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  • Trump Advocated White Nationalism With An "Indoor Voice," And Pundits Loved It 

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER

    After President Donald Trump gave a speech to joint members of Congress filled with exaggerations, lies, and policy plans that contained no specifics -- and in many cases were based on propagating fear about and demonizing immigrants -- the takeaway from pundits and talking heads was somehow that he sounded “presidential.”

    That's how low the bar has been set. So low that because the president sounded like an adult for an hour and refrained from transparently attacking people of color, allies, or the press, media figures forgot the glaring abnormalities of Trump’s presidency thus far. To some in the media, the speech was a “reset” for the new president.

    As soon as he finished speaking, the accolades from pundits began to roll in. Fox’s Chris Wallace said, “I feel like tonight, Donald Trump became the president of the United States.” ABC’s Alex Castellanos similarly said Trump “became president tonight. I think we saw the long-awaited pivot.” MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki claimed that Trump had “a more presidential tone, a more optimistic tone,” and Fox’s Chris Stirewalt said Trump “did sound like the president, look like the president, act like the president.” They weren’t the only ones.

    It wasn’t just pundits on TV either. Newspaper headlines also lauded “a more temperate Trump,” his supposed “milder tones,” and his call for an “end to ‘trivial fights.’”

    Essentially, the media set the bar so low for the speech that when Trump, the president of the United States, sounded like the president of the United States, it was lauded as a victory.

    Not only was that an absurd measure, but the praise delivered by pundits across the broadcast and cable news stations, for the most part, entirely lacked context. One prominent example of this failure was the reaction to Trump’s comments about a slain Navy SEAL officer, William “Ryan” Owens. During his speech, Trump acknowledged Owens’ widow and said that “Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity.” That portion of the speech was cited by many as a highlight and an “extraordinary moment”:

    CNN’s Van Jones: “He became president of the United States in that moment, period.”

    Politico’s John Bresnahan: “That was a Reaganesque moment for Trump.”

    CNN’s Jim Acosta: “Powerful moment.”

    But there’s a lot more to this story. As NBC’s Katy Tur properly noted, while it was an emotional moment in the speech, it “came after Trump seemed to blame his generals/Obama for Owen’s death” just that morning, and after NBC reported that “senior intelligence sources dispute” the White House’s “characterization of [the] raid as a success.” As Tur pointed out, NBC’s reporting “would mean that Trump isn’t being honest with a grieving wife. And that is anything BUT presidential.”

    The praise also ignored the actual content of Trump’s address. Those lauding the speech as “normal” ignored what was extraordinarily abnormal about it of it. As The Washington Post’s Fact Checker noted, “President Trump’s maiden address to Congress was notable because it was filled with numerous inaccuracies.” And while large parts of the speech simply featured Trump touting what he’s done so far as president, not much about those actions is normal either. According to a New York Times analysis, most of the significant actions and events in Trump’s presidency thus far have been “abnormal.” 

    Those praising parts of the speech also seemed unable to acknowledge the startling differences between the Trump who gave that speech and the Trump from just that morning. Some examples:

    • Some pundits praised Trump for addressing the recent wave of threats against Jewish Community centers. But just hours prior to the address, Trump seemed to imply that those threats could be false flags -- a suggestion he has made before.
    • Many pundits cheered Trump for honoring the Navy SEAL killed in the Yemen raid. Yet earlier that day, Trump blamed the military for Owens’ death, telling Fox & Friends hosts, “They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do, the generals. ... And they lost Ryan.”
    • And all those cheering how “presidential” and “normal” the speech was must have missed the stark and pervasive demonization of immigrants -- from Trump’s announcement that he would set up an office for “victims of immigration crime” to his decision to bring three guests whose family members had been killed by immigrants.

    These remarks, particularly on immigration, served a clear purpose that the fawning punditry seemed to miss. Bloomberg’s Joshua Green, talking to a “senior White House official,” reported that the aide said the speech was aimed to be “‘nationalism with an indoor voice,’” and that Trump “backed off exactly none of his previous policies.”

    Perhaps because Trump’s speech didn’t indicate any real change in policy, the high praise from the press has apparently even caught some of his aides off guard. According to The Washington Post’s Robert Costa, even “some sources in [the White House] are frankly surprised at how pundits are warming to the speech,” noting that “Trump has not changed,” and there is “no big shift in policy coming."

    It’s not the first time the media has fallen for this ruse. Over the past year, media figures have repeatedly either predicted that Trump would finally start acting more respectable or claimed that it had already happened -- that he had finally pivoted. Yet time and time again Trump has reverted back to his usual style, leaving the media the Charlie Brown to Trump’s football-wielding Lucy.

    So yes, Trump may have sounded more like a president than we expected. But a normal-sounding speech isn’t nearly enough to erase the first month of his presidency, which was distinguished by abnormal -- and extremely problematic -- actions, attacks, and rhetoric. With promises of worse to come, it’s crucial that media stop setting the bar so low and start demanding more.

  • STUDY: Broadcast And Cable News Largely Ignored Xenophobic Shooting Of Indian Immigrants

    Fox News’ 14 Seconds Of Coverage Continues Its Pattern Of Dismissing Hate Crimes Against People Of Color

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Broadcast and cable news largely ignored the February 22 shooting of two Indian immigrants in Kansas in which the suspected attacker told the victims to “get out of my country,” devoting mere minutes to the attack. Fox News’ virtual failure to cover the attack fits into the network's larger pattern of severely downplaying hate crimes aimed at people of color.

  • Bill O’Reilly Hosted A Fake Swedish Defense “Advisor” To Fearmonger About Refugees

    Swedish Armed Forces Press Secretary: "We Do Not Know Who He Is"

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox News has been accused, yet again, of using deceptive tactics to fearmonger about refugees in Sweden.

    On the February 23 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly brought on a guest named Nils Bildt, who was introduced as “a Swedish defense and national security advisor,” to discuss Sweden’s refugee policies. During the segment, Bildt argued that Swedish authorities “are unable … to socially integrate” refugees, and claimed that, as a result, “There is a problem with socially deviant activity, there is a problem with crime, [and] there is a problem with areas or hotspots of crime” in Sweden. Bildt alleged that these “problems” are“not being openly and honestly discussed … because if you don't agree with the liberal, shall we say, common agenda, then you are viewed as an outsider or not even taken seriously.”

    The Swedish Armed Forces, however, do not appear to know who Bildt is. According to a translation of an article in the Swedish outlet Göteborgs-Posten, the press secretary of the Swedish Armed Forces has said that they “do not know who [Bildt] is,” and that he is “definitely not a spokesman for the Armed Forces.” The translated Göteborgs-Posten article reported that Bildt currently lives in Japan.

    O’Reilly’s characterization of Bildt as “a Swedish defense and national security adviser” is the latest deceptive attempt from Fox News to portray the refugee population in Sweden as deviant and “unable … to socially integrate.” Just two days earlier, on February 21, Fox host Tucker Carlson showed an interview between filmmaker Ami Horowitz and two Swedish police officers about the supposed surge in refugee violence in the country. After the segment ran, the officers featured in the interview were “shocked” by the deceptive editing of the interview, claimed they were not asked about immigration at all, and asserted “that their testimony had been taken out of context.”

    Right-wing media have claimed that the Swedish government is “importing thousands of men from countries … that embrace rape for men as something that is acceptable” and that Swedish authorities “don't want to tell the world what is going on” with their refugee population, and have attempted to revive the fearmongering myth of Muslim “no-go zones” in Sweden.

  • Fox Covers For White House After News Outlets Banned From Press Gaggle

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The White House banned several media outlets from attending a press gaggle today, including CNN and The New York Times, which have broken stories on connections between Trump and Russia. While some mainstream outlets were included in the gathering, the White House supposedly hand-picked others, including several right-wing or pro-Trump outlets such as Breitbart and One America News Network. Several prominent journalists noted that they’ve never before seen this sort of press exclusion. Even Fox News’ Bret Baier criticized the decision, noting that news outlets stood with Fox when it was excluded from certain Obama administration interviews and that “a WH gaggle should be open to all credentialed orgs.” But on air, Fox News told a different story, with White House correspondent John Roberts downplaying the severity of the situation:

    MELISSA FRANCIS (HOST): There are new tensions right now, even new tensions between the White House and the media. Some networks being excluded today from the gaggle. Others were invited but declined. It’s all anybody's talking about right now. Chief White House correspondent John Roberts is there. There is conflicting stuff floating around online. You’re actually there -- tell us what’s going on.

    JOHN ROBERTS: What’s the conflicting stuff and I’ll tell you what really happened.

    FRANCIS: Who is allowed to be in there and are certain news operations being kept on the sidelines intentionally?

    ROBERTS: Well I can tell you that they did not have an on-camera briefing today in the Brady briefing room as they normally do, which typically would see upwards of 70, maybe even 80, people in there, kind of jammed to the rafters. The president had a big speech at CPAC today, so they decided that they were going to let his speech speak for itself and Sean Spicer wasn’t going to have a traditional briefing. So he invited a number of news organizations up to his office to have what's called an off-camera gaggle. It's on the record but off-camera, so we recorded it. And there were probably 20 news organizations that were invited to that and then there were hundreds of other news organizations that were not invited to that. Sean Spicer was asked about it after one network started running a headline that it was excluded from this gaggle. Spicer said that they had a number of requests. There were only so many requests that they could accommodate because there was only so much room. As to their actual motivation, whether it was just a room thing or maybe it was something else, I can’t say at this point because Spicer did not give us that information. I mean, I can speculate, but that would only be speculation on my part.

  • Sean Hannity Falls For Misleading Claim From Gateway Pundit (Again)

    Gateway Pundit, Which Recently Got White House Press Credentials, Is Known For Inaccuracy

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On February 22, Jim Hoft posted an article on his website The Gateway Pundit alleging that a “Wikileaks Document Shows John McCain Requested Donations From Russians!” Fox News’ Sean Hannity retweeted a tweet that both linked to the Gateway Pundit post and called McCain a “globalist war criminal,” adding, “Wow if true”:

    [Screencap via Mediaite]

    But Hoft’s article is wildly misleading. His source for the claim was “Reddit users,” and his blog failed to note that the incident had already been reported -- and dismissed -- as a mere clerical error. In 2008, McCain’s presidential campaign stated that the Russian Embassy in the United States had mistakenly received a standard campaign solicitation in the mail, with campaign spokesperson Brian Rogers calling it “just an error.” The Russians agreed with Rogers’ explanation, dismissing the fundraising request as “a computer failure,” according to a 2008 Associated Press report

    When McCain’s Senate office shot down Hoft’s slapdash reporting with a statement condemning Hannity for “attacking Senator McCain over a fake news story,” Hannity deleted the tweet and extended his “apologies” to McCain (and got defensive over people criticizing him for spreading false information).

    Unfortunately for Hannity, this is not his first experience being burned by Hoft’s amateur reporting. On November 2, Hannity was forced to “humbly apologize” for spreading a totally false Gateway Pundit story that claimed “Barack and Elizabeth Warren had wiped references to Hillary Clinton in their Twitter feeds.” 

    Jim Hoft’s Gateway Pundit is a known source of lies and misinformation. True to form, Hoft has not deleted the erroneous McCain article from February 22, nor has he deleted the now months-old lie about top Democrats scrubbing Hillary Clinton from their Twitter accounts. Such behavior is hardly surprising coming from Hoft, who he has been absurdly wrong about everything from his suggestion that the Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA championship parade was the crowd at a rally for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump to his claim that a Confederate flag lapel pin was allegedly made by Barack Obama’s campaign. Despite Gateway Pundit’s bipartisan reputation for being wrong, Trump’s administration saw fit to give the site White House press credentials.

    But Hannity can’t blame Hoft alone for his habit of spreading misleading and fake news stories. Back in 1989, Hannity was fired from a local radio show for peddling the homophobic lie that gay people are prone to disease because they eat each other’s feces during sex. More recently, Hannity has also embraced the world of supermarket tabloids, lending credence to the National Enquirer’s absurd lie that Rafael Cruz, Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) father, was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and hosting the former publisher of Weekly World News -- the supermarket tabloid responsible for “Bat Boy” -- to describe his alleged time as a Clinton “fixer.”