Cristina López G.

Author ››› Cristina López G.
  • Conservatives need to cut the bullshit and stop exploiting a tragedy to blame the left

    Right-wing media show no self-awareness of their role in influencing violent incidents

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    James T. Hodgkinson, a man with a record of domestic violence, a legally purchased assault rifle, and a valid concealed carry permit, on June 14 opened fire on Republican congressmen and staffers practicing for the congressional baseball game.

    The FBI is still investigating the incident, but one thing is already clear about this latest example of unhinged gun violence. The overwhelming evidence of conservative media's influence on a significant number of deadly incidents makes their attempt to deflect attention from their role in creating a toxic political culture both cynical and exploitative.

    According to reports, the gunman had shared anti-Republican sentiments publicly online and had been critical of the president. Reports of the shooter’s political background immediately prompted unscrupulous right-wing hacks to pounce on the tragedy, looking to exploit the terrifying gun violence incident as a way to score cheap political points by blaming the left. In a new display of audacious defiance of reality, conservative voices have put the blame of the shooting not only on the left, but also on the press and various celebrities as well. But, blaming the left or the media for Hodgkinson’s actions is equivalent to blaming Jodie Foster for the attempted assassination of former President Ronald Reagan.

    The gimmick, however, is deplorable not just for its cynical exploitation of fear, pain and human tragedy; it’s also a hollow attempt to distract from the conservative right’s own responsibility in creating a political culture that inspires violence by fanning the flames of hatred. It’s a red herring aimed at avoiding the obvious, and very concrete, policy-centered conversation that needs to happen around gun violence.

    Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, two of the loudest conservative voices, immediately blamed the shooting on “the left” and “left-wing news media.”

    Additionally, the NRA, an organization that customarily deflects conversations about gun violence by blaming fatal shooting incidents on video games, political correctness, and strict gun laws, skirted its own precedent to also blame the left at large for the shooting.

    Right-wing figures’ opportunistic attempt to draw direct correlation from out-of-context phrases from progressive politicians to the actions of a violent man with easy access to assault weapons also points to a critical lack of self-awareness when it comes to their own role in influencing violent incidents.

    Take Byron Williams and his failed plot to shoot people at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU. Williams explicitly pointed to Glenn Beck’s now-defunct TV show and Alex Jones’ websites as the information sources that prompted his violent actions on the Tides Foundation, a relatively unknown organization that Beck repeatedly vilified on his program. Or the assassination of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, which followed continuous vitriol from former right-wing star Bill O’Reilly, who told his “audience of millions over and over again” that Tiller was “an executioner.” Or the murder of three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, CO, at the hands of Robert Dear, a man whose “paranoid delusions, misogynist beliefs, and violent fantasies” matched “perfectly” the usual narratives that come out of “Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones and Bill O’Reilly and countless far-right web sites.”

    Or the racially motivated massacre that ended nine black lives in Charleston, SC, perpetrated by a habitual commenter at the Trump-supporting, neo-Nazi outlet The Daily Stormer. After a man opened fire at a Washington, D.C., family pizzeria, it was hard to forget Alex Jones asking his audience to investigate the conspiracy theory that alleged the restaurant was hiding a child sex-trafficking ring. In the same way, Jones also exhorted Trump to use force against his opponents and threatened violence against supporters of “parasitical maggot” Bernie Sanders.

    So no, right-wingers don’t get to exploit this tragedy. They should not be able to get away with using pain and fear to avoid important policy conversations about gun access in American society. Not when the evidence of their role in promoting violence over politics is so overwhelming.

  • Right-wing media lash out at Sen. Kamala Harris after she was repeatedly interrupted by GOP men while questioning Jeff Sessions

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & DINA RADTKE

    Conservative media figures lashed out at Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) after she was interrupted and chastised by her Republican male colleagues during her questioning of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, claiming she was interrupting Sessions and calling her “hysterical,” “a total fraud,” and rude. Women in mainstream media responded, pointing out the clear sexism in both the attacks on Harris and the double standard she was held to.

  • “Alt-right” troll files civil rights complaint after the Today show mocks him

    All Jack Posobiec wants is to go watch an all-female screening of Wonder Woman

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    “Alt-right” personality Jack Posobiec has taken his trolling to the New York City human rights commission by filing a complaint against a movie theater and NBC Today show host Carson Daly. In his complaint, Posobiec -- formerly employed by The Rebel media -- alleges that the theater is discriminating against him by not allowing him to purchase a ticket to watch an all-female screening of Wonder Woman, and that during his show, Daly advocated for “the business” -- a “clear violation” of his civil rights.

    During the May 31 edition of NBC’s Today show, Daly reported on the internet backlash that Posobiec was receiving on Twitter by proposing “men only screenings of Star Wars” for “the entire first week” as a response to some theaters offering all-female screenings of Wonder Woman.

    Posobiec announced he had filed a complaint against Daly and one of the movie theaters holding such screeners. The complaint is just the latest stunt in Posobiec’s career as a far-right internet troll, which includes promoting emails and forged documents with the purpose of smearing French President Emmanuel Macron, pushing the debunked “Pizzagate” conspiracy theories, as well as screaming about the baseless Seth Rich conspiracy theory after a press conference on the White House lawn. As reported by BuzzFeed, Posobiec was also “the brainchild behind a ‘rape Melania’ sign that appeared at an anti-Trump rally in an effort to make the protesters look bad.”

    It’s tempting to discount Posobiec’s stunt as another absurd prank levied by a pro-Trump, "alt-right" internet personality with the purpose of advancing a political point. But the effects of these acts of trolling could have negative real-life consequences as they distort the true purpose of civil rights legislation and undermine legitimate institutions, like the press. His complaint could be diverting attention and resources -- a real issue when the Trump administration has vowed to defund government programs that protect civil rights -- from the serious discrimination that many people face. Other "alt-right" figures have publicly acknowledged their intent in trolling democratic institutions including the free press. Institutions protecting civil rights are clearly also not safe from becoming targets.

  • This is the reporting piecing together Trump and Russia

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    March 20. CNN: Then-FBI Director James Comey confirms that the agency is investigating ties between Trump campaign and Russia. In a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, then-FBI Director James Comey confirmed that the agency had an open investigation into whether there was coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia’s interference with the U.S. election.

    April 11. The Washington Post: FBI monitored communications of Trump’s campaign adviser Carter Page. Law enforcement and other U.S. officials told the Post that the FBI and the Department of Justice requested and received authorization to surveil Page’s communications because “there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia.”

    April 27. The Washington Post: The Pentagon opened an investigation to determine whether former national security adviser Michael Flynn broke the law by receiving money from foreign groups without being authorized to. The Post published a letter Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) released showing Flynn had been warned by a Defense Department lawyer about being “forbidden from receiving payments from foreign sources” without government permission. Since he failed to acquire that permission, the Pentagon informed Flynn that he was being investigated.

    May 9. The New York Times: Trump fired Comey. The administration said Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had recommended Comey’s firing based on his handling of the investigation into Secretary Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

    May 10. The New York Times: Trump received the Russian ambassador to the U.S. and the Russian foreign minister in the Oval Office. The meeting between Trump and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was closed off to the American press corps; only Russian media was allowed.

    May 11. The New York Times: Trump asked Comey to pledge loyalty to him. Sources told the Times that Comey shared with some associates that during a dinner in January, Trump demanded Comey pledge his loyalty to him, and Comey refused by saying all he could pledge was honesty. The White House denied it and Trump told NBC that he never asked that of Comey.

    May 11. NBC News: Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt he had planned to fire Comey before he received a recommendation to do so. In the televised interview, Trump also referred to Comey as a “showboat” and admitted that he had asked the former FBI director whether he was also under investigation.

    May 15. The Washington Post: Trump revealed classified information to the Russians during their Oval Office meeting. “Current and former U.S.officials” told the Post that Trump revealed “highly classified information” to Lavrov and Kislyak that had been given to the U.S. by an ally. The White House denied the report through national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who said that nothing was disclosed that wasn’t “already known publicly.”

    May 16. The Washington Post: Trump tweeted an acknowledgement of having shared classified information with Russia. In his tweets the next day, Trump undercut the White House’s narrative that the sharing had not occurred, by writing that he had “the absolute right to do so.” After Trump contradicted McMaster’s version from the day before, the national security adviser briefed the press, saying Trump’s decision to share the information was spur-of-the-moment and that Trump “wasn’t even aware of where this information came from.”

    May 16. The New York Times: Israel was the ally who provided the U.S. with the information Trump shared with the Russian officials. Current and former officials told the Times that Israel had provided the information Trump disclosed. According to the Times, the disclosure “could damage the relationship between the two countries.”

    May 16. The New York Times: Comey memo indicated Trump asked him to stop Flynn investigation. The Times reported that Comey wrote a memo after meeting Trump in February, in which he documented the president requesting him to shut down the investigation into Flynn’s ties with Russia by asking him to “let this go.” According to the Times, it’s “the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence” federal investigations into his associates and Russia.

    May 17. NPR: Former FBI Director Robert Mueller appointed special counsel of Russia investigation. The Justice Department appointed Robert Mueller, who preceded Comey as FBI director, as special counsel to lead the probe into Russia’s intervention into the 2016 elections and potential collusion with the Trump campaign.

    May 17. The New York Times: Trump knew Flynn was being investigated when he appointed him. Two sources told the Times that Flynn told Trump’s transition team “weeks before the inauguration” that he was being investigated for “secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey,” but Trump made him national security adviser nevertheless.

    May 19. The Washington Post: A current White House official is being investigated as part of the Russia probe. Sources told the Post that a current White House official is “a significant person of interest” in the federal investigation looking into the possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

    May 19. The New York Times: During the meeting with Russian officials, Trump said firing Comey eased “great pressure” from the Russia investigation. A document summarizing the May 10 meeting between Trump and Russian officials showed that Trump told Lavrov and Kislyak that firing “nut job” Comey had “taken off” the “great pressure because of Russia.”

    May 19. CNN: Russian officials bragged that their Flynn connections would allow them to influence Trump. Sources told CNN that Russian officials had bragged about their connections to Flynn as a strategic advantage that they could use to “influence Donald Trump and his team.”

    May 20. CNN: A source close to Comey said the former FBI director believes Trump tried “to influence his judgment about the Russia probe.”

    May 22. The Washington Post: Trump asked two intelligence officials to “publicly deny” collusion between his campaign and Russia. Former and current officials told the Post that Trump asked Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and Director of the National Security Agency Michael Rogers to push back against the Russia investigation and deny the “existence of any evidence of collusion.” Both officials refused and deemed the requests inappropriate.

    May 23. The New York Times: Former CIA Director Brennan “had unresolved questions” about Trump and Russia ties. During testimony to the House intel committee, Former CIA Director John Brennan said “he was concerned” by, as the Times reported, “suspicious contacts between Russian government officials and Mr. Trump’s associates.” Brennan testified that he “had unresolved questions” about “whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf.”

    May 24. The New York Times: In the summer of 2016 senior Russian officials were intercepted discussing how they would influence Trump. As reported by the New York Times, American intelligence "collected information" last year that showed senior Russian "intelligence and political" officials were focused on using Flynn and Trump's campaign manager, Paul Manafort, "to exert influence over Donald J. Trump."

    May 25. The Washington Post: The FBI is now looking at Jared Kushner in conjunction with its investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. The Post reported May 19 that the FBI’s investigation included a focus on a senior White House official but didn’t name the individual. A week later, the Post reported that, while he is not a central focus, the FBI is looking at meetings between Kushner and Russians given “the extent and nature of his interactions with the Russians.”

    May 26. The Washington Post: Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin. In a May 26 article, the Post reported that according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports, Kushner "discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump's transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities." The conversation took place during a meeting between Kushner, Flynn, and Kislyak, and according to the Post, it was "an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring." 

    May 30. The New York Times: Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen was asked to testify before Senate and House intel committees investigating Russia ties. Cohen declined to cooperate saying the requests were “poorly phrased, overly broad and not capable of being answered.”

    May 30. The Washington Post: Michael Flynn expected to hand over documents and records to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Sources told the Post that Flynn is expected to “hand over documents and records to the Senate Intelligence Committee.” The documents were subpoenaed by the committee to aid in its investigation of Russia’s intervention in the U.S. presidential election. Flynn’s attorneys indicated Flynn would “start turning over” the requested information.

    May 30. ABC News: Trump associate Boris Ephsteyn has received “a request for information” from the House Intelligence Committee. Former White House press officer Boris Epshteyn confirmed that “he has received a request for information and testimony from the House Intelligence Committee.” His lawyer said in a statement that Epshteyn hasn’t been subpoenaed and is asking the committee to specify the kind of information it is seeking to decide whether Ephsteyn will be “able to reasonably provide it.”

    May 31. CNN: Comey expected to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Sources told CNN that Comey will testify publicly before the Senate Intelligence Committee to reportedly shed light on the accusation that Trump asked Comey to drop the bureau’s investigation into Flynn’s interactions with Russia.

    June 1. The New York Times: Putin suggests that “patriotic hackers” from Russia could have meddled in the U.S. presidential election. During an economic forum in St. Petersburg, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that “patriotically minded” hackers in Russia may have interfered with the American presidential election. Putin also insisted that none of the meddling was supported by Russian officials.

    June 4. Reuters: Putin denied Russia meddled in the U.S. election, downplayed his relationship with Flynn. In an interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly, Putin denied that the Russian government had meddled in the U.S. election, saying intelligence agencies “have been misled.” Putin added, “They aren’t analyzing the information in its entirety. I haven’t seen, even once, any direct proof of Russian interference in the presidential election.” Putin called Kelly’s questions on the topic a “load of nonsense.” Putin also denied having classified information implicating Trump and downplayed his relationship with Flynn.

    June 6. The Washington PostTrump asked top intelligence official to ask Comey to halt investigation into Flynn. Coats told associates that Trump had complained to him and CIA Director Mike Pompeo about Comey and the FBI investigation into Russia. Besides requesting that intelligence officials publicly deny that there was any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Trump attempted to have top intelligence officials stop Comey from continuing the FBI’s investigation.

    June 14. The Washington Post: Trump is under investigation for obstruction of justice. Officials told the Post that Mueller is widening the scope of the probe into Russian intervention in the 2016 election to investigate  whether Trump “attempted to obstruct justice.” Officials are examining Trump’s firing of former FBI Director Comey and “any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates.”

  • This is how right-wing media reacted to ISIS terrorism under President Obama

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN, NINA MAST, BRENNAN SUEN & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    ISIS has claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack in Manchester, England, which killed more than 20 people. During Barack Obama’s presidency, right-wing media figures exploited terrorist attacks that ISIS claimed responsibility for to blame, criticize, and attack the president. Additionally, right-wing media figures castigated Obama for not leaving a foreign trip in the aftermath of an attack.

  • Jason Chaffetz Might Be Next Republican To Join Fox News' Elephant Graveyard

    Former Republican Politicians Have Found Employment At The Network While They Rehab Their Careers

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) might become the next Republican politician to find employment at Fox News, the “fair and balanced” network that operates as a de facto communications arm for the Republican Party. In doing so, Chaffetz could become yet another politician to hide out at the network while he waits to run for even higher office.

    Chaffetz announced in April that he would not be seeking re-election in the 2018 midterm elections. Weeks later, Washingtonian magazine reported that the congressman has told colleagues on Capitol Hill that he might be headed to Fox News, telling one he would be taking on what the source called a “substantial role” on air. According to the May 13 report:

    According to two GOP lawmakers who have spoken to Chaffetz directly and four senior House Republican aides, Chaffetz has been telling people he’ll take on what one source calls a “substantial role” in on-air talent at Fox News Channel, possibly as early as July, amplifying whispers that Chaffetz will not finish out his current term.

    If “Jason in the House” -- as the congressman is known on Twitter -- becomes “Jason in the network,” he would join a long list of Republican politicians who have found gainful employment at Fox News after retiring from public service. The network offers the possibility of continuing to reach a wide but isolated conservative audience while protecting pundits from the scrutiny and accountability that could come from mainstream audiences -- ideal conditions for individuals seeking to re-launch their careers in conservative politics. (Chaffetz is reportedly eyeing the Utah governorship for the 2020 election.)

    Under former CEO Roger Ailes’ leadership, Fox News became the communications arm of the Republican Party by openly campaigning for Republican candidates, launching the Tea Party movement, and employing former Republican has-beens.

    Many GOP political stars have passed through the revolving door between Fox News and the Republican Party. Fox News current or past employees who have previously run for office (successfully and unsuccessfully) as Republicans include Herman Cain, Al D'Amato, John LeBoutillier, KT McFarland, Oliver North, Jeanine Pirro, Allen West, and Jon Kyl. Sarah Palin also worked for Fox (twice); she has since left the network. Additionally, many pundits used the network as a launchpad to run for office as Republicans, including Angela McGlowan, Ben Carson, and Pete Snyder.

    Several former Republican lawmakers have used the network as a place to hide out while they weigh running for higher office and rehab their careers. Former Arkansas governor and repeated Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee credited his show on Fox for helping him gain notoriety among several “Iowa Republican activists and volunteers” while he weighed running for president in 2016. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich openly campaigned on Fox to serve as President Donald Trump’s nominee for vice president and was cheered on by his fellow Fox contributors. After a short term in the Senate, Scott Brown joined Fox News as a contributor and rejoined shortly after losing a race for another Senate seat. After serving in the House of Representatives, John Kasich joined Fox News before running for governor of Ohio, and later president. And after he resigned amid an affair, Mark Sanford joined the network before successfully launching a bid for Congress.

    Fox has proved to be an invaluable asset to the Republican Party. During the 2016 election, the network awarded Republican primary candidates more than 200 hours of interviews between May 1, 2015, and May 3, 2016, giving Trump more than twice as much the time it gave any other candidate. As CNN’s Brian Stelter noted it in 2015, “There really is no disputing Fox’s power in influencing the GOP.” There is also no disputing Fox’s appeal as a safe haven for retiring GOP politicians.

  • For Right-Wing Media, The Big News From Trump's NBC Interview Is That Lester Holt Is Mean

    Boo Hoo.

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Right-wing and fringe media attacked NBC anchor Lester Holt for his May 11 interview with President Donald Trump, which dealt with Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. They claimed Holt was “disrespectful” and a “rude Negro” who “interrupted” and “spoke over” Trump, calling the interview “an interrogation” during which the president was treated “like a damn criminal.”

  • These Are The Candidates Right-Wing Media Are Floating To Head The FBI

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Following President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, conservative media floated extreme right-wing personalities to lead the FBI. These possible FBI director replacements have a history of racist and anti-Muslim comments often made on Fox News, and their records demonstrate they can’t be trusted to lead the bureau impartially through the ongoing FBI investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia in 2016.

  • Male Pundits Think The Problem With Men Writing A Health Care Bill Is Just Optics. They're So Wrong.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Male pundits on CNN are criticizing the all-male Republican working group writing the Senate version of the health care bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act, and they’re right in slamming the panel for excluding women. But they’re wrong in saying that “optics” -- by which they mean the political effects of how something looks -- is the reason excluding women from the group is wrong.

    As reported by The New York Times, the Republican working group on health care comprises 13 senators, none of them women. While discussing the working group on the May 9 edition of CNN’s Inside Politics, host John King speculated about whether Republican leadership should, “for optics purposes, have tinkered with the working group.” Appearing as a guest on the same show, CNN’s Jeff Zeleny agreed with King that excluding women was “optically terrible.” CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson was thankfully at the table to add more substance to the shallow optics argument. She challenged King’s focus on optics as a reason for Republican leadership to change the makeup of the working group, suggesting that gender diversity would be a positive for “For real purposes, right?” and mentioning the female senators whom Republicans could have included in their working group.

    Later on CNN, political correspondent Phil Mattingly focused his report on noting that Republicans “are keenly aware” that the all-male panel is “not a good look” and that it wasn’t a “good public scene” to exclude the five “very talented, very well regarded” Republican women in the Senate. While Mattingly was reporting and not providing commentary, he missed an opportunity to point out that excluding women from a panel working on an issue that directly and disproportionately impacts women is wrong for reasons that go beyond optics.

    In contrast, some of the female journalists at the network did a better job of pointing out the substantive issues linked to leaving women out of the working group. During CNN Newsroom, co-host Poppy Harlow noted that the group’s lack of gender inclusion is “out of the 1920s playbook” and asked her guest Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times, to explain what it meant “in terms of policy to not have more diversity.” Sweet pointed out that “a lot of preventative medicine provisions” in Obamacare specifically affect women and are “at risk in Trumpcare:”

    During CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, host Brooke Baldwin and chief political correspondent Dana Bash criticized calling the exclusion of women “an optics problem,” with Bash stating, “It’s also a substance problem,” and Baldwin responding, “An optics problem? It’s a little more than that.”

    While it is true that Republicans in the Senate are overwhelmingly white and male -- slimming down the possibility of any real diversity in the group -- the “optics” angle is especially offensive given the female senators with expertise and experiences that would add value to the discussions on the panel. As USA Today’s Jessica Estepa pointed out, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) “has sat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee since  2015.” In the past, Collins has voiced concerns about defunding access to reproductive health care. Estepa also mentions Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) 10-year track record on the Senate health committee, as well as Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) who hails from a state that has seen Medicaid expanded and who could provide insight on how cutting expansions would affect people like her constituents.

    This is just the latest example of “optics” punditry getting in the way of substantive policy analysis. At best, cable news’s obsession with discussing “optics” turns commentary uninformative and shallow, and at worst, it becomes an incentive for political actors to overtly focus on the way political processes look as opposed to their real life effects and the constituents they affect.

    After President Donald Trump’s February 28 address to a joint session of Congress, pundits focusing on optics and “tone” earned criticism from other commentators. The criticism was well-deserved, as pundits should use their platforms to give their audiences useful information, like the consequences of a speech turning into policy and the viability of such policy positions, not superficial analysis that those watching could make for themselves. The punditry optics analysis that came after Trumpcare passed the House also got in the way of media assessing the bill’s real impact on the millions of Americans who could lose health insurance. Audiences tuning in deserve actual analysis of the political process. The focus on optics gets in the way of that.