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  • Right-wing media’s pseudo-expert on immigration manipulated small towns to pass anti-immigrant legislation that failed to stand up in court

    Kris Kobach’s anti-immigrant ordinances have left towns with hefty legal bills and nothing to show for it

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Breitbart columnist and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, whom conservative media have embraced as an authority on all matters immigration, spent years traveling the country pushing anti-immigrant ordinances. He then represented some of those towns in litigation against those ordinances and made hundreds of thousands of dollars. But the laws often didn’t stand up in court, leaving the towns that adopted the measures to pick up the pieces when they were inevitably gutted.

    On August 1, ProPublica and The Kansas City Star reported that Kobach, who is now running for governor, convinced numerous “small, largely white municipalities overwhelmed by real or perceived demographic shifts” to pass legislation making it nearly impossible for undocumented immigrants to live and work there. Kobach earned legal fees by representing the towns, which “ran up hefty legal costs after hiring him to defend similar ordinances,” most of which fell apart. According to the report, “None of the towns are currently enforcing the laws he helped craft.” One mayor duped by Kobach described his operation as “a sham” and another called it “ambulance chasing,” explaining that Kobach’s attitude was as follows: “Let’s find a town that’s got some issues or pretends to have some issues, let’s drum up an immigration problem and maybe I can advance my political position, my political thinking and maybe make some money at the same time.”

    Kobach has applied the same strategy to his media appearances, and conservative outlets are happy to help spread his message. As a Breitbart columnist, Kobach has pushed false claims about the crime rate for undocumented immigrants and spread white nationalist propaganda (Kobach himself has ties to white supremacists). Infowars and The Daily Caller have relied on Kobach’s supposed expertise, and The Gateway Pundit has even referred to him as an “immigration expert.” He also has a cozy relationship with Fox, appearing frequently on Fox & Friends and Tucker Carlson Tonight, where he has cited debunked research to claim that Dreamers -- undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States at a young age by their parents -- are prone to violence and has promoted his debunked theory that scores of undocumented immigrants were illegally voting. When Kobach faced an embarrassing trial in which he was reprimanded by a judge for voter suppression, Fox turned the other way, failing to report on his humiliating defeat.

  • Right-wing media attacked Obama for showing openness to talks with Iran. Trump just did exactly that.

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS & DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On July 30, President Donald Trump said that he would be willing to meet with Iranian leadership with “no preconditions.” Right-wing outlets were largely silent about Trump’s remarks, but had harshly criticized former President Barack Obama for saying the same thing.

    While running for president and during his presidency, Obama made clear that his vision for America’s foreign policy involved meeting with Iran. In 2009, Obama said that he was willing to talk to Iran “without preconditions” to reach a deal that would end the country’s nuclear weapon program. Obama again said in 2013 that he would sit down with Iranian leadership but only if the regime signaled that it was serious about giving up its nuclear weapons. In response, conservative media pundits branded the former president as “weak” and roundly disapproved of his supposed leniency toward Iran.

    But now right-wing outlets are generally silent about Trump’s remarks. Notably, Fox host Sean Hannity, who was an outspoken critic of Obama’s plans to meet with Iran, has not mentioned Trump’s announcement, and many others have followed his lead.

    Here’s how right-wing media reacted to Obama previously:

    • Hannity also griped repeatedly about the possibility of Obama meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani or Russian President Vladimir Putin while supposedly sidelining Republicans.
    • Trump’s current lawyer Rudy Giuliani said on Hannity in 2012: “I have a message to the President. Mr. President, they [Iran] don't want to negotiate with you. They want to build an atomic weapon. Wake up!” (via Nexis)
    • Hannity stated in 2012 that Obama “said he would negotiate with Iran without preconditions. I can think of a few preconditions -- recognizing Israel's right to exist, stop threatening to annihilate them and wipe them off the map, recognizing the truth that the Holocaust occurred, and also stopping your nuclear weapons program.” (via Nexis)
    • Hannity also said in 2010, “Do you think we can negotiate with Hitler Jr., [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, without preconditions?” (via Nexis)
    • Hannity said in 2008: “Iran is a tiny country and not a serious threat. Those are Barack Obama's words. He said would you meet in your first year with people like Hugo Chavez and Ahmadinejad without preconditions? Yes, his answer was. He hasn't been held accountable, really, for a lot of these statements.”
    • Advisor to President George W. Bush Karl Rove complained to Hannity in 2011 that it is “frankly inexplicable” that Obama would continue to meet with American enemies despite “having been in office now for two-and-a-half years.” (via Nexis)
    • Anti-Muslim activist Brigitte Gabriel stated on Hannity in 2013, “The only time in the Islamic world you come to the negotiating table is to negotiate the terms of your surrender! Right now, President Obama has delivered America to Iran as weak.” (via Nexis)
    • National Review’s William J. Bennett and Seth Leibsohn wrote, “Barack Obama’s position on negotiating with U.S. enemies betrays a profound misreading of history.” The authors added that if Obama were to meet with Iranian officials, “he will lower the prestige of the office of the president.”
    • Fox’s Steve Doocy hosted Fox legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. who complained that Obama would rather negotiate with “a murderous anti-Semite,” referring to Rouhani, than with Republicans. Johnson also said, “Let’s be as eager to speak with the Republicans as we are to speak with the Iranians and malefactors in this world.”
    • Then-New York Post columnist Charles Hurt criticized Obama for “promis[ing] face time” to Ahmadinejad. According to Hurt, “We'd still be fighting the Japanese if Harry Truman - a Democrat unafraid to fight - subscribed to this fuzzy fringe foreign policy.”
  • Right-wing media attack Michael Cohen after he claimed Trump approved of Trump Tower meeting with Russian lawyer

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Right-wing media figures attacked the president’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen after he claimed that then-candidate Trump knew in advance of the June 2016 meeting between his son Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer at Trump Tower.

    CNN reported last night that Cohen claimed to have been in the room when Trump Jr. informed his father of his plans to meet with the lawyer who allegedly had dirt on then-candidate Hillary Clinton. Whether or not Trump had known of the meeting beforehand has been a central question in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Previously, Trump Jr. had denied informing his father of the meeting. He later testified to Senate investigators that he could not recall whether or not he notified Trump prior to the meeting.

    Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade questioned Cohen’s credibility and hinted that Cohen may have committed perjury. Fox contributor Geraldo Rivera also hyped Cohen’s “sleaziness.” The Drudge Report referred to Cohen as “the rat.” The Daily Caller published multiple pieces that expressed excitement over Trump’s scathing response to the Cohen story, hyped his denial, and piled on to the Drudge-inspired nickname for Cohen.

    Many right-wing media personalities took to Twitter to attack Cohen.

    Newsmax’s John Cardillo:

    Townhall opinion writer Kurt Schlichter

    CNN commentator Ben Ferguson

    New York Post opinion editor Seth Mandel

    The Daily Wire's Ben Shapiro:

    This post has been edited for clarity, to reflect that not all of the conservative media figures mentioned are allies of Donald Trump.

  • Fox & Friends barely covers report that Trump approved of Trump Tower meeting with Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The day after Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, said that Trump knew and approved of a meeting between members of his campaign and a Russian lawyer -- a meeting that the president had denied having knowledge of beforehand -- Trump’s favorite morning news show, Fox & Friends, almost entirely ignored the news until the president tweeted about it. At that point, the show opted to smear Cohen in an effort to clear Trump.

    CNN first reported that Cohen claimed to have been in the room when Donald Trump Jr. informed his father of his plans to meet with a Russian lawyer who, Trump Jr was told by an intermediary, would provide dirt on then-candidate Hillary Clinton as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." It has since been reported that the Russian lawyer has close ties to top Russian officials. Cohen also reportedly said he is willing to give his version of the events to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election. Previously, both the president and Trump Jr. denied that the then-candidate knew of the meeting. Trump Jr. testified to Senate investigators that he couldn’t recall whom he had told.

    Whether or not Trump knew of the meeting beforehand has been a central question in the investigation. The day after the story broke, Fox & Friends initially mentioned it only once during a headlines segment. Only in the third hour of the show, after Trump denied Cohen’s account via Twitter, did Fox & Friends cover the story in more depth -- but with a characteristically pro-Trump slant. After replaying the same headlines segment from earlier, co-host Brian Kilmeade interviewed Fox contributor Geraldo Rivera about the matter. During the interview, Kilmeade questioned Cohen’s credibility and peddled a theory that “it was the Trump team that released the information” in a clear effort to save face for Trump. Rivera joined Kilmeade, commenting on Cohen’s “sleaziness” in an effort to discredit his account.

  • Fox helps Trump sell his absurd claim that he misspoke during his press conference with Putin

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After being roundly criticized for capitulating to President Vladimir Putin during a press conference, President Donald Trump attempted to walk back his remark casting doubt on the U.S. intelligence community’s findings about Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election with a flimsy excuse that was accepted only by some members of his own party and his most obsequious allies in the media.

    On July 16, Trump lost the support of even some of his closest allies when he questioned his own intelligence community and legitimized Putin’s denial of Russian meddling, saying, “I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia that attempted to interfere in the U.S. election. The next day, under intense pressure from aides and supporters, Trump made the laughable claim that he accidentally “said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t’” during his press conference with Putin. He went on, “The sentence should have been, 'I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia’” that meddled in the 2016 election. Many media outlets were quick to point out that the full context of Trump’s remarks indicated he was, in fact, accepting Putin’s denial of Russian meddling over the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion.

    But on Fox News, friends of Trump defied this reality and ran with Trump’s obvious lie:

    • Fox host Sean Hannity: “President Trump clarified his remarks from the summit, made it perfectly clear that he trusts our intel agencies.”
    • Fox Business host Lou Dobbs: “Fortunately for [Trump’s critics], the president took pity on them and gave them a statement today to the effect he had misspoken.”
    • Dobbs later commented that Trump is “being as presidential and forthright and effective as any president in modern history, more so in my judgment,” but his critics “don’t want to play straight.”
    • Fox correspondent Kristin Fisher: “This should go a long way to satisfy or at least quell some of the president's critics.”
    • Fox’s Jesse Watters accepted Trump’s claim that his comment at the press conference with Putin as “a gaffe” and praised him for admitting his mistake, calling his admission “historic.”
    • Fox host Sandra Smith said Trump was “admitting he misspoke” while discussing Russian election meddling and “making it clear he does indeed support the intelligence community.”
    • Smith also called Trump’s dubious clarification “a walk-back to remember” and failed to push back on Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) acceptance of Trump’s excuse.
    • Fox Business’ Trish Regan: Trump “might have misspoken” because “perhaps he was tired.”
    • Fox & Friends also parroted Trump's dubious excuse for his disastrous press conference with Putin: "He had misspoken."
    • Fox’s Laura Ingraham and her panel complained that Trump’s clarification “wasn’t good enough” for Democrats or the media.
  • The small chorus of pro-Trump figures defending his disastrous presser with Putin

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Amid bipartisan criticism of President Donald Trump’s capitulation to Russian President Vladimir Putin, some of Trump’s fiercest media allies are standing behind him, even as many of his loyalists defect.

    During a July 16 press conference with his Russian counterpart, Trump questioned the findings of his own intelligence community and legitimized Putin’s false claim that Russia did not meddle in the 2016 election, calling his denial “extremely strong and powerful.” His shameful performance garnered sharp rebukes from intelligence community veterans, Democrats, Republicans, and even friends of Trump who have defended the president through some of his most egregious slip-ups.

    Nonetheless, a group of Trump’s most ardent supporters in the media rejected the overwhelming consensus and defended the president:

    • Fox's Jeanine Pirro: "What was [Trump] supposed to do, take a gun out and shoot Putin?"
    • Fox host Sean Hannity praised Trump for being "very strong at the end of the press conference."
    • Infowars host Owen Shroyer on the press conference: "It just kept getting better in time."
    • Conservative radio host Mark Simone: “The whole idea of a summit is to make peace. That’s what he was doing there.”
    • Fox host Laura Ingraham admonished “mass hysteria” in reaction to the press conference and downplayed Trump’s performance as involving an “unfortunate word choice.”
    • Fox’s Tucker Carlson attacked media for their reactions to the press conference and said it seems like politicians critical of Trump’s actions toward Putin and Russia “seek increased conflict with Russia.”
    • Breitbart’s Joel Pollak: “A day after the media/Democrats/NeverTrump meltdown over Trump-Putin summit, they're still wrong, the world's still here, and the future is bright.”
    • Breitbart’s Charlie Spiering: “Remind me, did Obama forcefully confront Putin for” the 2014 attack on a Malaysian Airlines passenger flight over Ukraine?
    • The Washington Times boosted comments from former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), current host of the web show Liberty Report, who categorized Trump’s meeting with Putin as “significant diplomacy.”
  • Right-wing media praise Trump after he snubbed the British prime minister and voiced white nationalist views

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On July 12, British tabloid The Sun published a wide-ranging interview with President Donald Trump in which he disparaged British Prime Minister Theresa May and espoused white nationalist views. Conservative media figures responded to the interview by praising the president and berating his critics.

    Trump sat down for an interview with the Murdoch-owned paper shortly after the conclusion of the NATO summit, at which he insulted world leaders, missed and was late to a number of meetings, and took credit for convincing other nations to increase their NATO contributions, which he did not actually do. After alienating allies at the summit, the president proceeded in the Sun interview to undermine May and criticize her Brexit blueprint, praise her chief political rival, and threaten and threaten to kill a potential trade deal between the U.S. and Britain. Trump also used white nationalist rhetoric to talk about immigration to Europe, saying, “I think what's happened to Europe is a shame. I think the immigration - allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame. I think it changed the fabric of Europe. And unless you act very quickly, it's never going to be what it was. And I don't mean that in a positive way.”

    Here’s how conservative media figures have responded to Trump’s latest outburst:

    • Fox News contributor Nigel Farage praised Trump for his “bombshell to the establishment” opposition to “globalist structures like the European Union.”
    • Fox's Steve Hilton: “The president is 100 percent right about Brexit.” May is weak and “caved in to the elitist establishment.”
    • Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt: Trump is "allowed to" snub British Prime Minister Theresa May and "he's not afraid of the backlash."
    • Fox host Jeanine Pirro: “I don’t think it matters if [Trump] likes [May] as a person.”
    • Breitbart: “Trump just dropped the Mother of all Brexit Bombs on Theresa May.”
    • Breitbart also tried to legitimize Trump’s white nationalist view by hyping “significant demographic changes being seen across Europe” and fearmongering about the advent of “culturally alien practices” like female genital mutilation in Europe.
    • Anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller: “Reality vs Fantasy: President Trump warns Europe is ‘losing its culture’ by allowing ‘millions and millions’ of migrants, PM Theresa May praises their’ fantastic contribution’: Reality has a nasty way of shattering delusions. Trump speaks as it is. May…”
    • CRTV's Michelle Malkin attacked “media freaks” for overreacting to Trump’s comments, saying he was just “speaking truth” rather than acting like a "doormat.”
    • Fox's Geraldo Rivera: “He’s a great negotiator, the president.”
    • Fox host Melissa Francis: “To be clear… #TheresaMay wanted the President to lie about how he felt about her approach Brexit. And he wasn’t willing to lie. I guess #TheResistance & #NeverTrumpers thinks lying & diplomacy and the same thing.”
    • Asked about Trump’s conduct at the NATO summit and his interview with The Sun, YouTube vloggers Diamond & Silk said, “He’s doing an amazing job. He’s standing up for the American people and for America.”
    • Right-wing blog HotAir dismissed Trump’s comments, arguing they might actually help May.
  • Media are misleadingly characterizing Brett Kavanaugh as “mainstream”

    Researchers found that Kavanaugh "is an uncommonly partisan judge" who "justified his decisions with conservative doctrines far more than his colleagues," particularly in the run-up to elections

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On July 9, President Donald Trump nominated conservative D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court in a move that would undoubtedly shift the court far to the right and out of step with the American people. Many media figures, though, have casted Kavanaugh as a centrist pick, citing his ties to former President George W. Bush and saying he is less conservative than other potential nominees.

    • MSNBC host Joe Scarborough called Kavanaugh “such a mainstream pick” and praised him for voicing opposition to indicting a sitting president, saying it “speaks to the content of the judge’s character” because it was written under a Democratic president.

    • CNN senior political analyst and occasional host John Avlon praised Trump’s choice as “not as far right” as many of the other options he had considered. After CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin disputed that characterization, fellow commentator David Gregory dug in, saying, “Any Republican would have made this selection.”

    • The New York Times published a July 9 opinion piece on its website written by a liberal friend and former law professor of Kavanaugh’s, which Fox News exploited as evidence of widespread bipartisan support for the nominee.

    • A New York Times article described him as “often a moderating force.”

    • On CBS This Morning, Dan Senor, a Republican strategist and former colleague of Kavanaugh’s in the George W. Bush administration, said he’s “not some fire-brand right-winger” and argued that other Republicans also would have nominated him.

    • MSNBC political commentator Bret Stephens claimed that Kavanaugh is “within the broad mainstream of the American movement.”

    But data shows that Kavanaugh is “an uncommonly partisan judge” who has historically “tended to dissent more often along partisan lines than his peers,” according to research compiled by social scientists Elliott Ash and Daniel L. Chen. They also noted that Kavanaugh “justified his decisions with conservative doctrines far more than his colleagues” and that his right-leaning partisan decisions ramped up in the midst of presidential elections, “suggesting that he feels personally invested in national politics.” Additionally, Kavanaugh’s views on the environment, labor, LGBTQ discrimination, reproductive rights, gun safety, and immigration -- which are often out of step with those of the majority of Americans -- have won him the support of some of the most extreme factions, including extremist anti-LGBTQ groups and nativists like Ann Coulter and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

  • Fox & Friends hosts attack July Fourth protests under Trump. They promoted them under Obama.

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Fox & Friends hosts today derided a July Fourth protest against President Donald Trump’s immigration policy and voiced disapproval of any protests taking place on Independence Day. But in 2009, the show encouraged its viewers to take part in Fourth of July protests against President Barack Obama.

    Yesterday, a group of protesters gathered at the foot of the Statue of Liberty holding a banner that read “Abolish ICE” while one woman climbed the statue in protest of the Trump administration’s egregious mistreatment of immigrant families. The next day, Fox & Friends hosts disparaged the protesters, specifically the woman who climbed the statue, with host Brian Kilmeade commenting, “Can’t we agree on one day to celebrate the birth of our country regardless of who is in office? People seem to be missing that message.”

    But according to a ThinkProgress article from 2009, Fox & Friends promoted “anti-Obama, anti-tax tea party protests on July 4th” that summer.

    Fox News routinely bolstered tea party protests, lauding protesters and providing heavy coverage of the demonstrations throughout Obama’s presidency; network executives went so far as to dub Fox News “the voice of the opposition.” Fox’s promotion of GOP protests comes in stark contrast to the network’s indifference or open hostility toward demonstrations around progressive causes, such as racial justice, women’s rights, climate justice, and gun control.

    From the July 5 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Late in the afternoon -- you can see a woman right there, 44-year-old Congolese immigrant by the name of Teresa Okomu, I believe, who was part of the Rise and Resist movement. There she is, 89 feet above the ground, shutting down the Statue of Liberty, all in protest to the president’s immigration policy.

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): She did that. She was rising up to the Statue of Liberty’s feet, and she was resisting when police said, “You need to get down.”

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): You have a right to protest. You don’t have the right to put the lives of 16 NYPD officers [at risk] in the process. And as National Park spokesman Jerry Willis said, “I feel sorry for the visitors who had to leave the Statue of Liberty and could not come because it was evacuated.” People have a right to speak out, and don’t think they have a right to co-op the statue of liberty to do it. And that’s -- people say, “Well, America was born on a protest. How appropriate.” No, we were born as a country in a protest. Can’t we agree on one day to celebrate the birth of our country regardless of who is in office. People seem to be missing that message.

    This post has been updated with the video from 2009.

  • National media outlets shrug as reporter Manuel Duran remains in ICE custody

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On April 3, Manuel Duran, a seasoned journalist and newspaper owner in Memphis, TN, was arrested while covering a protest and placed in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), where he has remained ever since. But major media outlets, except Spanish-language media, have almost completely ignored his plight and the significance of his story on press freedom.

    Duran, who is originally from El Salvador but has lived in the U.S. for over a decade, was covering a protest over ICE’s inhumane treatment of immigrants when he was arrested along with nine protesters. Charges against Duran were dropped, but he was transferred to ICE custody in response to a deportation order from 2007. Duran is just one of many undocumented immigrants who seems to have been targeted for exposing ICE’s atrocities.

    Since his arrest, his name has not been mentioned on any of the English-language national broadcast or cable news outlets, including CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News (CBS News’ website posted an Associated Press article about Duran getting a stay on his deportation). Similarly, top English-language newspapers including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times have ignored the story.

    Meanwhile, social justice activists, press freedom groups, and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) have rallied support for his release, noting that his life may be at risk if he is deported to El Salvador. Tennessee media outlets have steadily reported on his case, with his fiancée even appearing on News Channel 3 in Memphis to discuss his arrest. But Spanish-language news outlets Univision and Telemundo are driving national coverage. Univision published an April 5 article with footage of the protest as well as Duran’s self-recorded video of the events leading up to his arrest, which he had broadcast on Facebook Live. Univision also followed up on May 31, reporting that Duran’s deportation had been stayed. Telemundo reported on Duran’s story by underscoring the excessive use of force police had used to arrest him and the other protesters.

    In a political climate where journalists and immigrants (documented or not) face serious threats, Duran’s experience is unique, and his colleagues in the national news media are doing a disservice by not telling his story.