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Bobby Lewis

Author ››› Bobby Lewis
  • Fox News isn't covering Ivanka Trump's new China trademarks potentially worth millions

    After Ivanka’s trademarks were approved, President Trump promised to “save jobs” at ZTE, a Chinese telecom that traded with Iran and North Korea. Ivanka then got more trademarks.

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On May 28, The New York Times reported that Ivanka Trump received seven new trademarks from the Chinese government six days before her father, President Donald Trump, “vowed to find a way” to save Chinese telecommunications company ZTE from bankruptcy. Fox News has yet to cover the story.

    The Times article noted, “Even as Mr. Trump contends with Beijing on issues like security and trade, his family and the company that bears his name are trying to make money off their brand in China’s flush and potentially promising market.” According to experts, “the timing appeared to be a coincidence, given how quickly Ms. Trump won her previous trademark requests from the Chinese authorities,” but one of the experts quoted in the piece noted, “From application to registration, this is very fast.” Another expert disagreed on the speed, but acknowledged that Ivanka’s position and fame likely played a role in the approval process. And according to American ethics experts, the trademarks, along with the family’s existing businesses in China, suggest that Chinese officials may be giving the president’s daughter “extra consideration” because she’s “the president’s daughter — a person who also works in the White House.” The trademarks are potentially worth millions.

    Trump’s action to “save jobs” at ZTE came after the Chinese telecommunications company was “left paralyzed after American officials forbade companies in the United States” from selling goods to ZTE, after the company violated U.S. trade controls on Iran and North Korea. The American intelligence community has also warned that ZTE products “may pose an unacceptable risk” of espionage. Ivanka Trump was granted an additional two trademarks eight days after the president’s announcement. 

    Unlike other networks, Fox News has yet to find time to cover the Times story published yesterday. But it has discussed the following about the president’s daughter:

    • On May 28, Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt suggested Chelsea Clinton criticized Ivanka’s complicity in her father’s actions because she wants to run for president, and diaper enthusiast and Turning Point USA Director of Urban Engagement Candace Owens bragged about meeting the first daughter.
    • A Special Report package mentioned an American diplomat who had “accompanied Ivanka Trump to the South Korean Olympics in February.”
    • On May 29, RNC spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany mentioned on Fox & Friends an initiative Ivanka has worked on with the World Bank.

    Trump’s orbit, from campaign to the presidency, is certainly not short on corruption and scandal, and this is not the first such story that Fox News has ignored or downplayed. The network has dutifully and reliably downplayed story after story -- usually related to the Russia investigation(s) -- that puts the president in a bad light.

  • Black man's work, white man's credit: Fox’s Stuart Varney credits Trump for an Obama-era economic trend

    Varney claims April 2018’s record median household income is a stark contrast compared to “a dead flat line” under Obama, except the upward trend began in 2014 thanks to Obama.

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On the May 24 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Fox Business host Stuart Varney trumpeted a report showing last month had the highest median U.S. household income since January 2000, which Varney called a “direct result of President Trump’s policies.” However, the growth seen under Trump is a continuation of a trend begun during the Barack Obama administration -- even though Varney falsely claimed there was no household income growth under Obama.

    STUART VARNEY (HOST, VARNEY & CO.): President Trump's growth policy, his growth program, is working. We are gradually returning to prosperity. And it is the direct result of President Trump's policies. He has gone for tax cuts, he has gone for deregulation, and he has turned the economy around. And with it, he has turned around that feeling of prosperity that households have. That graphic you just showed: January 2017, $59,400 median household income. Half the population more, half the population less. OK. Fast-forward to April 2018, you’re up $2,000 per household. Three percent higher in, what, 15 months. That compares to a dead flat line throughout the eight Obama years. We are returning to prosperity because of President Trump's policies.

    Varney’s bizarre claim that median household income was “a dead flat line throughout the eight Obama years” is a fabrication. Household income fell because of the George W. Bush-era Great Recession, which Obama’s policies began to reverse. The median household income Varney congratulated Trump for is the latest data point in a consistently upward trend that began during the Obama administration, in late summer 2014. More broadly, data shows that median household income has generally been trending upward since summer 2011. 


    Image via TalkMarkets

    As The Washington Post’s Nicole Lewis explained in December 2017, members of the Trump administration, including Trump, like to brag about the economy and assign him outsize credit for it. However, due in part to the complexities of the economy and the pace of rolling out presidential policy, Trump’s economic policy has yet to fully impact the nation, whereas “we are probably still feeling the effects of policies laid out by the previous administration.” 

    Regular readers of The Fact Checker know we automatically award Two Pinocchios to anyone (editorials included) who gives sole credit to a president for economic improvements. That’s because the U.S. economy is complex, and the decisions of companies and consumers often loom larger than the acts of government.

    Moreover, it usually takes time and effort for presidential policies to work their way through the country. One year into the presidency, we are probably still feeling the effects of policies laid out by the previous administration.

  • Fox News repeatedly claims information obtained by torture led to Osama bin Laden’s death. It didn't.

    The 2014 Senate torture report revealed that the US collected key intelligence on bin Laden’s location without torture

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In the coverage leading up to and following CIA acting Director Gina Haspel’s confirmation hearing to become director, multiple Fox News personalities and guests have asserted that torture helped lead to the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011. However, the Senate’s 2014 investigation of the CIA torture program indicates that there is no evidence for this claim. 

    In recent days, Fox figures and guests have made bold claims that torturing detainees at secret CIA prisons known as “black sites” resulted in valuable intelligence that helped track down the former leader of Al Qaeda:

    • On his May 7 Fox show, Sean Hannity cited an earlier guest to claim that if there had been “no waterboarding we wouldn't have found Osama bin Laden's courier and we wouldn't have gotten bin Laden.” Hannity made the same claim the following night. 
    • In an May 8 appearance on Fox’s The Story with Martha MacCallum, former Vice President Dick Cheney said that the torture program “gave us clues that led directly to helping identify the location of Osama Bin Laden.” Cheney repeated the claim two days later on Fox Business. 
    • On the May 9 edition of Fox News’ The Five, co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle asserted that “the water boarding led them to Osama Bin Laden's house.”
    • On May 10, all three co-hosts of Fox & Friends agreed that “you don’t get bin Laden” without torture.
    • On the May 11 edition of Fox & Friends, Geraldo Rivera commented that “torture in retrospect may seem regrettable, but there’s no denying that it did lead to the courier that did lead us to the terror mastermind” Osama bin Laden.

    In 2014, the Senate investigated the CIA’s torture program. According to a Vox summary of the 525-page document, the Senate report reveals that the CIA extracted “key intelligence” on bin Laden courier Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti -- “‘including information the CIA would later cite as pivotal’ in finding Bin Laden” -- by 2002. However, “the CIA didn't acquire any intelligence on al-Kuwaiti via torture until 2003. The CIA had begun trying to find and identify al-Kuwaiti well before any of that information was in.”

    In 2004, the CIA torture program did capture a man named Hassan Guhl who told the U.S. government that al-Kuwaiti was a bin Laden assistant and that the Al Qaeda leader "likely lived in a house with a family somewhere in Pakistan," according to Vox. However, “Ghul told the CIA all of that before they decided to torture him.” The Senate report explains that “during and after the use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques, Ghul provided no other information of substance on al-Kuwaiti." From the Senate’s report on CIA torture, via NPR:

  • Fox News uses Nuremberg defense to cover for Gina Haspel’s torture record

    Network figures say Haspel was “simply following orders” 

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Gina Haspel’s March 13 nomination as CIA director is reviving the debate about torture, and Fox News is defending her role in the agency’s George W. Bush-era program by insisting that she was “simply following orders” and should not be held responsible for her contributions to the torturing of detainees.

    Haspel, who became the agency’s acting director on April 26 after a long tenure there, oversaw a secret CIA prison in Thailand where suspected terrorists were detained and tortured, including one man who was waterboarded three times. Haspel was also “a strong advocate” for destroying tapes of CIA torture sessions, The New York Times reported, a stance Haspel herself reiterated in her confirmation hearing. 

    As debate swirled about Haspel’s involvement in torture leading up to her confirmation hearing, Fox News took the lead in providing media cover for her. Several Fox personalities have zeroed in on some variation of the argument that “she was just following orders” -- a defense made infamous by multiple high-ranking Nazi officials who attempted to defend themselves during the Nuremberg trials.

    In addition to insisting that Haspel was merely following orders, Fox personalities have defended her nomination by suggesting that being tortured is similar to having a difficult job, and that Haspel would make a good TV “hero” for running a secret CIA prison as a woman. Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade even suggested Haspel refuse to “apologize for the Americans who are alive today and were not burned alive or had their heads cut off” thanks to torture.

    Haspel’s apparent predilection to follow orders is especially worrisome given that Trump has repeatedly threatened to bring back torture. In Trump’s first days in office, a White House draft order called for a review and possible reopening of CIA “black site” prisons. In his first presidential TV interview, Trump said of waterboarding, "Absolutely I feel it works," adding that America has to "fight fire with fire." During the campaign, Trump infamously called for America to kill the families of terrorists, which would violate the Geneva Conventions. Trump said he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding," and also called for America to “broaden” the laws prohibiting torture in order to “beat the savages.” And while some, like former CIA Director Michael Hayden, are saying that Haspel will stand up to Trump, her record shows otherwise

    Video by Miles Le

  • Right-wing media lash out at "social justice warriors" after backlash over racist incident in a Philadelphia Starbucks

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After the arrest of two black men in a Philadelphia Starbucks led to protests, and the corporation announced a day of “racial bias training” for its U.S. employees, multiple right-wing media figures reacted to the news by attacking “the cult of social justice warrior” and “the racism industry” for giving “national attention” to the incident. Some right-wing message boards promoted hoaxes designed to bring more controversy to the coffee chain. Several media figures gave an anti-Semite with white nationalist sympathies a platform simply because he trolled a Starbucks employee into giving him free coffee as “reparations.”

  • The right-wing media figures defending Sean Hannity’s relationship with Michael Cohen

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & BOBBY LEWIS

    Right-wing media figures are jumping to defend Fox News host Sean Hannity after it was revealed that Hannity has been a client of longtime lawyer to President Donald Trump, Michael Cohen. Hannity’s defenders are suggesting that he has “been victimized” by the revelation of his name, claiming that he “wasn’t engaging” Cohen “as a lawyer,” and even arguing that Hannity possibly “did not know he was a client of Michael Cohen."

  • Sunday shows spent plenty of time talking about Trump bombing Syria, but almost entirely ignored Syrian refugees

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On Friday, April 13, President Donald Trump announced joint cruise missile strikes with the U.K. and France against several Syrian chemical weapons facilities in retaliation for an apparent April 7 chlorine gas attack in Douma, Syria. Over the weekend, the Sunday morning political talk shows had plenty to discuss about the airstrikes, but not much to say about the ongoing plight of Syrian refugees.

    On Sunday, CNN’s State of the Union, CBS’ Face the Nation, NBC’s Meet the Press, and ABC’s This Week all failed to mention Syrian refugees while discussing the airstrikes. The only mention of Syrian refugees on any of the Sunday morning political talk shows was on Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, when host Chris Wallace asked UN Ambassador Nikki Haley just one question about them. 

    A few other Sunday morning programs on cable news channels did better in discussing concerns about refugees: There were segments on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS and New Day Sunday, which played (albeit briefly) a clip of earlier commentary from a Syrian chemical attack survivor. The Sunday edition of Fox & Friends Weekend also featured two passing mentions of the refugees across its four-hour broadcast; in both instances, the guests brought up the subject unprompted. 

    On MSNBC however, AM Joy did two segments concerning Syrian refugees, including this excellent example of how media should discuss the subject, particularly in light of American military action that is likely to displace more people:

    JOY REID (HOST): So, a truly humanitarian approach would be to welcome refugees to a democratic country that has the resources to protect and shelter them from the dangers they're trying to escape, yeah? Instead, the Trump administration says it initiated airstrikes as a symbol of support and solidarity for Syrians after the chemical attacks orchestrated by the Syrian president. But with only 11 Syrian refugees accepted into the United States this year -- not 1,100; 11 -- the Trump administration's concern for the Syrian people rings rather hollow.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of the word “refugee” on Sunday morning political talk and/or news shows on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Broadcasting Co., CBS, NBC, and ABC between 06:00 and 12:00. 

  • While Fox News figures push Trump to fire Rosenstein and Mueller, Fox & Friends blames "the media"

    Brian Kilmeade: "It almost seems like the media is pushing the president to fire Rod Rosenstein, pushing the president to fire Robert Mueller, as if they are saying please, create a constitutional crisis”

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On the April 11 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said that “it almost seems like the media is pushing the president to fire [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein, pushing the president to fire [special counsel] Robert Mueller, as if they are saying please, create a constitutional crisis.” Kilmeade added that “clearly the president feels ill-served, clearly the president feels boxed in, clearly he is irate” by the Mueller investigation about his campaign’s possible ties to Russia. 

    In his pearl-clutching moment, Kilmeade failed to acknowledge that Fox News figures -- including Kilmeade himself -- have helped lead the attacks on Mueller, Rosenstein, and the entire Russia investigation. 

    President Donald Trump is a devoted viewer of Fox News, especially its morning show Fox & Friends, and he often responds directly to the network’s programming. So, when Fox stars say the “illegitimate and corrupt” Russia investigation is “tortur[ing]” and “tearing this country apart,” while demanding that the Department of Justice be “cleansed” of Trump’s enemies, the president is listening closely. 

    Here are just a few of the times Fox News has attempted to undermine the Russia investigation, including by directly attacking Mueller or Rosenstein:

    Kilmeade: “America’s being tortured by Robert Mueller’s worldwide mystery tour.” 

    Kilmeade: “The special counsels (sic) … are ripping this country apart. The Robert Mueller investigation is tearing this country apart.” 

    In August 2017, Kilmeade called for an end to the Mueller investigation: “Six months is enough.”

    Host Sean Hannity: "Mueller and Rosenstein have declared what is a legal war on the president. … Mueller’s investigation is way out of control."

    Guest Joe diGenova, formerly a candidate to be Trump’s personal attorney, on Lou Dobbs Tonight: “They should move to impeach” Rosenstein.

    Host Jeanine Pirro: The FBI and DOJ need “to be cleansed of individuals who should not just be fired but who need to be taken out in handcuffs.”

    Hannity regular Gregg Jarrett: “The Mueller investigation is illegitimate and corrupt. … It’s like the old KGB that comes for you in the dark of the night.” Sean Hannity responded, “This is not hyperbole you are using here.”

    These clips show only a fraction of the times that Fox News figures have denounced what Pete Hegseth called the “special impeachment counsel,” attacks that carry weight with Trump. Jarrett and Hannity (a friend of Trump’s who also advises him) called for Mueller to be fired at least 39 times in June 2017 -- the same month that Trump actually did attempt to fire Mueller. And between May and December, Hannity and his guests questioned Mueller's legitimacy at least 79 times and claimed he and his team have conflicts of interest over 364 times.

    In addition to making specific attacks against officials involved in the investigation, Fox personalities actively support the conspiratorial mindset that “the deep state” is in the midst of “what essentially amounts to a coup d’etat” against Trump, and that “it may be time to declare war outright” against the government employees that Fox perceives as the president’s enemies. 

  • Fox News ran over 50 segments in a month fearmongering about college campuses. These two organizations are driving the outrage.

    Turning Point USA fundraises off of Fox segments about “nuttiness on college campuses,” which frequently come from its “partner” Campus Reform

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On April 6, Politico magazine ran a profile of Charlie Kirk, the founder, chief fundraiser, and public face of Turning Point USA (TPUSA). Though TPUSA is perhaps best known for a misguided 2017 protest in which members wore adult diapers to “trigger the libs”, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit’s stated mission is to “identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government.” Politico magazine reported that TPUSA’s donors generally “inhabit a conservative media universe that pumps them with anxiety about liberal kids,” and that “Kirk is not shy about saying he’s selling them a solution to those worries”:

    “You can’t watch Fox News without seeing five or six segments a day about the nuttiness on college campuses,” Kirk told me in one of several interviews we conducted starting in November of last year. “You pair that nuttiness up with people in their 60s and 70s who are beginning to map out where they want a significant portion of their wealth to go, and they’re saying, ‘I don’t want my money to go to my university. It’s not representing my values.’ Then we come along.”

    Kirk isn’t wrong about the “nuttiness” on Fox News. Between March 1 and April 5, Fox ran at least 53 segments promoting supposedly outrageous stories on American college campuses. Of these 53 segments, 40 were stories previously reported by a conservative organization called Campus Reform, and 15 of those 40 segments either cited Campus Reform specifically, or featured a Campus Reform representative to comment.

    Campus Reform is a project of The Leadership Institute, a decades-old nonprofit that trains young conservative activists and policy leaders to sell right-wing ideals through seminars on media, fundraising, communications, and campaigning. TPUSA’s website lists The Leadership Institute as one of its “partners,” meaning that Kirk uses manipulative stories originating from his allies to fundraise for his own organization, with little acknowledgement of his partner relationship to the source of many such stories. Put another way, Kirk’s donor base is filled with “anxiety about liberal kids” because Kirk’s allies actively fuel and encourage that anxiety.

    Some examples of Fox pushing Campus Reform stories over the past year:

    Fox & Friends aired a video from Campus Reform's Cabot Phillips in which he lied to students about Trump’s State of the Union address to make college students appear uninformed. As Media Matters reported, this deceptively edited video got heavy playtime on Fox News and was also featured on Alex Jones’ Infowars.

    On Fox & Friends, Phillips dismissed high school- and college-aged March for Our Lives demonstrators for their “lack of appreciation and understanding of the Second Amendment.”

    Laura Ingraham and her radio producer complained about a Christian college “changing history” by removing its Crusader mascot -- a story Campus Reform had covered several days before.

    Fox & Friends mocked gender-neutral pronouns, using a list from Campus Reform. While discussing Kennesaw State University’s guide to using gender-neutral pronouns like ne and ey, multiple people in the studio laughed as Fox host Jillian Mele said, “I don’t even know what I just read, oh my goodness.” Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade added, “that makes 2 million people.” Later, when Kilmeade read the headline himself, he commented, “I’m not sure of who’s who, but I know I don’t like it. … What planet am I on?”

    The relationship between TPUSA and The Leadership Institute previously revealed itself in one of Kirk’s best-known projects, “Professor Watchlist.” The Campus Reform-sourced operation  targets professors nationwide who allegedly “discriminate against conservative students,” collecting tips on them to a database. According to Politico magazine, “the list is also ill-maintained and often inaccurate,” with “multiple cases of professors being listed for things they didn’t exactly say or do, and others listed for petty criteria, like being rude to students or making quips about Trump.”

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for variations of the words “campus,” “university,” or “college" from March 1 to April 5 on all Fox News Channel programming. Including “Headlines” segments, we counted mentions if their framing played primarily into existing right-wing college narratives about college campuses, such as anti-Trump professors or free speech issues, and/or if a host explicitly mentioned “Campus Reform.”