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Bobby Lewis

Author ››› Bobby Lewis
  • Right-wing media rush to blame “incivility” from Democrats and the media for bombs targeting Trump critics

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS & COURTNEY HAGLE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Beginning Monday, October 23, several prominent Democrats and CNN were targeted with improvised explosive devices sent to them in manila envelopes. In the face of these apparent assassination attempts against leaders of one political party and a media organization -- many of whom Trump has spent years viciously attacking -- right-wing media opted to pin the blame for the attempted bombings on their would-be victims' "incivility."

    Fox’s Sean Hannity: “We can’t, of course, forget about Congresswoman Maxine Waters repeatedly calling for Republicans to be stalked, harassed, confronted” in public.

    Fox’s Laura Ingraham: “I found [it] disgusting” that “other networks” blamed Trump’s rhetoric for the attempted bombings, “yet we had Holder, … Hillary, Booker, Maxine Waters, … and Joe Biden” previously criticizing the president.

    Rush Limbaugh addressed Hillary Clinton while talking about the bombs he said were “supposedly” sent to Democrats, saying, “Mrs. Clinton, it's your party, forgive me, that is encouraging this kind of thing. … Mrs. Clinton herself who said that being uncivil at this point in time is entirely proper.”

    Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said comments by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), former Attorney General Eric Holder, and Hillary Clinton “plays into” their being targeted by explosives. Later, Kilmeade also blamed Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and pop star Madonna for their rhetoric.

    Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt said to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “I’m not saying it’s just Democrats," but “we saw what happened to you and your family in the restaurant, we have Maxine Waters that’s calling for” harassment, and “Hillary Clinton was saying that we won’t be civil.”

    Newt Gingrich said that cable news had “earned” the nickname “the enemy of the people” and rhetorically asked, “The culture of [CNN’s] building is so relentlessly hostile that what are you going to call them?”

    Washington Free Beacon’s Elizabeth Harrington said in a Twitter thread that “Hillary Clinton literally said there can be no civility a week ago” and that “her rhetoric is part of the problem.” Later on Fox News, Harrington doubled down on blaming Clinton for “stoking this” and said that the media also have “culpability in driving up this division, this rhetoric.”

    Fox contributor and Federalist writer Mollie Hemingway: “A lot of people on the left have been calling for incivility” and “mob violence,” and “our media are not contributing to civility.”

    Fox's Harris Faulkner: “Congresswoman Maxine Waters, though, called for the attacks of those people with whom you don't agree.”

    Fox Business’ Charles Payne complained that a Clinton adviser “was just on TV Sunday promoting in your face incivility.”

    Republican National Committee spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany misleadingly claimed that a CNN anchor endorsed a play "depicting the assassination of the president" and claimed that the network is "culpable for the rhetoric" that led to the attempted bombing spree. (The play was a production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar that featured a Trump-resembling lead. The lesson of that work is that political violence is bad, and it’s common to base the titular role on real-life politicians.)

    Ryan Saavedra also tweeted comments from four Democrats -- three of whom received bombs in the mail. Donald Trump Jr. liked the tweet, but Saavedra later deleted it.

    Hollywood conservative James Woods blamed “Democrat #mob behavior of late” for false flag conspiracy theories about attempted bombings of Democrats.

  • Actual historian dismantles Dinesh D'Souza's lie about slavery and the Constitution

    On Fox, D’Souza dismissed slavery’s impact on the Electoral College by separating it from the three-fifths compromise, and Mike Duncan fact-checked him

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On the October 8 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, pardoned felon and infamous serial liar Dinesh D’Souza responded to a tweet from New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez by misleadingly suggesting that the three-fifths compromise did not indicate that the founders considered Black people less than fully human, because “the South wanted Blacks to count for a full person.” D’Souza also claimed that the Electoral College is “a different matter,” as it was merely about “the large states and the small states” vying for power. 

    As explained by author and award-winning history podcaster Mike Duncan, this is nonsense -- the three-fifths compromise was about artificially inflating “the political weight of the landowning white southerners” to increase both the number of representatives they received in the House and the impact of their votes for president.

  • Pro-Kavanaugh shills claim nominee is the victim of a "lynching." Have they ever seen a lynching?

    Lynchings were a cornerstone of a hundred-year campaign of racial terrorism in defense of white supremacy, but conservatives see parallels with a powerful, wealthy white man facing consequences

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Warning: This piece contains graphic images and descriptions. 

    An emerging right-wing media narrative that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is the victim of a “lynching” betrays not only conservative media’s desperation to salvage the nomination after he was credibly accused of sexual assault and likely perjured himself, but also their selfishness and superficiality when it comes to race relations in America. 

    On September 27, professor Christine Blasey Ford testified that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a high school party in the early 1980s. Right-wing media had already been building up a campaign against Ford since news of her allegations broke earlier in the month. But after her testimony, they dialed up their campaign to discredit Ford, with some of them eventually landing on the idea that the opposition to Kavanaugh is nothing but a “lynching.” 

    Attacking a sexual assault survivor with a reductive take on racial terrorism is, unfortunately, very on-brand for American conservatism in 2018. Fox’s Sean Hannity led the charge out of the gate; on September 17, the day after Ford went public, Hannity compared her allegations to the “vicious and horrible and nasty and unjust” hearings about Anita Hill’s sexual harassment reports against Justice Clarence Thomas and aired a clip of Thomas’ infamous “high-tech lynching” line. The Thomas quote was favorably recalled by several right-wing media figures, but they didn’t stop there: Several conservative and right-wing media figures took it upon themselves to make the comparison directly.

    On September 22, Fox’s Jeanine Pirro accused a guest of “setting this man up for his own lynching.” Similarly, the Family Research Council’s William Boykin told Newsbusters that he “thought lynching was made illegal and that the burden of proof rested upon the accuser, not the accused.” And Townhall published a piece (from a Black author) that audaciously began, “History is an easy and convenient thing to forget,” before comparing Kavanaugh to Emmett Till, a Black 14 year-old lynched in 1955 because of a white woman’s false groping allegation


    Mamie and Louis Till overlooking their son Emmett's corpse. (Time magazine)

    Perhaps the most depraved take came from National Review Editor-in-Chief Rich Lowry, who seems to compare Kavanaugh to the falsely accused in To Kill a Mockingbird, who is threatened with lynching. Lowry claims that a book famous for its themes of racial injustice “stands firmly for the proposition that an accusation can be false.” Lowry’s column completely ignores race -- the word doesn’t make a single appearance -- so it’s easy for him to twist Mockingbird into pablum about a man’s false accuser being “destroy[ed]” by an attorney who “doesn’t care about her feelings, only the facts.” In the original story, that same attorney also faces down a racist lynch mob outside the jail, but Lowry’s revisionist history inverts a hundred years of racial terror into a narrative that somehow vindicates Kavanaugh at the expense of his alleged victims. This take has spread throughout the right-wing Facebook echo chamber via a popular meme.

    In case conservative media have forgotten, lynchings are a uniquely reprehensible (and ongoing) part of American history. From 1882 to 1968, 4,743 people were lynched -- 72.7 percent of them Black -- for the express purpose of enforcing white supremacy. The victims were murdered in unspeakably horrific ways. Emmett Till, whom the Townhall piece compared to Kavanaugh, was found in a river, weighted down with a piece of a cotton gin. His face was so mangled by his attackers that he was unrecognizable. A sign marking where Till was murdered is regularly shot up by anonymous vandals. There’s also Mary Turner, a pregnant woman whose unborn child was cut from her womb and stomped to death (Turner was also set on fire and shot hundreds of times); Jesse Washington, who was doused in coal oil and hanged to death over burning crates, then carved into souvenirs and paraded around town; and Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie, who were dragged out of jail, beaten, hanged, then turned into postcards. Kavanaugh, in contrast, is facing extreme public scrutiny as he interviews for a job at the highest court in land. And if he doesn't get it, he'll simply go back to his old cushy life as a federal judge. 


    A postcard made from an image of Clayton, Jackson, and McGhie's lynching, also known as the Duluth lynching. (Wikimedia Commons)

    Right-wing media’s increasingly racialized Kavanaugh coverage is especially rich considering their routine denunciations of “the race card.” When conservative media say Kavanaugh is being lynched, they are playing "the race card" with blinders on; their arguments invoking an era of racial terrorism are completely devoid of any meaningful racial analysis. They’re defending a credibly accused sexual predator by first inventing, then weaponizing, an alternative history in which one of the most infamous acts of racial violence isn’t racial at all -- it’s simply about attacking people.

    It’s no coincidence that right-wing media deployed a racially charged accusation of “lynching” at the same time the conservative movement has embraced Dinesh D’Souza’s laughable, brazenly dishonest version of American history in which the Democrats are “the real racists” and the well-documented party realignment around civil rights simply “did not take place.” The right’s attempts to put an accused sexual abuser on the Supreme Court -- after electing another one to the presidency -- only serve to highlight the profound moral and intellectual rot at the heart of American conservatism.

  • Right-wing media are pushing Rachel Mitchell’s flawed memo about Christine Blasey Ford’s report of sexual assault by Kavanaugh 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT & BOBBY LEWIS


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After professor Christine Blasey Ford testified on September 27 that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her in the 1980s, The Washington Post published a memo from Rachel Mitchell, the sex crimes prosecutor hired by Senate Republicans to interrogate Ford, explaining why she theoretically would not prosecute Kavanaugh.

    Multiple news outlets have noted that the conclusions in Mitchell’s memo -- among them that Ford’s claims are “even weaker” than a "'he said, she said’ case" -- cannot be seen as credible. The Washington Post pointed out that since there hasn’t been an actual investigation of the claims, Mitchell’s assertion of no corroborating evidence falls flat. Think Progress noted that while Mitchell questioned Ford extensively, she spoke to Kavanaugh, the alleged assailant, for just 15 minutes. Mother Jones reported that a former colleague of Mitchell’s, Matthew Long, dismissed her “willingness to author” the memo as “absolutely disingenuous,” and he asserted that the prosecutor “doesn’t have sufficient information to even draw these conclusions.” Long also criticized Mitchell for attacking Ford’s gaps in memory, noting that he was “trained by Ms. Mitchell about how trauma explicitly does prevent memory from happening” and concluding, “Ms. Mitchell knows better than that.”

    Additionally, as journalists and outlets have pointed out, a Supreme Court nomination is not a trial; it’s more akin to a job interview. The question of whether a prosecutor is willing to bring charges against Kavanaugh is not equivalent to that of whether he should serve on the highest court of the land.

    Desperate to undercut Ford, right-wing media figures have ignored the obvious problems in Mitchell’s memo and instead portrayed the document as credible evidence of Kavanaugh’s innocence:

    Fox & FriendsBrian Kilmeade: Mitchell “concluded that she would not -- this was a weak case and I never would recommend, wouldn’t think anyone would recommend, they prosecute this case.”

    Fox’s Laura Ingraham wrote, “Sex Crimes Prosecutor Rachel Mitchell’s report exhonerates (sic) Kavanaugh,” linking to a Gateway Pundit piece with a similar title. Radio host Bill Mitchell and Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton also shared the article.

    NBC’s Megyn Kelly: Mitchell “submitted a memo” saying that Ford’s case “doesn’t even satisfy by the preponderance of the evidence standard, … which is the lowest bar in any case. … And now we want the FBI to spend this week going back and scouring the Maryland neighborhood and … figuring out who renovated and when.”

    Fox contributor Lisa Boothe shared Mitchell’s report and wrote, “Can everyone please stop pretending like Dr. Ford is credible now? She is NOT credible. It’s painfully obvious. I feel like I’ve been living in the Twilight Zone.”

    NRA’s Dana Loesch quoted a Daily Mail article on Mitchell’s report, writing that “there is NOT enough evidence to back accuser's claims.”

    Former presidential candidate Herman Cain: “Even the lady that asked the questions during the judiciary committee [hearing], she wrote an eight-page report that said that there was no there there.”

    The Federalist’s Sean Davis: “This memorandum from Rachel Mitchell is a rather stunning indictment not of Kavanaugh, but of Ford and her story, which seems to change each time she tells it. The only consistent aspect of Ford’s story is how often it changes.”

    Townhall editor and Fox contributor Katie Pavlich: “I’d like to point out that nearly everyone in the media, minus a few (myself included), said Ford was ‘very credible.’ She wasn’t.”

    Gateway Pundit’s Jacob Wohl: “Sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell COMPLETELY EXONERATES Brett Kavanaugh,” and “finds Ford's allegations totally suspect, potentially fraudulent.”

    FoxNews.com’s Stephen Miller: “I believe Rachel Mitchell”

    Mark Levin: Mitchell, “a real sex crimes prosecutor,” did an “excellent job” of “exposing gaps & contradictions in Ford’s Senate testimony.”

    Townhall’s Guy Benson: Mitchell’s memo “is extremely compelling”

    Daily Wire’s Ashe Schow: “Mark my words, the media is currently looking for other sex crimes prosecutors to say they would absolutely take this case to court.”

    The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles: “I believe Rachel Mitchell. #IBelieveWomen”

    The Daily Caller’s Benny Johnson: “BELIEVE 👏 ALL 👏 WOMEN 👏”

    Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin’s site Twitchy: “RUH-ROH: Rachel Mitchell’s independent analysis spells even BIGGER trouble for Senate Dems and Ford’s attorneys.”

    Frequent Fox guest Morgan Ortagus: “A professional prosecutor is saying… there’s too many inconsistencies with the story. ... I know you’re shaking your head, but, I mean, she’s spent a lifetime as a career prosecutor working on this.”

  • Fox judicial analyst smears Kavanaugh accuser Deborah Ramirez’s “credibility” because NY Times “refused to report her story”

    According to Ronan Farrow, the Times didn’t report Ramirez’s story “because she was talking exclusively to the New Yorker”

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On the September 25 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said that Deborah Ramirez, who said Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexual assaulted her in college, has “no credibility” because “The New York Times refused to report her story.” 

    However, according to Ronan Farrow, one of the journalists who reported Ramirez’s experience, the Times “pursued Ramirez aggressively” for the story, but “she declined to participate because she was talking exclusively to the New Yorker.”

    Napolitano’s lazy and uninformed smear dovetails with the broader campaign across conservative media, led by Fox News, to protect Kavanaugh and discredit his accusers at all costs. This effort recently included Fox (of course) airing a highly publicized sham interview of Kavanaugh with host Martha MacCallum -- a defender of Roger Ailes, who was ousted from the network for enabling and participating in longstanding and systemic workplace sexual misconduct

    Directing the White House’s media strategy regarding Kavanaugh is Bill Shine, a former Fox executive ousted for being Ailes’ chief enabler but eventually hired by the White House.

  • Fox News spun NY Times report about FBI’s attempts to flip a Russian oligarch involved in organized crime into proof of an anti-Trump “witch hunt”

    For Fox, this is a familiar editorial stance

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On September 1, The New York Times reported on an unsuccessful years-long FBI program to flip roughly six Russian oligarchs, seeking to turn them into informants for the United States in investigations against Russian organized crime. Justice Department official Bruce Ohr and former British spy Christopher Steele, who authored a dossier of information on President Donald Trump, started communicating about this effort long before Trump announced his run for president, documents released by the Justice Department show.

    And yet, Fox News has been citing, out of context, the documents reported on in the Times as further evidence supporting Trump’s conspiracy theory that there is a “witch hunt” against him.

    While the program began in 2014, eventually -- after evidence of a possible conspiracy was established -- questions about Russian interference in the 2016 elections and Trump campaign collusion were raised with at least one of the program's targets. The Times’ sources told the paper that they revealed the program’s existence to avoid the president and his media allies “us[ing] the program’s secrecy as a screen with which they could cherry-pick facts and present them, sheared of context, to undermine the special counsel’s investigation.”

    But cherry-picked facts taken out of context perfectly describes Fox’s reporting, including its coverage of messages Ohr and Steele exchanged. Fox spun those communiques to suggest under-the-table conspiring by Ohr, Steele, and others at the FBI to maliciously target Trump. Nothing in the Times article suggests that contacts between Ohr and Steele were part of illegitimate DOJ and FBI activity, but Fox stuck to its misleading claim. When the Times article was mentioned, here's how network personalities and guests reacted: 

    In one of Fox’s earliest on-air mentions of the story, the host claimed that Ohr "was working with a man in Deripaska who's known as Putin's oligarch," and suggested that it validated Trump’s claim that the FBI was colluding with Russia. After discussing the article, guest anchor Ed Henry said, “You hear the president say there's collusion on the other side, and yet it doesn't seem to get any traction,” suggesting that in attempting to get Russian oligarchs to inform about organized crime in Russia, Ohr was actually trying to collude with said oligarchs to stop Trump. The Daily Caller’s Amber Athey also claimed details in the report “seem to confirm the president’s tweets that this is a witch hunt against him.”

    Daily Caller White House correspondent Saagar Enjeti told a Fox host that the story shows Steele “used his years-long connection with Ohr in order to push his dossier to the highest levels of the DOJ and the FBI.” In fact, a source in the Times article described Steele telling Ohr about the dossier as “more of a friendly heads-up” and said that “Steele had separately been in touch with an F.B.I. agent” to get his dossier to the bureau. Enjeti also falsely claimed that the dossier “really was the genesis for much of the investigation into President Trump” as well as “all of the other [Trump] associates” targeted. The investigation actually began after the Australian government alerted the FBI to Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos’ drunken bragging.

    Fox host Jeanine Pirro cut off a guest who mentioned that “Ohr is there to go after the Russian mob -- that is why the president is probably against Ohr.”

    Fox host Pete Hegseth speculated that “maybe it was Bruce Ohr who was actually flipped by the Russians.” 

    Guest anchor Ed Henry misleadingly described the Times article as saying “Ohr was trying to flip a Russian oligarch against the president.” And when a panel guest accused right-wing media of cherry-picking facts to create a misleading narrative, Henry interrupted him to make another decontextualized and misleading allegation. 

    Fox News contributor Gianno Caldwell claimed that, with the Times report out, “it does appear that it is a witch hunt.”

    Fox’s reaction to the latest development in the Trump/Russia investigations closely mirrors its reaction to many previous news reports that reflected poorly on Trump. The network regularly asserts that negative reports are actually good news for Trump and minimizes bad news. 

    When the Times reported in May that a confidential FBI informant contacted at least two of Trump’s advisers as part of the counterintelligence investigation into his campaign, Fox said it proved only that there was “surveillance of the Trump campaign by the Obama administration.”

    When the congressional hearing for former FBI agent Peter Strzok revealed no evidence that his political beliefs affected his work on the investigation, Fox News simply kept stoking rage over texts that revealed his opposition to the president and included rude comments about Trump supporters.

    When The Washington Post reported that Trump campaign associate Carter Page was the target of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant after he left the Trump campaign, Fox personalities lied about the warrant and falsely claimed it showed “Donald Trump was right” to accuse former President Barack Obama of spying on him. 

    When the Department of Justice inspector general released a report showing “no evidence” for allegations that former FBI Director James Comey and others allowed their “bias” to affect the Hillary Clinton email investigation, Fox used the report -- which had nothing to do with the Trump-Russia probe -- to call for an end to the special counsel investigation. 

  • Fox News' evolving reaction to Ron DeSantis' racism

    From a denouncement to a full-throated defense in less than 24 hours

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On the August 29 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, frequent Fox guest and Republican gubernatorial nominee for Florida Ron DeSantis described his Black Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum, as “articulate” and said voters should not “monkey this up” by choosing him.

    Both are examples of tireless racist tropes, and DeSantis was widely condemned for his remarks.

    Shortly after DeSantis made his remarks, Fox’s Sandra Smith said on air that Fox does “not condone this language.” In the early afternoon, Gillum even appeared on air with Fox’s Shep Smith to respond to what DeSantis had said. But throughout the evening and the following morning, Fox News personalities loudly defended DeSantis, with one even suggesting that “apparently if you’re white, you just can’t criticize an opponent at all.”

    Here's a timeline of Fox's response:

    When DeSantis made the comments, anchor Sandra Smith did not address them, instead moving on to another question.

    Fox News host Mark Levin complained on Twitter at 11:09 a.m. EST that “the disgusting leftwing smear machine [is] already in full attack mode against Ron DeSantis in Florida.”

    Roughly 30 minutes later, Smith read a statement on air saying that Fox News does “not condone this language,” but she didn’t say what the language was.

    Gillum appeared on air with Fox anchor Shep Smith in the afternoon, saying, “It’s very clear that Mr. DeSantis is taking a page directly from the campaign manual of Donald Trump.”

    Later, co-host of The Five Greg Gutfeld said DeSantis was “not racial” and accused his critics of “doing the lynch mob” on him. 

    After Fox’s Juan Williams tried to explain why DeSantis’ comments were racist, The Story host Martha MacCallum replied, “It doesn't sound to me like a racist thing to say."

     

    On Fox Business, Lou Dobbs assailed “the national left-wing media” for “exploiting our highly polarized political atmosphere.”

    Sean Hannity welcomed DeSantis on his Fox show for a softball interview and said his critics “want to purposely take things out of context.”

    The morning after, Fox & Friends began the program by assuring viewers that DeSantis is not racist and saying his critics were taking advantage of “a political opportunity to label him a certain way.”

    On Fox & Friends, In Defense of Internment author Michelle Malkin vehemently denied that the monkey comment was racist, but she also alleged that “the real racists” among the left and the media had called her a “monkey” too.

    On her radio show, Fox host Laura Ingraham advised DeSantis to "demand an apology" from Gillum.

    Ingraham later whined that “apparently if you’re white, you just can’t criticize an opponent at all.”

    Fox keeps trying to distance itself from racism and yet keeps finding itself in the same situation. The network cannot say that it does not condone certain language when the vast majority of its personalities are explicitly condoning it -- or worse.

    At some point, Fox's "news" division will have to acknowledge that the call is coming from inside the house.

  • No crime but a witch hunt: Pro-Trump media’s off-the-wall reactions to Manafort's conviction and Cohen's guilty plea

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump attorney Michael Cohen were found guilty and pleaded guilty, respectively, each on eight criminal counts, right-wing media immediately rose to President Donald Trump’s defense. Multiple media figures claimed that none of the charges had anything to do with Trump and that Trump’s former associates pleaded guilty to crimes that “don’t exist.”