Media Structures & Regulations

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  • Breitbart Uses Nazi-Inspired Anti-Semitic Rhetoric In George Soros Attack

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Breitbart News’ Twitter account used anti-Semitic rhetoric, commonly used in 1930’s Nazi propaganda, to attack philanthropist George Soros’ efforts to combat voter suppression laws. The anti-Semitic attack is in keeping with a troubling pattern of anti-Semitism from Breitbart, which President-elect Donald Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon formerly ran and has bragged is home to the “alt-right,” a racist white nationalist movement.

    Linking to a “flashback” story about Soros’ financial role supporting “legal battles against state voting laws,” the Breitbart Twitter account tweeted on November 28, “Like an octopus.”

    The “octopus” wording is overt anti-Semitic rhetoric dating back to at least the 1930s, when it was a common theme in Nazi propaganda. The imagery of a Jewish octopus engulfing the globe or ensnaring political institutions can be found on other white supremacist and neo-Nazi online forums, as well as on Fox News’ airwaves.

    That Breitbart is attacking Soros with anti-Semitic rhetoric is not surprising -- the white nationalist site was formerly run by Bannon, who has bragged that Breitbart News had become home to the “alt-right” -- which is merely a racist code word for white nationalists. In 2007, Bannon’s ex-wife swore in court that Bannon “said he doesn’t like Jews” and didn’t want his children to go to school with Jews. Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart attacked media and political figures using anti-Semitic rhetoric, to the point where a former Breitbart employee accused the website of embracing “a movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism.”

    Major media outlets are already whitewashing Bannon’s history of white nationalism and anti-Semitism. Given that Trump also has an extensive relationship with the white nationalist movement and Bannon’s extreme influence in Trump’s White House, media efforts to identify and criticize anti-Semitic rhetoric are more critical than ever.

  • Congressman Promotes Breitbart Poll Asking If He Should Be Trump's Secretary Of State

    Media Matters Urges Senate Press Committee To Reject Credentials For Breitbart

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    A Republican member of the House of Representatives, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), is urging his supporters to vote for him in a new Breitbart.com poll asking readers who should be secretary of state. The poll and the congressman’s subsequent email to his supporters are further evidence that Breitbart lacks the editorial independence to receive the permanent Senate press credentials the site is seeking.

    Breitbart.com has reportedly requested “permanent Capitol Hill credentials” from the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery, which regulates congressional press access. According to Rule 4 of the standards for issuing a permanent press pass, “publications must be editorially independent of any institution, foundation or interest group that lobbies the federal government.” In an open letter to the members of the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery, Media Matters laid out several reasons that Breitbart fails to meet the Senate’s press standards for receiving permanent congressional press credentials, including Breitbart’s strong connection to President-elect Donald Trump, which could potentially allow the site to serve as a state-allied propaganda outlet.

    Now, Breitbart.com is conducting a poll asking readers who they would “prefer” to have “serve as the country’s chief diplomat.” The choices include former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former CIA Director David Petraeus, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

    Rohrabacher, apparently believing that his bid for secretary of state will be improved by his position in the Breitbart poll, sent an email to his supporters encouraging them to vote and noting that “it would be a privilege and an honor to serve as [Trump’s] Secretary of State.” Rohrabacher is best known for his service on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and for his various affiliations with the Russian Federation.

    Breitbart.com’s poll -- and Rohrabacher’s reaction to being included in it -- underscore the site’s total absence of editorial independence, bolstering Media Matters’ argument that the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery should not grant permanent credentials to the outlet.

  • Open Letter: Senate Press Gallery Should Reject Breitbart’s Application For Permanent Credentials

    Breitbart Violates Rules On Editorial Independence

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    To the members of the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery:

    Breitbart.com has reportedly come before the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery seeking permanent Capitol Hill credentials. We urge you to reject the request based on Breitbart’s disqualifying inability to demonstrate editorial independence as required by your rules.

    According to Rule 4 of the standards for issuing a permanent congressional press pass, “publications must be editorially independent of any institution, foundation or interest group that lobbies the federal government.” In rejecting the application of the Supreme Court reporting outlet SCOTUSBlog, the committee explained that editorial firewalls are insufficient when personnel are inextricably connected between the federal government and an applying publication.

    Breitbart fails this standard in several ways:

    1. Breitbart Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon is on leave while working as the top adviser for President-elect Donald Trump, and he has been appointed chief strategist and senior counselor to Trump once he is sworn in as president.

    2. Even if Bannon completely severs his position with Breitbart, his likely financial interest and the possibility that he could return to his position after serving in the Trump administration suggests that Breitbart News cannot be editorially independent.

    3. Numerous media observers and former employees suggest that given Bannon’s position in the Trump administration, Breitbart could serve as a state-allied propaganda outlet.

    4. Rebekah Mercer, daughter of a major Breitbart investor, is reportedly serving on the executive committee of the Trump transition team, and could end up serving in the Trump administration.

    5. Breitbart has already engaged in similar conduct internationally. Notably, Breitbart London editor in chief Raheem Kassam left the website to become chief of staff to UK Independence Party’s Nigel Farage during the 2015 UK General Elections; rejoined the website following the elections and spent the next year using his editorial post to support and advocate for UKIP’s signature policy initiative, Brexit; then briefly ran for UKIP leader.

    It is simply not credible for an outlet to claim the editorial independence required under your rules given that their longtime executive chairman is about to become the closest advisor to the president.

    In addition to these documented, inextricable, and disqualifying links between the outlet and the Trump administration, Breitbart has secretive business ties that it refuses to disclose as a matter of policy, including financial ties to foreign businessmen that are kept equally secret. The Committee should also be wary of granting additional credibility to an extremist website -- Bannon himself called it “the platform of the alt-right,” an ideology that features white nationalism.

    Given these facts, we urge the Standing Committee to reject the Breitbart application.

  • Fox News Media Critic Has The Worst Take On Trump Being Normalized

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz lambasted the media for failing to “normalize” President-elect Donald Trump, but nothing about Trump’s campaign or his transition is normal -- nor should the media consider it as such. 

    Kurtz’s November 20 column on FoxNews.com criticized “many in the media, mostly on the liberal side,” who say Trump “should not be normalized,” which Kurtz incorrectly interpreted as a denial of the validity of the presidential election results. To back up this assertion, Kurtz wildly claimed that the media's valid questions about many of Trump’s actions are akin to the racist attacks that began about President Obama's faith and birthplace after he was elected, many on Kurtz’s own network. Kurtz’s strawman argument ignores the conduct that demands Trump not be normalized: his campaign of bigotry and division and his cabinet appointees rumored and actual who despise the press, have long histories of hatred, and, in one case, support white nationalist ideology.

    Trump’s policies and behavior are not normal and should not be treated as such, and it is media’s role to hold elected officials accountable. Trump’s team has already soft-pitched internment camps as “precedent” for a Muslim registry, and Kurtz’s Fox News colleagues are already defending the fundamentally anti-American idea. Not only that, but Trump’s transition has raised eyebrows about “mind-boggling” conflicts of interest with the Trump Organization, potential self-enrichment by Trump’s children, and Trump’s extremely disturbing habit of ditching the press as president-elect to maneuver in secrecy, which Kurtz already said is not a problem. This is not normal.

    Trump’s cabinet is similarly filling up with people who espouse horrific beliefs. His appointees so far includes a national security adviser who shares fake news and tells people “fear of Muslims is rational,” a chief strategist who is described as a “white nationalist” by opponents and supporters alike, and an attorney general who was once denied a federal judgeship for being too racist, a fact that Kurtz’s Fox colleagues repeatedly dismissed. Other potential appointees include a bigoted press secretary who hates the press, a commerce secretary who wants to know “what’s with all the hoods in the hizzy,” and a homeland security secretary who calls civil rights activists “primitive,” “unmanageable misfits.” This is not normal.

    When media outlets resist “normalizing” Trump, they are resisting the normalization of racism, Islamophobia, sexism, homophobia, and other types of division and discrimination present in his growing administration. Many outlets, however, are already failing this test. When Trump’s hostilities toward women and minorities are paired with his regular threats against the free press, the media’s role in naming bigotry wherever it is found -- even in the White House -- is more important than ever.

  • Will Fox News Hold Eric Bolling To The Same Standard They Had For Other On-Air Personalities?

    Bolling Refuses To Answer If He's In Consideration For A Position In A Trump Administration

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News co-host Eric Bolling refused to answer when asked if he has “been asked to visit Trump Tower to get a job,” stating “I wouldn’t tell you that one way or the other.” Fox, which has a long history of suspending or ending contracts with on-air talent that take political positions, should take swift action to address these concerns.

    Politico reported Bolling “has discussed the possibility of taking a position in Donald Trump’s administration” in the Department of Commerce, but neither Bolling nor Fox would comment on the report. Bolling told Politico “at this time I can’t confirm anything” and “A Fox News spokesperson said they did not have anything further to add.”

    The network has a long history of parting ways with on-air talent when it is clear they are taking on new political roles. Fox News previously suspended Newt Gingrich’s contributor position “effective immediately” after speculation Gingrich could become Trump’s running mate, and terminated Scott Brown’s contributor contract when Brown told the network he was planning a New Hampshire Senate run. Rick Santorum also lost his paid Fox commentator contract for 60 days after he announced he would run for president in 2011.

    If Bolling refuses to address the controversy, Fox News should. From the November 21 edition of Fox News' The Five:

    KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE (CO-HOST): Let's talk about hop alongs and the transition.

    GERALDO RIVERA (GUEST CO-HOST): Why don't you ask -- why don't you ask Bolling if he's been asked to visit Trump Tower to get a job yet?

    GUILFOYLE: I believe you just did.

    ERIC BOLLING (CO-HOST): I've been to Trump Tower, I talked to all my friends over there, very close friends over there, and there's --

    RIVERA: Can you tell us for the record whether they offered you a job? Or --

    DANA PERINO (CO-HOST): Why are you doing that to your co-host?

    BOLLING: I wouldn't tell you that one way or the other. I would just tell you that they are good friends of mine, and I love my job, and I have every intention to stay right here for as long as Fox will have me sitting next to you, Geraldo.

    RIVERA: Oh, well that sounded a little equivocal.

    GUILFOYLE: Make Fox News great again, from the center seat.

  • Trump Receives Celebrity Treatment In Fox News' "OBJECTified" Special With TMZ's Harvey Levin

    Blog ››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP

    Fox News will air "OBJECTified: Donald Trump" on November 18, featuring TMZ's Harvey Levin interviewing the president-elect about his most prized possessions and the stories behind them. The special is poised to be another softball interview, contributing to the media's tendency to normalize Trump.

    The one-hour special will feature host Levin -- a longtime friend of Trump’s -- getting a tour of Trump’s home, with Trump recounting the stories behind his "cherished keepsakes," according to Politico. He also tells Levin stories during the interview, which was shot in September, including sharing the "decades-old advice from a former president that planted the seeds for his presidential campaign":

    The one-hour special, called “OBJECTified: Donald Trump”, will air Friday evening at 10 p.m. The special will feature an interview with President-elect Trump filmed in September, when he gave Levin a tour of his home and offered “stories behind each memento” there.

    “The special will feature a side of President-elect Donald Trump that has rarely been seen before,” Fox said in its announcement. “Trump recounts the stories behind photos, letters, trophies and other cherished keepsakes he’s acquired throughout his life.”

    Some of the stories will include how Trump had an “unfulfilled dream of becoming a Hollywood movie mogul, and the decades old advice from a former President that planted the seeds for his presidential campaign.”

    In an interview on Fox News' Hannity previewing the special, host Sean Hannity praised Levin, saying that he wasn’t "playing gotcha [with Trump], you were asking real questions in a[n] intimate environment. He brought you in his inner sanctum, in a way, and it ended up giving us a side of Trump that I don't think most Americans know."

    Fox’s special follows the lead set by CBS in its attempt to normalize Trump, despite the racist and bigoted comments and policies the president-elect continues to advocate. On November 13, Lesley Stahl of CBS' 60 Minutes interviewed Trump after his election win to reintroduce him to the American people. During the interview, Stahl allowed Trump to whitewash his extreme positions, which she claimed were "not meant to be taken literally, but as opening bids for negotiation.”

    But given Trump’s first steps as president-elect -- his appointment of former Breitbart News CEO Steven Bannon, who bragged about his site serving as a platform for the “alt-right”; his renewed vow to build a wall on the southern border of the country; and his pledge to create some sort of registry for Muslim immigrants -- it is clear Trump will push for the extreme policies he proposed during the campaign.

    Donald Trump has praised the interview on Twitter, saying it "features a side of me 'that has rarely been seen before.'"