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Bobby Lewis

Author ››› Bobby Lewis
  • Right-wing media figures have led Trump's purge of Department of Justice officials they perceive as threatening

    Here’s who they have left

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS & GRACE BENNETT

    Right-wing media have consistently lined up behind Donald Trump to defend him against any and all allegations regarding Russian interference in the presidential election. Led primarily by Fox News and primetime host Sean Hannity, right-wing media figures have denounced, undermined, or maligned Department of Justice and FBI officials involved in the broader Russia investigation since it began. 

  • Fox & Friends ignored three bombshells related to the Russia investigation

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Three significant developments related to the Russia investigation broke on the evening of January 31. Fox & Friends, the president’s favorite show, predictably ignored all three stories. 

    On the evening of January 31, CNN reported that FBI agent Peter Strzok co-drafted the letter sent to Congress days before the 2016 election “announcing the bureau was investigating newly discovered Clinton emails.” CNN also reported that President Donald Trump asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein if he was “on my team” in December when Rosenstein went to the White House seeking Trump’s support in a dispute over a documents request from Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA). And The New York Times reported that, according to a former spokesperson for Trump’s legal team, White House communications director Hope Hicks told the president on a conference call that Donald Trump, Jr.’s emails about dirt on then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “‘will never get out’ because only a few people had access to them.” Hicks' statement, according to the report, left the former spokesperson with “concerns that Ms. Hicks could be contemplating obstructing justice,” and he resigned shortly after. 

    While the three stories got airtime on both CNN’s New Day and MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Fox News’ Fox & Friends gave all three stories zero coverage. Fox’s morning show did mention Strzok, but only to use him to attack former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Notably, Fox & Friends for weeks has attacked Strzok as pro-Clinton and anti-Trump, an accusation that’s increasingly discredited after the CNN story. Fox & Friends is the president’s safe space, showering him in effusive praise and effectively insulating him from reporting that makes him look bad by spinning, downplaying, or simply ignoring it. 

    Fox & Friends did, however, find time to cover some interesting stories, such as:

    A Democratic congressperson playing a game on their phone during the State of the Union:

    White House Chief of Staff John Kelly “sounds off on anti-military teacher”:

    David Bossie’s selfie with Tucker Carlson, Corey Lewandowski, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, and Dan Bongino:

    A brief ride malfunction at an Australian amusement park:

    “[Congressional] Black Caucus members remain seated at SOTU”:

  • Fox News and Russian state media are promoting a conspiracy theorist's California secessionist ploy

    "New California" secessionists are led by a Sandy Hook and Agenda 21 conspiracy theorist

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News is promoting what it calls a bid by “conservatives in California so fed up with liberals running their state” to “break away” from the state and form a “New California.” What Fox didn’t mention is that the secessionist ploy is being led by a conspiracy theorist. 

    “New California” is just the latest iteration of long-running, minor secessionist movements in California that previously materialized in 2016 as the #Calexit hashtag and “Yes California” electoral campaign, but the small group leading the charge is getting some media help from interesting places. A January 17 segment of Fox & Friends discussed the current campaign and a story about it was featured on the front page of FoxNews.com the same day. Far-right troll Jack Posobiec and Russian state media are also pushing the campaign on Twitter. 

    The January 17 segment of Fox & Friends briefly featured comments by Robert Paul Preston, whom the show credited as the “founder” of “New California.” On its website, Fox News identified Preston and his group as “California conservatives.” Both the article and the segment on Fox & Friends failed to note that Preston is a conspiracy theorist and Sandy Hook truther. Preston believes in “Agenda 21,” a conspiracy theory dating to when Glenn Beck hosted a show on Fox News. "Agenda 21" believers like Preston think that the United Nations is executing a “master plan” to “remove you from your land ... take away our Constitutional Rights and depopulate our planet.” Preston also believes the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax. 

    Along with Fox News, Russia’s state-owned media company RT (formerly Russia Today) is also pushing the “New California” narrative with tweets and an article. Like Fox, the RT write-up also uncritically quotes Paul Preston in support of secession. 

    Russia-linked social media bots have driven previous iterations of American secessionist narratives. On November 4, 2017, the BBC reported that the #Calexit hashtag and narrative around the 2016 election “was artificially driven by automated bots or fake accounts,” many of which were connected to the pro-Kremlin “troll factory” known as the Internet Research Agency. Additionally, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the leader of “Yes California” lived in and ran the campaign from Russia.

  • Sean Hannity wades into message board conspiracy theory "The Storm"

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On January 9, Fox’s Sean Hannity tweeted from his account that his followers should “watch @wikileaks closely! Tick tock.” The tweet quoted another tweet that claimed that “out of nowhere, Ecuador suddenly offers to mediate a resolution for #JulianAssange,” with the hashtag “#QAnon” added to the post.

    #Qanon refers to a sprawling conspiracy theory that originated on online message boards 4chan and 8chan, alleging that President Donald Trump’s cryptic October 2017 comment about the “calm before the storm” was a hint at a master plan Trump is setting in motion to kneecap members of the “deep state.” According to New York magazine, the conspiracy theory, known as “The Storm,” “features secret cabals” and “a child sex-trafficking ring.” Additionally, those who believe in “The Storm” also believe claims that the Steele dossier is fake and “the Las Vegas massacre was most definitely an inside job connected to the Saudi-Clinton cabal.”

    Tweeting about #Qanon is not Hannity’s first contact with the fever swamps of far-right message boards. In August, Hannity promoted a conspiracy theory that originated on online message boards that the counter-protesters in Charlottesville, VA, were actually paid actors. Furthermore, in 2016, Hannity made himself the face of the Reddit-nurtured conspiracy theory that late DNC staffer Seth Rich was a Wikileaks source, causing Fox News employees to angrily vent that Hannity was embarrassing the network.

  • Laura Ingraham retweeted a British neo-Nazi

    Mark Collett is a far-right British figure whose book has been endorsed by David Duke

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News host Laura Ingraham retweeted a video from a far-right British figure who is connected to David Duke.

    On January 7, Ingraham quoted a tweet alleging to show “what third world immigration does to Europe,” which included a video of trash and people apparently living on a city street. Ingraham added above the tweet, “Can anyone verify if this is really a video of Paris?”

    The person Ingraham retweeted, Mark Collett, is a former chairman of the youth division of the British National Party (BNP,) a far-right political organization in the United Kingdom. Collett was eventually dismissed from the BNP and arrested for death threats against his political rival, who was then the BNP’s leader. Collett has repeatedly collaborated with and received a book endorsement from former KKK leader and radio host David Duke. Collett once said that he admired Adolf Hitler, and has said that he considered AIDS a “friendly disease because blacks, drug users and gays have it.” He has also called asylum seekers “cockroaches” and accused Asian men of “go[ing] straight to the whites 'cos they are trying to destroy us and they are the racists.” Collett also campaigned in support of Brexit with his girlfriend, who has multiple Nazi tattoos.

    Several media figures called out Ingraham for the retweet, with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes asking if Ingraham was going to “share this one next,” quoting another Collett tweet with a video comparing refugees to racoons, and CNN’s Brian Stelter suggesting Ingraham focus on a story of rejoicing fans of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills “destroying everything in sight in Jacksonville.” 

    Ingraham’s retweeting of a neo-Nazi comes about two weeks after her primetime Fox News colleague, Tucker Carlson, approvingly tweeted an article from a white supremacist radio show that called the Holocaust “the biggest hoax of the 20th century.” Carlson “apologize[d]” for the tweet without acknowledging he linked to a white supremacist account. 

  • The bigotry of Sean Hannity's early influencers

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    In a recent profile, Fox host Sean Hannity named three right-wing media figures from the second half of the 20th century -- Bob Grant (1929-2013), Taylor Caldwell (1900-1985), and Barry Farber (1930-present) -- as inspirations for his own political commentary. A Media Matters investigation into content produced by Grant, Caldwell, and Farber revealed a trove of bigotry; Grant “routinely” called black people “savages,” Calwell had a political allegiance with “one of the most virulent anti-Semitic propagandists in the United States,” and Farber is a self-professed "birther" who pushed conspiracy theories about former President Barack Obama.

  • Fox News pays contributor Kevin Jackson to push blatant lies and conspiracy theories

    In addition to speculating about an FBI plot to kill the president, Jackson has falsely claimed that Colin Kaepernick supports terrorism and Trump released his tax returns

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News contributor and radio talk show host Kevin Jackson has pushed several outright lies and conspiracy theories in just a few weeks:

    December 19: Cited “social media” to float the possibility that the FBI plotted to assassinate President Donald Trump. 

    FACT: There is absolutely nothing to confirm that the FBI -- or any domestic law enforcement agency -- plotted to assassinate the president of the United States, other than Infowars

    December 5: Falsely claimed Trump released his tax returns.

    FACT: He has not

    December 1: Falsely accused former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick of material support for terrorism, claiming he “gives money to terrorists.”

    FACT: Claiming Colin Kaepernick “gives money to terrorists” is a lie, unless you have a particularly suspicious view of his donations to groups like "Meals on Wheels; DREAM, a Harlem charter school; the Coalition for the Homeless, an organization offering assistance to homeless people in New York City; and Justice League NYC, an organization opposing child incarceration." 

    November 4: Parroted Trump’s false claim that the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap resulted in the five released detainees becoming “re-engaged” in terrorism.

    FACT: PolitiFact wrote in 2015 that the five Taliban prisoners exchanged for Bergdahl by then-President Barack Obama “are known to be in Qatar, where they have been since their release over a year ago. Qatar is considered neutral ground -- not a battlefield -- and they are not allowed to leave the country.” A 2016 follow-up piece reported that the five men were still in Qatar and a 2017 report pointed out that exaggerated and incorrect claims about released Guantanamo prisoners "became a Republican talking point." 

    November 3: Falsely claimed Obama funded the Steele dossier.

    FACT: Organizing for Action, a non-profit that is not Barack Obama but supports his policies, made payments to a law firm which also paid Fusion GPS for the dossier that former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele compiled on Trump’s potential ties to Russia. 

  • From “Trumpism without Trump” to just another “Republican swamp thing”: Breitbart loved Gillespie until he lost

    ››› ››› LIS POWER & BOBBY LEWIS

    In the days leading up to the November 7 gubernatorial election in Virginia, Breitbart.com and Breitbart radio were increasingly touting Republican candidate Ed Gillespie’s turn toward “the nationalist-populist base.” Breitbart staffers and Executive Chairman Stephen Bannon argued that Gillespie’s embrace of “the Trump agenda” -- through issues such as linking undocumented immigrants to the violent gang MS-13 and keeping Confederate monuments -- were the reason for his “momentum.” However, as soon as the race was called for Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, Breitbart quickly changed tack, labeling Gillespie an “establishment” “Republican swamp thing,” and declaring that he was “scarcely a MAGA candidate.” Here’s how Breitbart covered Gillespie's embrace of Trumpism … until he lost.