National Security & Foreign Policy

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  • Breitbart News Attacked Clinton For Calling Mexican President A Friend, But Ignored Trump Doing Same

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Breitbart News praised Donald Trump, who called Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto a “friend” during his visit with the leader in Mexico City, but the conservative media outlet previously harshly criticized Hillary Clinton for doing the same thing.

    Breitbart praised Trump’s August 31 visit with Nieto, describing it as a “triumph,” and commended his “softer, diplomatic persona.” The article, however, failed to mention Trump’s description of Nieto as his personal “friend”:

    DONALD TRUMP: A strong prosperous and vibrant Mexico is in the best interest of the United States and will keep and help keep, for a long, long period of time, America together. Both of our countries will work together for mutual good, and most importantly for the mutual good of our people. Mr. President, I want to thank you. It’s been a tremendous honor and I call you a friend. Thank you.

    However, in June 2016, Breitbart reported on a statement by Clinton in which she criticized Trump for praising “dictators like Vladimir Putin” while attacking “our friends – including the British prime minister, the mayor of London, the German chancellor, the president of Mexico and the Pope.” Breitbart attacked Clinton for her description of Nieto, calling him “scandal-plagued” and pointing out that Mexican media had accused him “of taking cartel money for his campaign.”

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton has claimed that Mexico’s corruption and scandal-plagued President Enrique Peña Nieto is America’s friend. The same president that has been accused by Mexican media of taking cartel money for his campaign while the country continues to see rising levels of violence, criminal impunity, and smuggling.

    […]

    Despite her efforts to attack Trump, Clinton failed to mention a few key facts about Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto that reveal he may not be a good friend to have. Earlier this year, Breitbart Texas reported on how an in-depth investigation by Aristegui Noticias in Mexico revealed that the Juarez Cartel had used shell companies to funnel money and help finance his presidential bid. The cartel moneys were used to purchase a series of cash cards that were handed out to individuals who pledged their vote to Peña Nieto’s party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The independent Mexican journalists also revealed that members of the Juarez Cartel had used various government programs to launder money and profit from their network of contacts. In addition to the cartel ties in his campaign, Peña Nieto has also been accused of taking bribes from wealthy businessmen in exchange for lucrative contracts.

    On August 17 it was announced that Stephen Bannon would be taking a leave of absence from his role as the executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC to become chief executive of Donald Trump’s campaign. Throughout the campaign Breitbart has received criticism for its devotion to Donald Trump, while Trump himself has shared Breitbart News articles 186 times on social media.

  • CNN's Wolf Blitzer: Reports Emerging That Mexican President Told Trump "Mexico Would Not Pay For That Wall"

    Blitzer: "There Seems To Be A Contradiction, A Serious Contradiction Emerging"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From the August 31 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

    WOLF BLITZER (HOST): We're just getting this in from the Reuters News Agency. A spokesman for the Mexican president said, yes, they did speak about the wall, and that Mexico -- the president of the Mexico said -- told Donald Trump very bluntly, "Mexico would not pay for that wall." You heard Donald Trump said that they spoke about the wall but they didn't talk about who would pay for the wall. So there seems to be a contradiction, a serious contradiction emerging, David, right now.

    Previously:

    Media Figures Mock Trump For Backing Off Previous Demand Mexico Pay For Border Wall

    Sean Hannity's Dream Died In Mexico City

    Fox's Eric Bolling Suggests Mexico And America Work On Border Wall Together To Create Jobs

  • Bloomberg’s Heilemann: “We’re Setting The Bar Low” For Trump, “But That’s Sometimes Where You Have To Set The Bar”

    Nicolle Wallace: “The Fact That He Did Not Show Up In A Foreign Country And Get Run Out Of The Place, That Was A Good Day For Trump”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From the August 31 edition of Bloomberg's With All Due Respect:

    NICOLLE WALLACE (CO-HOST): In terms of where he is, there are some voters out there, who, the fact that he did not show up in a foreign country and get run out of the place, that was a good day for Trump.

    JOHN HEILEMANN (CO-HOST): Yes, and, again, we're setting the bar low. 

    WALLACE: Very low. 

    HEILEMANN: Let's be clear. We're setting the bar low, but that's sometimes where you have to set the bar.

    Previously:

    Here's What Latinos In The Media Are Saying About Trump's Sudden Visit To Mexico

    Fox's MacCallum Gives Credibility To Trump's Mexico Visit Stunt By Painting It As Presidential

    Trump Flies To Mexico, Trump's Traveling Press Corps Left Behind In America

  • Fox's Eric Bolling Suggests Mexico And America Work On Border Wall Together To Create Jobs

    Bolling: "That's Probably Hundreds Of Thousands Of Jobs"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From the August 31 edition of Fox News' The Five:

    ERIC BOLLING: You know what you could even do? He could actually have some sort of group dynamic where both countries actually use the laborers to build that wall. That's probably hundreds of thousands of jobs. That's a lot of money going back to Mexico. Not a bad idea. 

    Previously:

    Fox's Eric Bolling Is Donald Trump's Biggest Fan

    Fox's Bolling Defends Trump's "Deportation Force" As "Good For Latinos"

    Fox's Eric Bolling Reprimands GOP Congressman For Not Supporting Trump

  • Here's What Latinos In The Media Are Saying About Trump's Sudden Visit To Mexico

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Latino media figures are infuriated at the announcement that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is traveling to Mexico to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Several Latinos in the media noted that Trump has built his campaign on aggressively attacking Mexico and Mexican immigrants in the United States, and called the move a Hail Mary pass between two “desperate men.”

  • GOP Strategist: Trump Has Been “Existing In This Sort Of Sean Hannity-Rush Limbaugh Bubble”

    Rick Wilson: Trump’s Meeting With Mexico's President Will Be “A Dumpster Fire”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From the August 31 edition of MSNBC’s MSNBC Live with Tamron Hall:

    TAMRON HALL (HOST): How do you see this meeting [between Donald Trump and Mexico's president] playing out today? 

    RICK WILSON: I see this meeting playing out as being a dumpster fire on top of a giant mountain of burning tires. There is very little condition that Donald Trump comes out of this where he doesn't, first off, lie about what happened in the meeting. He is going to say, "The Mexicans agreed to everything I want. They're building the wall -- we’re building the wall. They're paying for it." And then the Mexicans are going to blow him up. This is a guy who has -- he's been very accustomed to existing in this sort of Sean Hannity-Rush Limbaugh bubble for the last few months where no alternative reality impinges. But this is a real deal with an actual head of state of a foreign power. And he's going to have to go there and he can't just lie his way out of it. He can't just say, "Oh, they've agreed to all my terms. The Mexicans are now writing a check for me at this very moment to build my magical wall." And the problem is more broadly, he's trying to, quote, unquote, "appeal to Hispanic voters." But he's about to give a speech tonight that is pure Stephen Miller, that is going to be the same story that he's told before where he's talking about Mexicans as practically genetically criminals and they're rapists and all this other stuff to appeal to his base. And I don't think he's going to get anywhere with Hispanic voters in this country by continuing to be so divisive and by having to live up to what his crowds desire versus what would be smart politically. He’s not a guy with any compassion in his soul so it's going to fall very flat. 

    Previously:

    A GOP Strategist Explains How Donald Trump Knows Anti-Semites And White Nationalists Are "The Center Of His Play" 

    Donald Trump’s Probable Immigration Plan Will Be Ripped Straight From Right-Wing Media

    Sean Hannity And Donald Trump’s Immigration Townhall Focuses On Fearmongering

    Limbaugh: Trump And I Say "Similar Things" About Immigrants, And Now He's "Changed The Entire Debate"

  • The AP, And Why The Press Has Trouble Admitting Its Clinton Mistakes

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    “When we're wrong, we must say so as soon as possible.” Associated Press guidelines.

    Somebody inside the Associated Press should hide the shovels so editors there will stop digging.

    The hole they’ve dug in recent days just keeps getting bigger as the wire service refuses to admit obvious mistakes in the lengthy investigation they published last week about Clinton Foundation donors, and the implication they were able to buy access at Hillary Clinton’s State Department.

    Not only was the AP article itself deeply flawed and lacking crucial context, the news organization also tweeted out this categorically false announcement to its 8.4 million followers to promote its investigation: “BREAKING: AP analysis: More than half those who met Clinton as Cabinet secretary gave money to Clinton Foundation.”

    That tweet immediately ignited a media firestorm. It has since been retweeted or liked more than 13,000 times, and the claim is now widely repeated as fact. But it’s completely inaccurate. The AP investigation only looked at a small portion of Clinton’s meetings or conversations -- only 154 people met the parameters of the AP’s study, of which 85 donated or pledged commitments to the Clinton Foundation. There’s no way 85 represents “more than half” of the people Clinton met with while serving as secretary of state between 2009 and 2013.

    “Clinton actually participated in over 1700 meetings as secretary of state during that time period,” notes Judd Legum at ThinkProgress. “That means, in truth, fewer than 5% of Clinton’s meetings as Secretary of State were with Clinton Foundation donors.”

    The AP’s reckless social media hyping of the donor story represented “sloppy, click-grabbing shorthand that is a disservice to the reporting to which it refers,” David Boardman, the Dean of the School of Media and Communication at Temple University, told CNNMoney.

    And yet there was Kathleen Carroll, executive editor of the Associated Press, on CNN’s Reliable Sources insisting the AP’s tweeted claim didn’t need to be corrected or deleted. “If we felt it was wrong we would have taken it down right away,” Carroll announced, despite the fact that, to date, only the AP thinks its tweeted declaration is accurate. Pressed by host Brian Stelter, Carroll conceded the tweet was “sloppy,” but the organization clearly has no intention of deleting it.

    As the AP investigation began to crumble last week, I noted that the wire service joined a dubious list of news outlets that have gotten burned chasing bogus Clinton ‘scandal’ stories over the years. And now we’re seeing the postscript to that sad tradition: News outlets which then refuse to admit they botched their Clinton ‘scandal’ stories. There’s a stubborn refusal to clean up their own mess.

    For years, The New York Times has refused to acknowledge its rampantly misleading Whitewater coverage from the 1990s, as well as its overall breathless pursuit of Clinton ‘scandal’ stories back then.

    Meanwhile, when CBS’ Lara Logan reported a botched Benghazi investigation on 60 Minutes, featuring a bogus “eyewitness” to the terror attack, the network never released a full explanation for how such an obviously flawed report was ever allowed to air. Instead, the network ordered a minimal internal review, released a two-page summary and Logan and a producer took a leave of absence from the program.

    By contrast, when CBS faced conservative outrage after airing a flawed report about President Bush's Vietnam War record in 2004, the network appointed former Republican attorney general Richard Thornburgh, to investigate. Thornburgh’s review panel worked for three months, interviewed 66 people, and issued an-often scathing 224-page report.

    And now we have the AP’s stumble-a-thon. Carroll’s attempted defense on Reliable Sources was just the latest defensive misfire for the news outlet. Last week, the AP released a statement defending the article, but didn’t really address the specific complaints that were mounting. “The initial article was bad,” wrote Matthew Yglesias at Vox, “and while the defense of the article usefully clarifies a key point, it is also bad.”

    Then over the weekend on Twitter, AP reporter Matt Lee lashed out at critics of the news organization’s donor story. That did not go well.

    The reason this newsroom misfire is generating so much attention and so much anger is that it’s as if the Associated Press set out to create a textbook example of how the Beltway press plays loose with Clinton ‘scandal’ facts and then refuses to admit a mistake, even when there’s virtually no debate about the falsehoods.

    But it wasn’t just the tweet. It was the entire premise of the AP article that was botched and requires a correction or at least a fuller explaining.

    From the AP's investigation [emphasis added]:

    More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money -- either personally or through companies or groups -- to the Clinton Foundation. It's an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.

    Right in the first paragraph the AP announced it was “extraordinary” that Clinton met with 85 foundation donors during her nearly 50 months as secretary of state. But extraordinary compared to what? In order to prove that point, the AP needed to provide context to show how the figure was remarkable and out of the ordinary. But the AP never even tried.

    Simple question: How many of those same foundation donors who met with Clinton also met with secretaries of state under the previous Republican administration?

    The clear implication from the AP report was that Clinton donors bought access and favors. But if lots of those same donors gained access to President Bush’s State Department, the AP implication falls apart. Indeed, its entire investigation collapses. (Vox's Yglesias posted several examples where a Clinton donor featured by the AP met with key Republican officials over the years.)

    Working hard to avoid crucial context, the AP presented almost laughably non-controversial examples to highlight what reporters suggested were key instances of how Clinton Foundation donors received special treatment at the State Department.

    From the Washington Monthly’s Nancy LeTourneau on how "the AP blew their story" [emphasis added]:

    In an attempt to provide an example of how this becomes an “optics” problem for Hillary Clinton, they focused much of the article on the fact that she met several times with Muhammad Yunus, a Clinton Foundation donor. In case you don’t recognize that name, he is an economist from Bangladesh who pioneered the concepts of microcredit and microfinance as a way to fight poverty, and founded Grameen Bank. For those efforts, Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010.

    The connection the AP tries to make is that SoS Clinton met with Yunus because he was a Clinton Foundation donor. What they didn’t mention is that their relationship goes back over 30 years to the time Hillary (as first lady of Arkansas) heard about his work and brought him to her state to explore the possibility of implementing microfinance programs to assist the poor.

    What a mess. And to think how many editors at the AP saw the donor investigation article before it was published and were unconcerned -- or unaware -- that they were deceiving their readers.

    And now those same bosses don’t want the AP to be held accountable.

  • Another Muslim Brotherhood Conspiracy Theorist Becomes A Trump Adviser

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann is now advising Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, adding to the list of Trump influencers who have peddled the right-wing media conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin is a “Muslim Brotherhood” operative. Bachmann, who formally requested a federal investigation into Abedin and others in the federal government, joins conspiracy theory-spouting Trump associates Stephen Bannon, Sean Hannity, and Roger Stone.

  • Fox Scandalizes Report Claiming US Leveraged Payment To Iran To Ensure Prisoner Release

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Fox News host Stuart Varney mischaracterized new details about the United States’ $400 million payment to the Iranian government, claiming that the State Department admitted that the money was a “ransom payment” for American prisoners. In reality the payment, stemming from a “decades-old” agreement, was “conducted separately from the prisoner talks” and was withheld as “leverage until the US citizens had left Iran.”

    The Wall Street Journal reported on August 3 that the Obama administration “organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January release of four Americans detained in Tehran.”

    Right-wing media distorted news of the cash transfer -- which related to a settlement reached in 1979 “over a failed arms deal” that was resolved in The Hague -- to falsely claim the transfer had been done in secret and that the payment was ransom.

    The Journal then reported on August 18 that the cash exchange was “specifically timed to the release of several American prisoners held in Iran.”

    State Department spokesman John Kirby reportedly said that although “the US withheld delivery of the cash as leverage until the US citizens had left Iran,” the negotiations over transferring the money were “conducted separately from the prisoner talks.”

    Fox host Stuart Varney seized upon Kirby’s statement to falsely claim that the State Department “basically admitted that the Journal story is correct,” and that “this is a ransom payment.” Varney also said, “[it’s] very difficult to say that’s not ransom.”

    But the payment indeed was not ransom, as Kirby explained in an August 18 State Department press briefing. Kirby noted that the money was given to Iran after the prisoners had been released in an effort to “retain maximum leverage,” not before, as a ransom payment typically happens.

    Kirby also noted that the payment was timed with the prisoner release because “We were able to conclude multiple strands of diplomacy within a 24 hour period, including implementation of the nuclear deal, the prisoner talks, and the settlement” in question. Kirby made clear that “we deliberately leveraged that moment to finalize these outstanding issues nearly simultaneously” because of “concerns that Iran may renege on the prisoner release” and “mutual mistrust” between the two countries.

  • Politico Gives Anti-Immigrant Advocate A Platform To Justify Trump’s “Extreme Vetting” Proposal

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Politico Magazine published an article written by anti-immigrant economist George Borjas, who defended Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s proposal to implement “extreme, extreme vetting” for immigrants, including temporarily banning refugees from an undisclosed list of countries. Borjas is linked to anti-immigrant think tanks known for shoddy research and himself has skewed information in a crusade against immigrants.

    In an August 17 Politico op-ed republished from his blog, Borjas slammed media figures for criticizing Trump’s proposals, citing a number of discriminatory policies throughout history that have blocked, deported, or discouraged certain immigrants from coming to the United States, and defending Trump’s extreme proposal by arguing that “immigration vetting is as American as apple pie.” He also refers to the 1917 Immigration Act, “which, in addition to effectively barring immigration from Asia, listed the many traits that would make potential immigrants inadmissible” as one of his “favorite examples” of “extreme vetting.”

    A 2006 New York Times profile of Borjas stated that his approach to immigration “carries an overtone of ethnic selectivity that was a staple of the immigration debates a century ago,” which “makes many of Borjas’s colleagues uncomfortable.” He also has ties to conservative think tanks known for expounding false information about immigrants, including the nativist Center for Immigration Studies and the hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which have both been described as organizations that “stand at the nexis of the American nativist movement.” Borjas continued to express these attitudes in his Politico op-ed, despite acknowledging that some immigration restrictions were rolled back “for good reason”:

    As early as 1645, the Massachusetts Bay Colony prohibited the entry of poor or indigent persons. By the early 20th century, the country was filtering out people who had “undesirable” traits, such as epileptics, alcoholics and polygamists. Today, the naturalization oath demands that immigrants renounce allegiance to any foreign state. Even our Favorite Founding Father du jour, Alexander Hamilton (himself an immigrant), thought it was important to scrutinize whoever came to the United States.

    [...]

    In other words, immigration vetting is as American as apple pie.

    [...]

    In 1882, Congress suspended the immigration of Chinese laborers, and added idiots, lunatics and persons likely to become public charges to the list for good measure.

    One of my favorite examples of the extreme vetting is the 1917 Immigration Act, which, in addition to effectively barring immigration from Asia, listed the many traits that would make potential immigrants inadmissible.

    [...]

    In other words, even a century ago we had put in place ideological filters against anarchists, persons who advocate the destruction of property, and persons who believe in overthrowing the government of the United States.

    Of course, some of these filters, such as those restricting the entry of epileptics or Asians, have long since been rolled back—and for good reason. But many of them—especially those pertaining to criminals, and people who are likely to work against U.S. interests—remain in current law, with additions that reflect the changing security landscape.