International Conflicts

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  • Donald Trump's Rejection Of Critical Coverage Is Literally The Same As A Murderous Dictator's

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Adopting a tactic deployed by conservatives in the United States to dismiss credible mainstream reporting, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad rejected a report that showed “evidence of torture and mass hangings in one of his military prisons” by calling it “‘fake news.’”

    Assad spurned “a new Amnesty International report estimating that between 5,000 and 13,000 [Syrian] prisoners were killed in a ‘calculated campaign of extrajudicial execution,’” telling Yahoo News chief investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff that the “biased and politicized” evidence was “fake news.” Assad also claimed that the “propaganda” from Amnesty International calls “into question the credibility of” the international human rights advocacy organization. 

    Isikoff also reported that Assad "appeared to lend support" to President Donald Trump's Muslim ban by claiming that there "'definitely'" are "terrorist sympathizers embedded among Syria's 4.8 million refugees." 

    Like Assad, conservative media figures, as well as Trump and his White House press secretary Sean Spicer, have been calling negative reporting from credible mainstream outlets “fake news.” Since his inauguration, Trump has derided media outlets and journalists as “fake news” at least ten times. Spicer said a New York Times article about Trump’s adjustment to living in the White House was “‘literally the epitome of fake news,’” and Trump deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka warned that the White House will continue to attack media outlets as “fake news” until “the media understands how wrong” it is “to attack” Trump.

    The trend of strongmen delegitimizing unfavorable but legitimate reporting as “fake news” is disconcerting: Russian propagandists working on behalf of President Vladimir Putin also reportedly undercut evidence of carnage in Aleppo as “fake news.”

    Misappropriating the term “fake news,” to mean anything Trump and his allies in both the White House and conservative media circles disagree with, helps Trump degrade the mainstream media, which, in effect, helps chip away at the biggest barrier to his effort to gaslight his way through his presidency. Dismissing legitimate reporting as “fake news” effectively opens a space for disinformation to compete with objective fact and for propaganda to thrive. If multiple top world leaders are misappropriating the concept of "fake news" to push their own agendas, perhaps the war on information is bigger than we thought. 

  • Trump’s Immigration Order Targeting Muslims Is Greeted With Praise By Conservative Media And Dismay By Experts

    ACLU: The “Intent To Discriminate On The Basis Of Religion, Even Hidden Behind Pretextual Religious Neutrality, Violates The Establishment Clause And Equal Protection”

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    The executive action President Donald Trump has signed to limit immigration of refugees from a group of majority-Muslim countries was condemned by national security experts and media figures when he initially floated them. Those experts have noted that Trump’s plans are unconstitutional and antithetical to American values and that they would cost the U.S. billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

  • Trump National Security Pick Monica Crowley Pushed WMD Lies And Smeared Refugees As Terrorist Infiltrators

    Crowley Also Has Attacked The Media As “Corrupt” And Pushed Numerous Conspiracy Theories

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    President-elect Donald Trump has reportedly picked Washington Times columnist and (now former) Fox News contributor Monica Crowley as deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, after considering her for press secretary. Crowley repeatedly pushed false claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and Iran, smeared Syrian refugees fleeing war as terrorists, routinely attacks journalists as “corrupt” and “leftist,” and has pushed numerous conspiracy theories.

    Crowley Supported Bush Administration Lie That Iraq Possessed Weapons Of Mass Destruction Before 2003 Invasion, Fearmongered About Iran WMD As Far Back As 2004

    In 2002, Crowley Said, “We Do Know That Saddam Hussein Possesses Weapons Of Mass Destruction.” Monica Crowley said on the October 8, 2002, edition of Fox News’ Fox Wire that “we do know that Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction.” She continued, “We know he has chemical weapons, we know he has biological, and he has a nascent nuclear capability.” [Media Matters, 5/1/06]

    In Late 2004, Crowley Claimed Iraq Might Have Moved Weapons Of Mass Destruction Out Of The Country. On a radio show in October 2004, Crowley cited a discredited Washington Times article about Russian forces allegedly removing explosives from an Iraqi facility to suggest something similar had happened to prevent American forces from finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. [Media Matters, 10/29/04]

    In April 2004, Crowley Claimed Iran “May Already Have” A Nuclear Weapon. On the April 17, 2004, edition of MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, Crowley said that Iran has “weapons of mass destruction, possibly even nuclear at this point.” She later reiterated her claim about “nuclear weapons that they may already have” and claimed Iran would hand them to Al Qaeda to detonate in America. [Media Matters, 4/20/06]

    In September 2010, Crowley Allowed A Guest To Misrepresent CIA Director Leon Panetta’s Remarks To Claim “The Iranians Are About A Year Away From The Bomb.” On the September 7, 2010, edition of Fox’s The O'Reilly Factor, guest Scooter Libby -- former adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney -- stated, "In June, of this year, the CIA director, Leon Panetta, I think on one of these shows, said that two things. One, the Iranians are about a year away from the bomb." Guest host Crowley responded, "Right." In fact, Panetta said that were Iran to decide to fully enrich its uranium, "it probably would take a year to get there," adding: "Probably take another year to develop the kind of weapon delivery system in order to make that viable." [Media Matters, 2/21/12]

    In August 2012, Crowley Said The Obama Administration Wants To “Advance Our Enemies” And Might “Want Iran To Have A Nuclear Weapon.” While guest hosting the August 24, 2012, edition of Fox’s The O’Reilly Factor, Crowley said of Iran, “we’re on the cusp of them having a nuclear weapon, if they don’t already.” She then said that it seems to her that the Obama administration “almost want[s] Iran to have a nuclear weapon.” [Media Matters, 8/24/12]

    Crowley Has Smeared Syrian Refugees As Terrorist Infiltrators

    Crowley At The Berlin Wall: "Walls Work”

    Crowley: Refugees Fleeing To Europe Are An “Invasion” Of “Fighting-Age Males.”

    Crowley On Trump’s Anti-Muslim Immigration Proposal: “This Is A Holy War. This Is Essentially The Constitution Versus The Quran On Every Level.”

    Crowley Commenting On Story About Fears Of Refugees In U.S.: “ISIS, Come On In!”

    Crowley Supported False Claim Syrian Refugees Participated In Paris Terror Attacks. Crowley twice tweeted out the false claim that Syrian refugees were involved in the November 2015 Paris terror attacks. In fact, European officials explained that the attackers were all European Union citizens. [Politico, 10/4/16]

    Crowley Regularly Disparages The Press As Corrupt And “Leftist”

    Crowley Has Often Tarred The Media As “Corrupt.”

    Crowley: “Obama Has Gotten Away [With] Bloody Murder,” “Literally,” With “The Protection Of The Press.”

    Crowley Accused Media Of Running “Mafia-Like Protection Racket” On Behalf Of President Obama.

    Crowley Frequently Derides Media As “Leftist.”

    Crowley Is A Conspiracy Theorist

    Crowley Supported Trump’s Birtherism And Pushed Other Conspiracy Theories About President Obama’s Race, Faith, And “Real Father”

    Crowley: Trump’s Birtherism “Gaining Traction” Because Obama Has “Adopted Some Policies That Are Seriously Antithetical To American Values.”

    Crowley: Trump’s Questions About Obama’s Birth Certificate And Educational History Are “Very Legitimate.”

    Crowley: “Issues About [Obama’s] Origins … Have Traction” Because He Does "Un-American" Things That Give Impression He's "Not One Of Us."

    Crowley Questioned Whether Obama Is A “Natural-Born Citizen” And Eligible To Be President.

    Crowley Enthusiastically Endorsed “Dynamite” Conspiracy Theory Film Alleging Obama’s Real Father Is Communist Frank Marshall Davis. [Media Matters, 10/25/12]

    Crowley Claimed Obama Is An Arab, Not Black, And That He’s Lying By Presenting Himself As African-American. [Media Matters, 6/26/08]

    Crowley Pushed Myth That Obama Is Muslim By Falsely Claiming His Half-Brother Told The Jerusalem Post That “Obama’s Got A Really Solid Muslim Background.” [Media Matters, 6/20/08]

    Crowley Pushed Clinton Health Conspiracy Theories

    Crowley Pushed Conspiracy Theory That Clinton Faked Illness And Concussion To Avoid Benghazi Testimony.

    Crowley Helped Push Conspiracy Theory About Clinton’s Health During Presidential Campaign By Highlighting “Major Coughing Fits.”

    Crowley Routinely Fearmongers About A Democratic Takeover Of Americans’ Daily Lives Through Legislation And Administrative Action

    Crowley: 2009 Cap And Trade Legislation Was “Really About … The Government Taking More And More Control Over Your Life.”

    Crowley On Health Care Reform Debate In 2009: “We’re Talking About Nationalizing … Health Care.”

    Crowley: Obama Was Trying To “Indoctrinate Our Children” With 2009 Education Speech; “This Is What Chairman Mao Did.”

    Crowley Pushed Conspiracy Theory That ATF’s Fast & Furious Operation Was Meant To Create Conditions For Passing Stronger Gun Laws.

    Crowley: The Social Safety Net’s Purpose Is To Create A "Cult Of Victimhood And Dependency."

    Crowley: Obama’s “Whole Objective Is To ... Get People Dependent On Government."

    Crowley Has Made Inflammatory And Offensive Statements About The LGBTQ Community, President Obama, And Others

    Crowley: Justice Sonia Sotomayor Was “Basically Alexander Hamilton In Drag” During 2009 Senate Confirmation Hearing.

    Crowley: Justice Department’s Decision Not To Defend DOMA Is A “Form Of Dictatorship From “Mubarak Obama.”

    Crowley Insinuated Women's Rights Activist Sandra Fluke Was Gay And Later Apologized After Outcry.

    Crowley Said Obama And Accused Murderers Have A Similarly Negative Influence On Children.

    Crowley: “From A Conservative Perspective,” Obama’s Re-Election “Was A National Suicide.”

    Crowley Called 2011 Shooting Of Rep. Gabby Giffords A “Personal Tragedy … Not A National Tragedy,” Dismissed Memorial Service For Slain As An Obama Campaign Rally.

    Crowley: Syrian Refugee Crisis “Is Not A Migrant Crisis. This Is An Invasion.”

  • Fox’s Final Election Hail Mary Is A Four Year Old Benghazi Claim Floated By Organization Of Conspiracy Theorists

    Fox News Already Reported Speculation That Libya Consulate Guards Turned On U.S. Personnel Four Years Ago

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    On the eve of the 2016 presidential election, Fox News pushed a report detailing the “explosive charge” that a security company hired to protect the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, was staffed with locals that participated in the September 11, 2012, attack that left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Fox actually reported identical speculation more than four years ago; their sources for the charge are an anonymous “independent security specialist, the co-author of a book that stated that there is “no evidence” the guards “were in league with the attackers,” and an organization filled with birthers and conspiracy theorists; and the network’s previous reporting about the security company featured noted fabulist Dylan Davies.

    A week after the September 11, 2012, attack, Fox correspondent Ed Henry reported that “there are reports that security guards” hired by the British security contracting firm Blue Mountain Group “ “turned on the ambassador and that led to his death.” From a Nexis transcript of the September 18, 2012, edition of Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier (subscription required):

    HENRY: Today, [State Department spokesperson Victoria] Nuland clarified the administration had, in fact, hired a private security company, Blue Mountain Group, to work inside the perimeter.

    NULAND: They were hired to provide local Libyan guards who operated inside the gate doing things like operating the security access equipment, screening the cars.

    (END VIDEOTAPE)

    HENRY (on-camera): Significant, because there are reports that those Libyan security guards turned on the ambassador and that led to his death. Now, late today, Secretary Hillary Clinton said there was no actionable intelligence about an imminent attack in Libya. The keyword being actionable there.

    Tonight, a FoxNews.com report by Malia Zimmerman and Adam Housley called similar reports an “explosive charge,” and presented them as completely new information:

    An obscure private firm hired by the State Department over internal objections to protect U.S. diplomats in Benghazi just months before the American ambassador and three others were killed was staffed with hastily recruited locals with terror ties who helped carry out the attack, multiple sources told Fox News.

    The explosive charge against Wales-based Blue Mountain Group comes from several sources, including an independent security specialist who has implemented training programs at U.S. Consulates around the world, including in Benghazi, where he trained a local militia that preceded Blue Mountain. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Blue Mountain used local newspaper ads to assemble a team of 20 guards, many of

    whom had terror ties, after securing a $9.2 million annual contract.

    “The guards who were hired were locals who were part of the Ansar al-Sharia and Al Qaeda groups operating in Benghazi,” said the source, whose assignment in Benghazi had ended in November 2011. “Whoever approved contracts at the State Department hired Blue Mountain Group and then allowed Blue Mountain Group to hire local Libyans who were not vetted.”

    [...]

    John “Tig” Tiegen, one of the CIA contractors that responded to the Sept. 11, 2012 attack and co-author of “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi,” confirmed to Fox News that the local Libyans who attacked the consulate that night included guards working for Blue Mountain.

    "Many of the local Libyans who attacked the consulate on the night of Sept. 11, 2012, were the actual guards that the State Department under Hillary Clinton hired to protect the Consulate in Benghazi,” Tiegen told Fox News. “The guards were unvetted and were locals with basically no background at all in providing security. Most of them never had held a job in security in the past.

    “Blue Mountain Libya, at the time of being awarded the contract by our State Department, had no employees so they quickly had to find people to work, regardless of their backgrounds,” he said.

    One former guard who witnessed the attack, Weeam Mohamed, confirmed in an email sent to the Citizens Commission on Benghazi and obtained by Fox News, that at least four of the guards hired by Blue Mountain took part in the attack after opening doors to allow their confederates in.

    “In the U.S. Mission, there were four people [who] belonged to the battalion February 17,” Mohamed wrote to the Commission, an independent body formed with Accuracy in Media to investigate the attack and the administration's handling of it.

    Fox’s sourcing for the story -- which would contradict several reports by congressional committees and a review by the State Department -- is extremely dubious. Their lead source is anonymous. Their second source, Tiegan, wrote in his bestseller 13 Hours that there was “no evidence” the guards helped the attackers. From 13 Hours (page 84-85):

    Who opened the gate wasn’t clear, but responsibility for the entrance rested with the Blue Mountain Libya guards. By some accounts the armed invaders threatened the unarmed guards, who immediately acquiesced. A US government review raised the possibility that the “poorly skilled” local guards left the pedestrian gate open “after initially seeing the attackers and fleeing the vicinity.” No evidence has shown that the Blue Mountain guards were in league with the attackers, but maybe they were incompetent. As the report noted, “They had left the gate unlatched before.” Further complicating matters, the camera monitor in the guard booth at the front gate was broken, and new surveillance cameras.

    The network’s third source comes by way of the Citizens Commission on Benghazi, which is staffed by multiple birthers, anti-Muslim activists, and conspiracy theorists who maintained that there was a Benghazi “cover-up.”

    Fox previously relied upon Blue Mountain Group security contractor Dylan Davies for Benghazi reporting -- in fact, Housley himself acknowledged on-air that some of the network's 2012 Benghazi coverage had cited Davies, but they "stopped speaking to him when he asked for money." In 2013, CBS News retracted a report that featured Davies’ fabricated claims about having scaled a wall of the Benghazi diplomatic compound while it was under attack and striking a terrorist with his rifle.

    It’s no surprise that Fox News, whose obsession with finding a way to turn the tragedy in Benghazi into political attacks on President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, would close the 2016 presidential campaign with a new Benghazi conspiracy.

  • Pundits Credited Trump With Not Creating His Own Controversy This Weekend. Here's What They Ignored.

    Joe Scarborough, Brian Kilmeade Congratulate Trump For Not Making A Mess

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Some media figures praised Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for not making “himself the story” this past weekend and thus allowing the press to focus on the news regarding the FBI’s investigation of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server. But in doing so they ignored a series of outrageous claims Trump made, including his baseless comment that Clinton could “triple the size of our country in one week” by admitting “650 million” immigrants, his call to reinstate banned torture techniques, and his accusation that Twitter, Google, and Facebook are burying new developments in the FBI probe.

  • “A New Low In American Democracy”: Journalists And Pundits Condemn Trump’s Threat To Jail Clinton

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Journalists condemned Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s threats, made during the second presidential debate, that he would jail Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton if he were elected, saying they were the sort of thing you would hear in “countries with dictators” and “authoritarian countries” and calling them “stunning” and “a new low in American democracy.”