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Bobby Lewis

Author ››› Bobby Lewis
  • This is what it sounds like when right-wing media figures talk about Martin Luther King Jr.

    In the last year, they’ve compared King to Trump and misrepresented his legacy 

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

    On April 4, 1968, civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, TN. Fifty years later, most of the United States remember King for his tireless efforts toward achieving racial equality and his leadership during the civil rights movement. But in the last year alone, various right-wing media figures have misrepresented King’s legacy and invoked his name to push for their own interests. Here is what they’ve had to say about the King in the last year:

    • Former CNN commentator Jeffrey Lord twice compared President Donald Trump to King. He told CNN viewers to “think of President Trump as the Martin Luther King of health care,” and then doubled down on that comparison, claiming Trump and King used similar “strategy.”

    • Lord then penned an op-ed for The American Spectator in which he claimed that identity politics -- “the grandson of slavery” -- “is merely the modern version of the segregation that King would give his life fighting to end.” Lord also scolded the NAACP for being insufficiently grateful to Trump after “black unemployment had hit its lowest level on record.”

    • Fox’s Pete Hegseth attacked King’s 9-year-old granddaughter, who spoke at the March For Our Lives: “Her grandfather, Martin Luther King, did so much for this country, but she's saying, ‘I dream of a world without guns.’ It's like, I dream of a world without Islamists, too.”

    • Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones compared himself to King, claiming, “I’m one of the biggest proponents of nonviolence [along with] Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.”

    • Fox’s Neil Cavuto questioned whether King would have recoiled at Confederate statues, asking King’s niece Alveda King, “Did your dad or uncle have anything to say about growing up in the Atlanta area and the South where there were a lot of these statues back then -- did they recoil at them? Did they hate them?” King’s niece replied, “There was never a recoiling.”

    • Pro-Trump writer Jacob Wohl compared Trump to King, tweeting: “President Trump, like Martin Luther King, is a civil rights icon.” Wohl also argued that “Martin Luther King would be a Trump Supporter” and recycled a favorite right-wing claim that the Democratic Party was the party that “opposed Abraham Lincoln, founded the KKK, supported segregation and attacked Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

    • Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson tweeted, “Modern ‘progressive’ activists & #BlackLivesMatter supporters oppose everything Martin Luther King stood for. Judge people on the content of their character, not the color of their skin.”

    • Fox opinion contributor Jeremy Hunt wrote, “Please stop politicizing Martin Luther King Day. It's a day for national unity, not political division. … On a day designed for public service and national unity, some in the media insist on making it about politics.”

    • The New York Post's editorial board wrote, “Race is no longer a barrier to elective office, let alone to voting,” and added that King would be “distressed by today’s hypersensitivity and growing political correctness that have made honest dialogue and discussions of race and other issues nearly impossible.”

    • During a white nationalist rant, Alex Jones compared King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech to the rise of Trump-ism in America: “It’s just incredible that we’re in the middle of this epic historical battle. And Trump’s right when he said this is the new American moment. This is like Martin Luther King 'I Have a Dream' speech.”

    • The Atlantic’s Kevin Williamson wrote, “Using King’s moral stature to promote socialism or global-warming legislation in 2018 is morally and intellectually dishonest.”

  • Fox & Friends attacks March For Our Lives protesters as over-emotional and ignorant

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News’ Fox & Friends and its weekend edition, Fox & Friends Sunday, repeatedly attacked the March for Our Lives protests, which took place in Washington, D.C., and over 800 other locations worldwide. Fox hosts and guests claimed the marchers had a “lack of appreciation and understanding of the Second Amendment” and let their “emotion” serve as “a terrible substitute for truth.”

    Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade: “It goes against logic” for survivors to want comprehensive gun control instead of somebody “shooting back for me.”

    NRATV contributor Dan Bongino treated the protest as an attack against him personally. Bongino complained that the marchers ignored “viable, workable solutions” to school shootings in order to “take away firearms from people like me who didn't do a damn thing wrong. What did I do wrong?”

    Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth donated to the NRA the day after the march. Hegseth further said of Martin Luther King, Jr's granddaughter, who spoke at the DC march: “Forgive me if I don’t want to watch a 9-year-old tell me that her dream is a world without guns. My world, I want a world without Islamists. I wish that was true too. It’s just not the case.”

    Campus Reform media director Cabot Phillips chided the marchers for their “lack of appreciation and understanding of the Second Amendment.” Phillips also lectured the attendees about needing to be “ready for a debate” if they want to have opinions.

    Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told the marchers that “they’ve been used” and “emotion is a terrible substitute for truth.” Fox News’ Ed Henry added, “Truth over emotion -- we don’t hear that on a lot of other channels.”

    Fox News chief national correspondent Ed Henry said student activist David Hogg claimed a clear backpack rule at his school “violates his First Amendment rights,” “ forgetting about our Second Amendment.”

    Henry later complained that the marchers didn’t follow “the process” of seeking a constitutional amendment.

    Pastor Robert Jeffress Jr.: “Only the gospel of Christ” can “deal with the root problem” and eradicate gun violence.

  • Right-wing media downplay Cambridge Analytica stealing personal data to help the Trump campaign

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS & ZACHARY PLEAT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Right-wing media outlets have downplayed the news that Cambridge Analytica, President Donald Trump’s data firm from the 2016 presidential election, was banned by Facebook for harvesting personal information from at least 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge or consent.

    A whistleblower named Christopher Wylie explained to the Observer on March 17 that Cambridge Analytica used personal Facebook information obtained in early 2014 to make a system that could profile individual voters. The Observer explained that the data was collected by an app from an academic named Aleksandr Kogan, who paid several hundred thousand Facebook users to take a personality test for academic purposes, which then collected information from their Facebook friends, “leading to the accumulation of a data pool tens of millions-strong.” According to a March 17 report in The New York Times, Cambridge Analytica then obtained the data from Kogan; this information helped Cambridge Analytica “develop[] techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.” (Founded by the Republican megadonor Robert Mercer, Cambridge Analytica also counted former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon as an early investor and board member, and it was Bannon who reportedly introduced the services of the data firm to the Trump campaign.)

    But Facebook told the Times this data collection and the subsequent transaction between Kogan and Cambridge Analytica “was a scam -- and a fraud,” since the information was allowed to be collected for academic purposes only. Facebook has since suspended Cambridge Analytica, Kogan, and Wylie from its system.

    Right-wing media’s sparse coverage either blamed Facebook or claimed no improper activity

    Alex Jones dismissed the Cambridge Analytica story as “a giant hoax” and claimed it was connected to the death of Stephen Hawking. In a sprawling March 18 rant, Alex Jones defended Cambridge Analytica, claiming that their actions were simply “what social networks are; that’s how they data mine, that’s how they harvest.” Jones also claimed that “there’s probably 20 companies in Austin bigger than Cambridge Analytics [sic] doing the same thing for Democrats, they’re the ones that dominate it all.” Jones added that the Times story was “just a ridiculous PR stunt with this new superhero character they’re launching,” referring to the whistleblower who first revealed the data collection, and “that [he] has pink hair so you know you’ve got to listen to him, and he’s gay, so you can’t question him.” Jones also connected the story to the death of physicist Stephen Hawking, saying that “Hawking dies as their PR guy and then one week later, we’ve got the new guy, and it’s like Jesus arrived.”

    Fox & Friends ignored the story completely. A Media Matters search of SnapStream closed captioning transcripts of the March 19 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends showed that the president’s favorite television show failed to mention the legal troubles of a data firm that helped him win the presidency.

    Breitbart News Daily also ignored the story. Media Matters searched Veritone for mentions on Breitbart News Daily of “Cambridge,” “breach,” “50 million,” or “Facebook,” and found no relevant mentions of the Cambridge Analytica story. Breitbart News Daily was formerly hosted by Breitbart News’ then-executive chairman, Stephen K. Bannon, who is also former chief strategist for the Trump campaign and White House, as well as a former Cambridge Analytica vice president.

    Wash. Free Beacon’s Elizabeth Harrington claimed the story simply scandalizes “what advertisers do all the time,” and is just another attempt to “taint[]” Trump’s victory as “illegitimate.” On a March 19 appearance on Fox News, Harrington also complained about a “double standard” because former President Barack Obama had “one of the co-founders of Facebook, Chris Hughes, working on his campaign” in 2008, which gave him “an advantage on social media.”

    The Drudge Report suggested the story constituted a “data leak” at Facebook that could help to “sink” the company. Drudge also speculated that the data leak “violated [an] FTC privacy deal,” linking to a Washington Post article quoting a former Federal Trade Commission official speculating that Facebook may have violated a FTC consent decree by supplying information to Cambridge Analytica.

    A Breitbart report uncritically repeated Cambridge Analytica’s questionable claim that they “deleted all data” they improperly received. Breitbart quoted a statement from Cambridge Analytica, which claimed “Cambridge Analytica deleted” all Facebook data that it improperly received. The Breitbart report did not mention that Facebook found reason to believe that potentially “not all data was deleted.”

    Over the weekend, Fox’s America’s News HQ reported on Cambridge Analytica’s Facebook suspension. The day after the story broke, Fox News reported on Cambridge Analytica’s suspension from Facebook, citing reporting from the Guardian and New York Times that it “harvested private information from more than 50 million Facebook profiles.” The Fox report included Facebook’s statement that Cambridge Analytica may not have deleted all of the data.

    Rush Limbaugh downplayed the story as “nothing unique,” calling Cambridge Analytica’s tactics “the modern-day equivalent of high-tech grass-roots politics.” Rush Limbaugh dubiously claimed that the tactics used by Cambridge Analytica are part and parcel of modern political information gathering, saying, “The Democrats have perfected using the personal data stored by internet companies for I don’t know how long,” but he failed to mention that the information used by Cambridge Analytica was meant for academic purposes only.

    Ben Shapiro claimed the Cambridge Analytica story is part of “a larger attempt to convince social media companies … to shut down conservative opinions.” The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro pointed to the Cambridge Analytica story to push the right-wing conspiracy theory that tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter are targeting and silencing conservative voices. Shapiro wrote of the reports about Cambridge Analytica, “This entire scandal is designed to pressure Facebook into cracking down on supposed right-wing activity,” and he claimed that “this is part of a broader pattern” of Democrats encouraging social media platforms to silence conservatives. Shapiro’s argument fits into a right-wing media narrative alleging censorship on the part of social media platforms that take action to address fake news and hate speech.

    Fox host Greg Gutfeld: "I'm not sure it's really Cambridge Analytica that's at fault here." In a segment discussing Cambridge Analytica, The Five co-host Greg Gutfeld said "I'm not sure it's really Cambridge Analytica that's at fault here." Fellow co-host Jesse Watters joined Gutfeld in defending Cambridge Analytica and claimed "I spoke to the Trump campaign today, and they said that they never used any of the data that Cambridge Analytica used from Facebook."

    GREG GUTFELD (CO-HOST): I'm not so sure about this story. I'm not sure it's really Cambridge Analytica that's at fault here. I read The Guardian story. The guy who is at the center of this kind of seemed like a B.S.-er, and he was like -- he was kind of, like, making himself into the hero, and I am always skeptical of that.

    [...]

    JESSE WATTERS (CO-HOST): I spoke to the Trump campaign today, and they said that they never used any of the data that Cambridge Analytica used from Facebook. What they did was they hired five staff members from Cambridge, and they had to sign a deal to get the staffers to come to work with them in Texas, but they never used any of this so-called "psychographic modeling." They used data and research from the RNC, and from their own internal data network. So, a lot of it is trying to paint the Trump campaign as if they, you know, they reached into Facebook and ripped out all of this in an unethical way. It's just not true, but like you said, it's more about Facebook and protecting their customers' information, and obviously they didn't do a great job about it because they didn't let people know that their data was being mined, and I think Facebook has to answer to that. [Fox News, The Five, 3/19/18]

  • Sean Hannity is now trying to claim he does "real news," yet he has repeatedly admitted he's "not a journalist"

    Hannity claims to be a journalist only when it suits him

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS, ZACHARY PLEAT & GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In a March 15 Time magazine profile, Fox News anchor Shepard Smith said of the discrepancy between his own news reporting and his network’s opinion lineup that “some of our opinion programming is there strictly to be entertaining” and that “they don’t really have rules on the opinion side. They can say whatever they want.”

    Sean Hannity, host of one of Fox News’ opinion shows, blasted Smith’s characterization, claiming that he “breaks news daily” and that Smith is “clueless about what we do every day.” (Fox is currently being sued for the kind of “news” Hannity breaks.)

    Of course, the Fox host and Trump sycophant has repeatedly asserted that he is not a journalist and not a “news person,” while also coining his own phrase -- “advocacy journalist” -- to use when it’s convenient.

    • On the July 7, 2004, edition of Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes, Sean Hannity commented,“I'm not a journalist. I am an outspoken, compassionate, thoughtful, independent-thinking conservative.”

    • In an October 8, 2008, article, the New York Daily News reported that “Hannity doesn’t call himself a journalist, but rather a talk show host, which is significant because it frees him to offer opinions when he wants.” The article quoted him as saying,“I have an opinion. Everybody knows it. Everybody who sees me, watches me, knows I'm a conservative."

    • On March 6, 2012, Hannity tweeted that he’s “an OPINION advocacy journalist.”

    • During a May 2015 segment on his radio program criticizing ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Hannity said: “I’m honest about my opinions. I am a conservative. I say I’m a registered conservative. I am a talk show host. I don’t portray myself as a news -- a news person. Now, I am a journalist, but there are different forms of journalism. There’s advocacy journalism. ... I’m the only conservative in the country that hosts a nightly news program, an opinion program, a talk show, in the country that says he’s a conservative.”

    • In August 2015, Hannity said Univision anchor Jorge Ramos is “not a journalist, and you’re not a reporter. You are a talk show host. You may think you’re a news guy. You may present yourself as a news guy. But you are an advocacy journalist, which makes you -- puts you on par with somebody like me. You never hear me call myself a journalist. I'm not. I'm a talk show host.”

    • During a December 14, 2015, interview with International Business Times, Hannity again argued that he is not a journalist: “If you ask me, am I a journalist? No. Advocacy journalist, you could say that, but I consider myself a talk show host.”

    • In April 2016, after a series of softball interviews with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, Hannity hit back at critics, claiming, “I'm not a journalist, I'm a talk show host.”

    • The next month, Hannity was back to calling himself an “advocacy journalist” while criticizing Katie Couric.

    • In August 2016, Hannity told The New York Times that he has “never claimed to be a journalist."

    • In October 2016, Hannity twice tweeted that he was not a journalist.​

    • On March 27, 2017, Hannity said he was “an opinionated journalist.”

    • On August 7, he was “a journalist, but ... an advocacy journalist.”

    • He referred to himself as an “advocacy journalist” again during an interview for a November New York Times Magazine profile: “I’m a journalist. But I’m an advocacy journalist, or an opinion journalist.”

    • On January 5, Hannity described his Fox show as “an opinion program” on which he is “an advocacy journalist.”

    • On January 11, Hannity said that people suggest he is “not a journalist,” but “I am a journalist. I'm an advocacy, opinion journalist,” and said, “I still do plenty of reporting.”

    • On January 17, Hannity argued that “part of being a talk show host is journalism. ... It’s just not traditional journalism. It’s advocacy journalism, it’s opinion journalism.”

    • On January 24, Hannity said that he’s “a talk show host” who “wear[s] many hats,” among them “opinion journalist” or “advocacy journalist.”

    • On February 7, Hannity argued that while he is not a “traditional journalist ... part of my job as a talk show host is journalism.”

    • On February 22, Hannity claimed that he knows reporters who “say that they’re jealous of me because I’m doing work that they’re not allowed to do on their network.” On the same day, Hannity argued on his radio show that “as part of being a talk show host, I actually do journalism,” but he noted that he is an “opinion journalist” and “an advocacy journalist.”

    • On March 15, Hannity said on his radio show that “I’ve spent a lot of time now doing more reporting than I've ever done in my career.” He listed several frequent guests who he claims break news on his show, including Jay Sekulow, President Donald Trump’s lawyer.

  • Trump’s pick for National Economic Council is a CNBC host who gives bad financial advice

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS & MADELINE PELTZ

    President Donald Trump has told people he has chosen CNBC's Larry Kudlow to replace Gary Cohn as the director of the National Economic Council. Kudlow has no formal training in economics, and he has a history of making poor financial predictions, pushing conservative economic talking points, and making outrageous and offensive comments.

  • Trump parties with a birther who floated protecting schools from mass shooters with armed drones 

    Wayne Allyn Root spent a “magical evening” with Trump, alongside Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera, from whom Trump already echoed a talking point

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On February 17, after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL that left at least 17 students and adults dead, far-right Trump supporter, birther, and conspiracy theorist Wayne Allyn Root tweeted at President Trump that it is “time to consider armed drones at every school in USA”:

    Hours later, Root tweeted about the “amazing night” he had with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago.

    Wayne Allyn Root is a talk show host and columnist for the Sheldon Adelson-owned Las Vegas Review-Journal who regularly pushes bizarre conspiracy theories. He helped spread fabricated reports of Puerto Rican truck drivers striking in the wake of Hurricane Maria in an attempt to make Trump look bad, claimed that Trump was “being victimized” by violence at his campaign rallies (and claimed media was blaming the victim), and fabricated a Seinfeld quote to attack President Obama, whom he called the “Marxist-in-Chief” and swore was a “foreign exchange student” at Columbia University. Root also pushes racist viewpoints. He claimed that “there’s no difference in when you call someone old versus when you call someone the N-word” and dismissed the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA as “paid actors & infiltrators hired by Soros.” 

    Regarding mass shootings, Root is no better: he claimed a real estate developer’s fine was a bigger story than the Parkland shooting and has repeatedly blamed the Las Vegas massacre on ISIS and/or antifa

    Joining Trump and Root at the “magical evening” at Mar-a-Lago was Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera. As CNN’s Brian Stelter noted on Reliable Sources, Rivera appeared on Fox News on Saturday morning to suggest that the FBI missed tips about the Parkland shooter because of an obsession with the Russia probe. Stelter pointed out that, according to The Washington Post, Rivera “had dinner with President Trump,” and that at 11:00 that same night, Trump tweeted the claim Rivera had shared earlier on Fox News. The claim is, of course, “nonsensical,” as Stelter explained:

    It's clear the president is feeling the heat of Robert Mueller's special counsel, and he's lashing out, implying that the FBI might have failed to stop the shooting because it's too obsessed with Russia. Let's be clear: The president is insulting your intelligence. Let's pull up FBI.gov, it says right there, "The FBI employs 35,000 people." 

    There are a small number of FBI agents working on the Mueller probe, but they have nothing to do with the investigation of tips like the one that was missed before the Parkland shooting.

  • Athletes are calling out Laura Ingraham for telling LeBron James to "shut up and dribble" 

    Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade: “They use to try and hide it.. now the president has given everyone the courage to live their truths”

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News host Laura Ingraham lashed out at the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James and the Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant for discussing President Donald Trump’s racist and divisive politics, saying, “Must they run their mouths like that,” and calling James’ statement “barely intelligible."

    On the February 15 edition of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, Ingraham claimed James -- three-time NBA champion with an estimated net worth of $86 million -- is a “cautionary lesson” for kids: “This is what happens when you attempt to leave high school a year early to join the NBA.” Ingraham belittled the athletes for being “paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball,” and told them to “keep the political commentary to yourself, or as someone once said, shut up and dribble.”

    But Ingraham has no apparent problem with celebrities like Scott Baio opining on politics (Baio has an article tag on Ingraham’s LifeZette website). She herself called Clint Eastwood's 2012 Republican National Convention speech delivered to a chair "terrific." Fox News Channel has also repeatedly invited conservative celebrities to push their political narratives, including Baio, actors James Woods, Antonio Sabato Jr., Jon Voight, and Fabio Lanzoni, musician Kid Rock, and Clueless actress/former Fox News contributor Stacey Dash. And prior to getting into politics, Trump used to regularly phone in on Fox & Friends for years -- an arrangement the former host of NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice has credited for winning him the presidency.

    Ingraham’s attacks on James and Durant echo years of racist and racialized commentary on her radio and television programs. After James previously said that people who voted for Trump made a mistake, Ingraham attacked him, saying he was “so ignorant,” and she has called kneeling NFL players “punks,” adding, “that’s the old-fashioned Connecticut Yankee in me.” Ingraham even observed the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom with audio of gunshots and a discussion about black crime rates.

    Following Ingraham’s latest rant, multiple athletes took to Twitter to call her out for her “absurd” rhetoric.

    Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade

    Philadelphia Eagles’ Chris Long

    Baltimore Ravens’ Tony Jefferson

    Professional soccer player Alejandro Bedoya

    Arizona Cardinals’ Josh Bynes

    Jacksonville Jaguars’ Donald Payne

    Atlanta Falcons’ Adrian Clayborn

    Utah Jazz’s Thabo Sefolosha

    Sacramento Kings’ Garrett Temple

    Dallas Cowboys' Jourdan Lewis

    Tennessee Titans’ Joshua Carraway

    Indianapolis Colts’ Quincy Wilson

    Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields

    Former NFL quarterback Sage Rosenfels

    Former NFL player Geoff Schwartz

    Former NFL player Justin Forsett

    Former NFL player Larry Johnson

    Professional rugby player Danny Cipriani

    Texas A&M’s Caleb Chapman

    University of Texas’ Malik Jefferson

    Clemson University’s Amari Rodgers