Politico highlighted the "tension inside conservative media" over the rivalry between Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and explained that the tension has some figures "straddl[ing] the divide" in order to gin up ratings, drive candidates further to the right, and deny "airtime to the more moderate contenders they so disdain."
Prominent media figures have noted that Trump and Cruz have each gained popularity among Republican voters and conservative media figures by "espousing orthodox conservative views" and echoing conservative talk radio falsehoods. The two candidates have enjoyed symbiotic relationships with conservative media, wherein they have praised them for positive coverage of their campaigns, and for taking GOP messaging "directly to the people." Conservative media have, in return, defended both Trump and Cruz from public backlash in the wake of controversial statements and policy positions. But the rivalry between the two candidates began to create a schism within conservative media when National Review and 22 conservative media figures released an anti-Trump article, kicking off a GOP civil war.
This tension was highlighted in a January 25 Politico article, by Eli Stokols and Hadas Gold, who detailed how Trump's "brand of politics has increasingly become aligned with the conservative radio talkers and bloggers" and has thus complicated Cruz's courtship of right-wing media. Stokols and Gold explained that the rivalry is exacerbated within right-wing media because although Trump has committed "transgressions with conservative orthodoxy," he drives ratings and his hardline positions push other GOP candidates "further to the right." Because Trump's "rhetoric and stated policy positions appeal to so many conservative listeners and readers that covering them generates ratings gold," the article explained, conservative talk radio hosts have been carefully "straddl[ing] the divide":
Ted Cruz worked early and hard to cultivate the support of the most important voices in conservative talk radio and on the web and was rewarded with an army of defenders who have for nearly a year inoculated him from criticism, advanced his message and bashed his rivals on a daily basis.
No more. With just days to go before the Iowa caucuses, Cruz's wires into conservative media have gotten crossed by Donald Trump.
While opinion-makers on the right found it easy to dismiss Cruz's earlier rivals - from Marco Rubio and Rand Paul to Jeb Bush - Trump has proved a tougher foil. That's partly because his rhetoric and stated policy positions appeal to so many conservative listeners and readers that coverage generates ratings gold.
But it's also because leading voices in conservative media recognize, and appreciate, that it has been Trump, even more than Cruz, who has driven the 2016 field to the right.
But while Levin, Laura Ingraham and Glenn Beck, among others, all came to Cruz's defense during the height of the "birther" attacks, the Cruz campaign now sees some of the leading figures in talk radio helping build a bulwark against Trump. Trump's brand of politics has increasingly become aligned with the conservative radio talkers and bloggers, who have expanded their audiences by provoking grassroots activists, amplifying hardline positions and pushing Republicans further and further to the right.
Suddenly, some of Cruz's consistent supporters in the right-wing media are hedging their bets. Limbaugh, for example, has carefully straddled the divide; while giving his full-throated support to Cruz, Limbaugh has praised Trump's tactics, noting that, to his broad base of support, the tycoon represents "opportunity," "newness" and the "breaking out of whatever it is that's got us shackled." Laura Ingraham, a staunch Cruz defender, also initially validated Trump's questioning of the Texas senator's U.S. citizenship before changing her mind and stating that the question has been resolved. But just days ago, Ingraham pointed out to her listeners Cruz's flip flops on free trade and immigration reform.
Right-wing media figures are criticizing the conservative magazine National Review after it released a comprehensive feature of conservatives blasting current GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump. The critics are claiming the magazine's criticism is "intellectual snobbery," that the magazine is "irrelevant," that it has "lost touch with the electorate," and that it is committing "suicide."
Right-wing media are dismissing GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump's attacks on Ted Cruz's (R-TX) "natural-born" citizenship, calling his questions over Cruz's eligibility to be president "intellectually dishonest."
As President Obama delivered his final address to Congress on the State Of The Union, conservative media personalities attacked him on Twitter, calling him "divisive," a liar, and mocking his policy proposals.
From the January 12 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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Bob Woodward claimed during an appearance on Fox News Sunday that Hillary Clinton had attempted to "subvert the law" as secretary of state by asking an aide to transmit talking points derived from a classified document "nonsecure[ly]." But the State Department confirmed that the classified information from that document was in fact sent by a secure method, and unclassified information can be legally removed from emails that contain classified information and distributed via nonsecure methods. During the same broadcast, Laura Ingraham repeated baseless claims from a discredited Republican lawyer that the FBI is "on the verge of a major revolt" if Clinton is not indicted, even though Clinton is not the target of the FBI's investigation, which is also not criminal in nature.
Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump called for an end to "gun-free zones," parroting a prominent right-wing media claim that more civilians carrying guns would prevent mass shootings. However, there is no evidence the claim is true and research instead shows more guns are linked to higher levels of violence. This instance is just the latest example of Trump parroting right-wing media myths in his talking points.
Right-wing media are reporting discredited Republican lawyer Joseph diGenova's baseless claim that Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton committed "numerous federal crimes" with her private email use, failing to note that Clinton is not the target of the FBI's investigation and that the probe is not criminal in nature.
Discredited Republican lawyer Joseph diGenova is baselessly claiming that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her staff will face criminal prosecution by the FBI over her use of private email as secretary of state, despite numerous media reports explaining that Clinton is not the target of the FBI's investigation, which is also not criminal in nature. DiGenova has been discredited as a result of unprofessional behavior while working for Republicans in the 1990s and false claims he has made about the September 2012 Benghazi attacks.
From the January 6 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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From the January 6 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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From the January 5 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham defended Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush's false claim that the gun show loophole is not real, while also incorrectly claiming most Americans do not support background checks for gun purchases.
During the January 3 edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Bush about President Obama's upcoming executive actions that would reportedly require high-volume gun sellers who do not possess a Federal Firearms License -- such as an individual who frequently rents a table at a gun show to perform so-called "private sales" -- to obtain such a license and run background checks on purchasers. Bush claimed Obama was using a "top-down driven approach" that would not help and claimed the "so-called gun show loophole ... doesn't exist":
CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): But governor, let's talk about a couple of the specific ideas that it seems from all the reporting that President Obama is likely to propose as early as this week. Expand the number of gun sellers who have to conduct background checks. Expand the number of accused domestic abusers who are barred from buying guns. Governor, what's wrong with those specific ideas?
JEB BUSH: Well, because you don't know the details of it, but the so-called gun show loophole, which was I think what he's talking about, doesn't exist. People that want to sell randomly, you know, occasionally sell guns ought to have the right to do so without being impaired by the federal government. If states want to create specific rules around that kind of behavior, fine. As it relates to domestic violence, the state of Florida when I was governor did exactly what he's suggesting, but this top-down driven approach doesn't create freedom, doesn't create safety, doesn't create security, and that's what we ought to be focused on.
The gun show loophole -- also known as the private sales loophole when sales without background checks are conducted online or through other non-gun show venues -- is real, with the best available data showing that up to 40 percent of all gun sales or transfers are conducted without a background check, and the loophole exists in Florida. Even though Florida does not require so-called private sellers to perform background checks on customers, Bush frequently misleads about the strength of gun background checks in Florida.
Appearing later on the show during a roundtable discussion about the upcoming executive action, Ingraham not only said Bush was "right" about his loophole claim, but dismissed polling that shows overwhelming support for background checks, asserting that the claim that 90 percent of Americans support background checks had been "debunked":
LAURA INGRAHAM: Article I of the Constitution gives Congress the power to enact laws. The president has abused this power. Republicans have largely allowed him to do so. On this issue, given where the Republican Party, the Republican voters are, if the Republicans do not stand up to this in a meaningful and smart way with facts, debunking all the lies, the gun show loopholes, Jeb Bush was right about that -- if they do not do that, I think you will not be able to underestimate the wrath of the American voter next November in a lot of the key Senate races, which I know we've talked about before on this show. This is an issue about liberty and about law-abiding gun owners stopping crime, being allowed to live in freedom. You want to give a gift of a gun to a son. Now the federal government wants to create, perhaps, a national database, which would allow this gun control legislation through executive action to be meaningful. They would need a national database for gun owners, 300 million guns in the United States today. Look at what Texas did at the end of the year. They have a new pro-Second Amendment legislative regime in place, in Texas. Similarly, in Florida, they're considering the same concealed carry law. So I think the president is trying to overreach in his last year in Congress.
INGRAHAM: The 90 percent statistic of all of supporting background checks, that's been debunked. Lots of the myths about gun ownership are perpetrated by people who never much liked the Second Amendment in the first place, and who have a vested interest in amassing more power in Washington, D.C.
Ingraham's claim Bush was "right" about the gun show loophole is incorrect. According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, 32 states have not expanded their background check requirements beyond current federal law, which allows for private sellers to sell a firearm at a gun show without a background check. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has also estimated that over a quarter of sales at gun shows occur in this fashion, and in an undercover investigation of multiple gun shows in different states, New York City found in 2011 that 19 of 30 private sellers agreeing to sell to buyers who said they probably could not pass a background check.
Additionally, there is in fact widespread support for expanding background checks on gun purchasers. An October 2015 PolitiFact review of the claim that Ingraham said had "been debunked" found that it was correct, noting multiple polls showing between 80 percent and 93 percent support for background checks. Even more recently, a November 2015 poll found over 80 percent support among gun owners for the proposal, including 81 percent of Republican gun owners.
This post has been updated for clarity.
"Moderate Muslims don't speak out enough against the hijacking of their religion" Fox News primetime host Sean Hannity claimed in his first radio appearance after the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris.
In a year bookended by three major terror attacks against the West, blaming "moderate Muslims" for failing to condemn acts of terrorism has become a hallmark of conservative media coverage. The constant demand for penance -- from Muslims who have nothing to do with the acts of violence -- is a rigged game, aimed at convincing audiences that Islam is dominated by violent extremists.
January's Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris set the stage for a year of anti-Muslim coverage. Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of Fox News' parent company, tweeted that Muslims "must be held responsible" for terrorist attacks "until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer." Fox contributor Monica Crowley echoed his statements, claiming "I haven't heard any condemnation" of the attack from Muslim groups, while right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham claimed that similar attacks wouldn't occur if "most Muslims were against what was happening." When Paris was struck by terror again in November, Fox primetime figurehead Bill O'Reilly called for a "Million Muslim March," adding that people want to "see a mobilization of the good Muslims." Capping off the year of Islamophobic coverage, Fox daytime host Andrea Tantaros used December's terrorist attack by a Muslim couple in San Bernardino, California as an opportunity to peddle the myth that Muslims "don't come out and denounce [terrorism]."
But conservative media's calls for "moderate Muslims" to condemn terrorism are disingenuous. Muslim groups and leaders have repeatedly and roundly condemned terrorism. After November's attacks in Paris, leaders from numerous Arab states and Muslim-majority countries called them "heinous crimes" that are "repugnant," and "against all human and moral values." Eleven months earlier, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, religious scholar Reza Aslan said "anyone who keeps saying that we need to hear the moderate voice of Islam, why aren't Muslims denouncing these violent attacks, doesn't own Google." Nevertheless right-wing media routinely ignored these condemnations, choosing instead to criticize Muslims for supposedly not speaking up. After the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the spokesman from Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA condemned the attack on FoxNews.com, yet on the same day Fox News personalities claimed Muslims had not. Sean Hannity doubled down in his attacks against "silent" Muslims days after leaders of predominately Muslim countries, some of the largest Islamic groups in America, and Muslims across the world denounced the November Paris attacks.
And when conservative commentators do acknowledge statements from mainstream Muslim groups, it's often only to ridicule those groups for speaking out. After the December 2 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), one of the largest Islamic organizations in America, quickly denounced the attack in a press conference after the shooters were revealed to be Muslim. Executive Director Hussam Ayloush reassured the country on CNN that "all American Muslims share with the rest of the country our sorrow today, our shock, and our agony for what happened."
But rather than silencing criticisms, CAIR's response only drew outrage from conservative commentators who labeled the group a "terrorist organization" and "that Muslim group that ain't the best in the world." One Fox guest even went so far as to compare the press conference to "a pedophile sending NAMBLA out to speak for them," while others dismissed the statements as "damage control" and a "media crisis management plan." Frequent Fox guest Dr. Zuhdi Jasser somehow gathered from CAIR's statements that they "inculcate those first steps of radicalization" and see it as "sort of normal behavior."
CAIR's condemnations also did little to curb conservative media claims that Muslims weren't speaking out against terrorism. Even while acknowledging CAIR's press conference, a segment on Fox's Outnumbered still claimed that Muslims weren't sending the message that terrorists "are much different than the rest of us."
Many of the same conservative media figures who demanded penance from "moderate Muslims" for acts of terror also repeatedly suggested that Islam and Western society are fundamentally incompatible. Monica Crowley reasoned that Muslims weren't denouncing terror because "in Islam, the good Muslims are the jihadis, so the ones not carrying out violence are looked at as sort of crummy Muslims." Laura Ingraham stoked anti-Muslim fears by citing a faulty poll to falsely claim that Muslims "have a 5,000 percent greater chance of being connected with some type of jihadi group in the United States." Sean Hannity asked if "we have a clash of cultures we've got to consider?" in reference to resettling Syrian civil war refugees in the U.S., adding, "How do we know if they want to assimilate?" Bill O'Reilly called the European refugee crisis "the dramatic Muslim invasion." Fox News figures capitalized on the crisis to stoke fears that Muslim refugees may be terrorists, from Andrea Tantaros claiming "taking Islamic refugees would be suicide" to The Five co-host Eric Bolling saying male Muslim refugees are "going to be easily radicalized by ISIS."
This tactic -- assigning collective guilt and then falsely accusing "moderate Muslims" of being complicit with violent terrorism -- has become a powerful weapon in conservative media's campaign to fearmonger about Islam.
After the Charlie Hebdo attack, Caner Dagli, a professor of religious studies at the College of the Holy Cross, pointed out that these demands are "really about political statements and maintaining a certain social hierarchy" and "an act by the powerful assigning collective guilt against the powerless":
This is really about political statements and maintaining a certain social hierarchy. Demanding that innocent Muslims always make new statements about crimes they could not have stopped, from which they do not benefit, and have always condemned anyway, is an act by the powerful assigning collective guilt against the powerless. The critics who want Muslims to "speak out" only grow more demanding when Muslims actually do speak out, because by doing so Muslims have publicly affirmed the right of others to blame them collectively, regardless of whether they are accountable or not.
Such political maneuvers -- and that is what they really are -- increase the leverage that can be exerted over Muslims in public life. Muslim voices are thus uniquely kept out of view unless they are apologizing for some atrocity they had nothing to do with.
Endlessly accusing Muslims of being insufficiently outraged by terrorism helps prime conservative media audiences for a wildly distorted view of Islam. Vox's Max Fisher shed light on the mindset that these tactics breed: "the implication is that every Muslim is under suspicion of being sympathetic to terrorism unless he or she explicitly says otherwise."
That implication has consequences. While right-wing media figures heightened suspicions of the Muslim community, anti-Muslim backlash in America has been on the rise. The FBI reported that in 2014, hate crimes across the board decreased -- that is, except for anti-Muslim crimes, which rose about 14 percent. And according to a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, that trend may be "destined to accelerate."
Just days after the attacks in Paris, a Muslim engineer attended a community forum to present an application for a zoning permit to replace his city's aging Islamic center. A crowd poured into the meeting to harass him. "Nobody wants your evil cult in this town," someone in the hall shouted, "because you are terrorists. Every one of you are terrorists ... Every Muslim is a terrorist, period. Shut your mouth." Vandalism at mosques reached a record high this year with anecdotal evidence suggesting that 2015 "has been one of the most intensely anti-Muslim periods in American history," as nearly twenty anti-Muslim incidents took place over the course of just one week in December.
When conservative media commentators demand that Muslims condemn acts of terrorism and subsequently ignore their voices when they do, they are insidiously suggesting that Muslims condone terrorism. These demands are meant to make audiences suspicious of the idea of "moderate Muslims" and inflate the perception of extremists within the religion. Muslims are then left with seemingly no way to win, no matter how loud or how hard they try.
Right-wing media spent 2015 defending, praising, and peddling several of GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump's debunked falsehoods, which PolitiFact rounded up as one big "lie of the year."