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  • 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.

  • The big problem with the term “catch and release”

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Over the past few months, as President Donald Trump’s administration works to dismantle protections for asylum-seeking immigrants, the use of the term “catch and release” -- a dehumanizing phrase that describes U.S. policies meant to provide certain rights to vulnerable immigrants -- has skyrocketed on cable news networks.

    “Catch and release” is generally used to refer to any policy that allows immigrants to be released from detention while their cases are being processed. These so-called “catch and release” policies recognize the basic humanitarian rights of unaccompanied minors, asylum seekers, and families with children. One such policy prohibits the detention of families for more than 20 days and enforces other standards for detention; another bars the U.S. government from deporting people back to places where they could be harmed or killed; and a third awards “more cautious asylum hearing proceedings for [unaccompanied children], because it is thought that they are more likely to be victims of human trafficking.” Experts have noted that rolling back these protections would lead to severe trauma for immigrants (and benefits for the private prison industry.)

    Many observers have pointed out that the term “catch and release” evokes imagery of a fish or other animal being hunted and then released. The book Governing Immigration Through Crime: A Reader explains the disparaging effect of the term:

    Although the term catch and release appears benign, it actually serves to dehumanize immigrants. The term comes from sport fishing, where it refers to the practice of catching fish and then throwing them back into the water. Using such a term in the context of immigration policing essentially reduces the apprehension and incarceration of human beings to a sport.

    But as the Trump administration continues to pick away at these protections, cable news outlets have ramped up their use of the phrase, with Fox News leading the way. An analysis of use of the term “catch and release” on cable news by the GDELT Project using data from the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive demonstrates a huge spike in the term’s prevalence throughout 2018 compared to previous years. Notably, on June 25, use of the term “catch and release” was the highest it has been since at least 2009 across MSNBC, Fox, and CNN:

    Fox and other right-wing outlets have weaponized the phrase to fearmonger about a foreign invasion at the southern border, spreading misinformation about the policy and its effects.

    The Trump administration’s policies to curtail immigrant protections have not deterred immigrants from making the journey to the southern border, as the administration had claimed. In fact, the number of apprehensions of unaccompanied minors at the border jumped 50 percent in May, shortly after Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared an end to so-called catch and release policies. Even so, Fox has argued that the policies encourage unbridled immigration to the U.S.

    Alleged smugglers reportedly make up only .61 percent of the total number of family units apprehended at the border. Nevertheless, Breitbart.com and Fox have pushed the administration’s misleading claim that protections for immigrants enable human smuggling.

    Asylum seekers face a rigorous vetting process to prove their claims and, all too often, those with genuine fear of return are denied asylum. Yet Laura Ingraham argues that immigrants are taking advantage of the policies to falsely claim asylum with the expectation that they will be released and be able to disappear into the system.

    In 2017, 60,000 immigrants attended their court hearings after they were released from custody at the border, compared to 40,000 who did not, and only 25 percent of cases were decided without a defendant in 2016. Yet, right-wing media have perpetuated the myth that the majority of immigrants do not show up for their court dates.

    Like the terms “illegal immigrant” and “chain migration,” “catch and release” is just another tool that nativists use to dehumanize immigrants. And at a time when the president of the United States has painted immigrants as “animals” and immigration as an infestation, mainstream media should avoid using language that might serve to legitimize this deceptive narrative.

  • On Fox, ICE director defends tearing asylum-seeking families apart using a misleading statistic on human smuggling

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    The acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Thomas Homan, appeared on Fox News June 19 to defend the Trump administration’s policy of separating the children and parents of asylum-seeking families at the border, pushing the misleading talking point that “there's a 300 percent increase on people claiming family units that aren't family units.” According to a Washington Post reporter, while it is true the number of adults arriving at the border with children not their own has increased by about 315 percent, these cases make up only .61 percent of the total number of family units apprehended at the border.

    Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen also used the misleading statistic at a White House press briefing, arguing that immigrant children arriving at the southern border are being used as “pawns by the smugglers and the traffickers.”

    But The Washington Post’s Philip Bump obtained the full data behind the statistic and found that the claim overstates the problem of human smuggling at the border. “In other words,” Bump wrote, “for every 1,000 families that approached the border in the first five months of this fiscal year, only six allegedly involved individuals pretending to be a child’s parents.”

    From the June 19 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:

    BILL HEMMER (CO-HOST): Did you see [Sen.] Ted Cruz [(R-TX)]'s idea? He's got a proposal floating out there. More immigration judges, maybe more beds, et cetera. That would help process the system faster. And then you only separate families in the event that there is, I think, aggravated criminal activity or potential harm. I believe that's the way it's phrased. What do you think of Senator Cruz's idea, sir?

    THOMAS HOMAN (ACTING ICE DIRECTOR): I haven't seen his bill, but you know what, we got to talk about that because we've seen over a 300 percent increase on people claiming to be parents of children, and they're not. These children are being used by the criminal organizations as pawns and being rented to claim as family units so they don't get detained. So -- I haven't seen that legislation. We need to make sure, number one, we protect these children being used by these criminal organizations as bait. There's a 300 percent increase on people claiming family units that aren't family units.

    Homan has a history of retreating to Fox to defend his agency’s ruthless, anti-immigrant practices. In March, one ICE spokesperson quit after Homan mandated ICE field offices lie about the number of undocumented immigrants able to evade arrest after being warned of an upcoming ICE raid by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. The number of failed arrests was vastly overstated, but Fox News repeatedly broadcast the erroneous figure before it was proved untrue, and Media Matters did not find any instance in which the network corrected the information.

  • Media help GOP brand their bill that would drastically cut legal immigration as “moderate,” “a compromise”

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Tomorrow, President Donald Trump will meet with House Republicans to discuss two immigration bills; both would drastically cut legal immigration and fail to address the humanitarian crisis at the border, but media outlets have borrowed language from conservatives to brand one of them a “compromise” or “moderate” option.

    The first bill, spearheaded by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), would cut legal immigration by 40 percent according to some calculations, by ending the diversity visa lottery and ending the family-based immigration system. The bill would also make it easier to deport noncriminal undocumented immigrants by making their presence in the country itself a criminal offense, fund the border wall, crack down on so-called sanctuary cities, and abandon plans for a previously discussed pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.

    The second bill, which was brokered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and agreed upon by a group of conservatives and Republican moderates, is being promoted as a “compromise.” While it would not go as far as the Goodlatte bill, the Ryan bill would also reduce legal immigration by ending the diversity visa lottery and some forms of family-based immigration, allow for broader immigration enforcement, and fund the border wall. Unlike the other bill, this proposal would offer Dreamers a long pathway to citizenship. Contrary to what Republicans have claimed, it would not address the dire situation at the border, where immigrant children are being separated from their parents.

    It is misleading to label such a proposal a “compromise” without making note of the fact that only hard-line conservatives and Republican moderates had arrived at a consensus; the extreme terms of the bill only serve to isolate progressives and immigrant rights activists. During a call with immigrant advocacy groups, Patrice Lawrence, the national policy and advocacy director for UndocuBlack Network, explained, “The recent White House 2.0 or Ryan Bill is the furthest thing from compromise and will not benefit Dreamers in any way.” Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-immigrant group America’s Voice, noted that the so-called “compromise” bill “is worse than the White House proposal that was soundly defeated on the Senate floor. This bill is incredibly stingy to Dreamers, it turbocharges deportations, it eviscerates asylum, and it calls for the construction of [a] stupid and unnecessary border wall.”

    Nonetheless, many media outlets have been downplaying the bill’s anti-immigrant provisions. Throughout the day, CNN White House correspondent Abby Phillip has called the Ryan bill “a compromise” and a “moderate” bill. Speaking to two Democratic congressmen yesterday, MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt referred to the proposal as “a compromise bill on immigration [that] would deal with Dreamers” and incorrectly reported that part of the legislation would deal with “prohibiting the separation of children from their parents.” Fox has called the legislation a “consensus bill” and “a moderate one,” and at one point the network hosted an anti-immigration advocate, Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies, who complained that the bill would not go far enough. Meanwhile, many other outlets ran with the Republican lie that the Ryan bill would stop the practice of separating families.