arguments used to prove the Jewish ‘Holocaust,’ which is then used by global Zionists to justify the creation and continued existence of the state of Israel and as a tool to silence all critics.”

  • Steve Bannon To Journalists: Kneel Before Trump

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    President Trump’s chief strategist just said flat out what has been clear for weeks: This administration considers journalists the enemy and plans to do everything it can to weaken and delegitimize the free press over the next four years.

    “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for awhile,” Steve Bannon told The New York Times yesterday. “I want you to quote this. The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”

    “The mainstream media has not fired or terminated anyone associated with following our campaign,” Bannon added. “Look at the Twitter feeds of those people: they were outright activists of the Clinton campaign. … That’s why you have no power. You were humiliated.”

    Bannon has laid bare the Trump administration’s expectations for the press. Trump’s team has no respect for the place of adversarial journalism in the democratic process. The president and his administration's officials want -- and believe they deserve -- favorable coverage. And if they don’t get it, they will lash out at reporters, outlets, and the media as a whole.

    Sycophants and propagandists -- like Breitbart.com, the pro-Trump website Bannon ran until joining the Trump campaign last year -- will be favored. Those who dare to publish stories that damage the administration, or point out Trump and his administration’s lies, will be punished.

    Throughout his campaign, Trump laced into the press, blacklisted journalists and outlets who provided critical coverage, threatened to use the power of the government against them and open up libel laws, and condemned them to press pens where he could mock them for the surrounding crowd. His former campaign manager physically battered a reporter who got out of line.

    Now he’s president, and there is no sign of a pivot. Instead, his performance draws eerie parallels to the actions of authoritarian regimes that have targeted and crushed the independence of the press in their own countries.

    Reporters can stand up for the principles they hold dear, or they can be steamrolled and humiliated.

    On Friday, Trump will give his first press conference as president. It will be his next opportunity to bend them to his will -- and their next chance to do something about it.

  • Trump Reportedly Outraged That CNN Doesn't Cover Him Like Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› CHRISTOPHER LEWIS

    According to sources from New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, President Donald Trump is angry that CNN and CNN chief Jeff Zucker do not grant him the favorable type of coverage he receives from Fox News

    Trump has made it no secret his contempt for CNN, recently lambasting the network’s ratings in a January 24 tweet praising Fox’s inauguration coverage.

    Trump’s tweet comes on the heels of his January 11 attack on CNN’s senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta, refusing to answer the journalist’s questions and calling CNN “fake news.” After the press conference, Acosta was threatened by White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who said he would remove Acosta if he treats Trump disrespectfully. The next Sunday, Trump’s team failed to appear on CNN’s Sunday news program, State of the Union, but sent representatives to MSNBC, Fox, CBS, and ABC.

    Trump also attacked the network before and immediately after the election, questioning the credibility of the network, and attacking individual journalists as dumb, lightweights, who aren’t real journalists.

    According to a report from Gabriel Sherman, Trump’s antipathy towards CNN may be personal.Sherman quoted one high-level CNN source as saying, “Trump thinks just because he’s known Jeff that CNN should be covering him like Fox News does”:

    According to people close to both sides, Trump has told White House staffers that he feels personally betrayed by CNN chief Jeff Zucker.

    Trump complains that Zucker should be programming CNN more favorably toward him because of their long relationship, which can be traced back to 2004 when Zucker put The Apprentice on NBC. Trump has also said to White House staffers that Zucker owes him because Trump helped get him the job at CNN.

    According to CNN sources, Trump’s claim that he assisted Zucker in landing the top job at the network is false. Trump seems to have gotten the idea because he praised Zucker to Turner Broadcasting’s then-CEO Phil Kent at a charity dinner in the fall of 2012, a few months before CNN hired Zucker. But CNN sources say Turner had already decided to hire Zucker by that point. “This is entirely personal,” one CNN high-level source said. “Trump thinks just because he’s known Jeff that CNN should be covering him like Fox News does.”