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  • NY Times reporter explains how media outlets fall for Trump’s racism

    Maggie Haberman: Trump issues a "mushy edged-statement," "waits for media reaction," "then screams he was taken out of context"

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump’s defenders are attacking the media, claiming that his recent comments -- in which he called some undocumented immigrants “animals” in response to a question about suspected members of the gang MS-13 -- were taken out of context. But The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman explained that attacking the media for reporting on his vague, often racially coded statements has been a core part of Trump’s playbook since at least 2015.

    During a roundtable discussion on May 16 about California’s so-called sanctuary laws, Trump responded to a vague, hypothetical comment about suspected MS-13 members from a local sheriff by saying, “We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — we’re stopping a lot of them. But we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.”

    His remark was unspecific and made no explicit reference to gang members. Media outlets reported on his ambiguous statement with headlines noting that he had referred to some undocumented immigrants as “animals.” Trump-friendly media outlets responded by accusing the media of taking his remarks out of context, arguing that he was referring explicitly to MS-13 gang members, even though that was not made clear in his statement. Trump echoed the talking point to his millions of Twitter followers on Friday, and as a result, at least one outlet, CNN, caved to right-wing pressure, clarifying its statement and criticizing coverage from other outlets.

    Haberman took to Twitter to explain how Trump’s vague, coded statements have provided him cover from criticism in the past, allowing him to dodge charges of racism, attack the media, and manipulate their coverage of him:

  • Conservative media disingenuously demanding context about Trump’s “animals” comment have ignored that same context for years

    Right-wing media have consistently praised Trump’s conflation of immigrants with criminals

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    In the past, right-wing media have praised President Donald Trump’s immigration rhetoric, even as it conflated all undocumented immigrants with gang members. Now, after Trump pivoted from a vague question about MS-13 yesterday to say some undocumented immigrants “aren’t people, these are animals,” right-wing media are attacking mainstream outlets for reporting on the ambiguity of his remark and insisting he was talking exclusively about MS-13 gang members. But those same right-wing media figures, along with Trump, have helped foster an environment in which a mention of the term “MS-13” evokes undocumented immigrants, and this false association is having negative consequences for immigrants across the country.

    During a roundtable discussion about California’s so-called sanctuary laws on Wednesday, a local sheriff said to Trump, “There could be an MS-13 member I know about. If they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about them.” In response, Trump talked about “people coming into the country” and made no explicit reference to gang members:

    “We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — we’re stopping a lot of them. But we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.”

    Many in the media reported accurately that Trump had called “some deported immigrants” or “some unauthorized immigrants” animals, and several journalists noted the ambiguity of his comment. But pro-Trump outlets opportunistically attacked mainstream outlets for their coverage, arguing that they had selectively edited his comment or taken him out of context. Infowars described the coverage as a “shocking level of deceit,” and CNN’s Rick Santorum complained that “this is one of the reasons that a big chunk of the country just turn off the media when they start going after the president.”

    Trump’s vague response had made no mention of the gang, and whether he was referring to gang members or undocumented immigrants in general, the dehumanizing effect was the same. As Vox pointed out, Trump’s strategic rhetorical ambiguity allows him to “refer to some specific criminals, call them horrible people and animals, say that their evil justifies his immigration policy, and allow the conflation of all immigrants and all Latinos with criminals and animals to remain subtext.”

    Right-wing media have boosted this type of rhetoric by praising Trump for erroneously hyping MS-13’s presence in the U.S. as a product of lax immigration policies, and many have conflated MS-13 and immigrants themselves. On any given day, trivial news about MS-13 -- a brutal gang founded in Los Angeles that has been able to grow in strength due to stringent deportation policies and mass incarceration -- will be broadcast in the conservative media sphere, almost always laced with complaints about lax immigration policies.

    The reality is that, while many MS-13 members are undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of undocumented immigrants are not MS-13 members, and the right-wing media campaign to conflate the two is having serious consequences.

    Such rhetoric mirrors actual policies being put in place by the Trump administration. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been using dangerously broad criteria to label undocumented immigrants as gang members, giving the agency cover to carry out hundreds of arrests under the auspices of an “anti-gang operation.” Just this week, a federal judge ruled that ICE outright lied to frame one person as “gang-affiliated.” Nonetheless, right-wing outlets dutifully report on the raids, casting ICE agents as heroes and the non-criminal immigrants as animals.

    Whether or not Trump was referring to MS-13 by calling people who cross the border “animals,” right-wing media and agencies like ICE benefit from his irresponsible and coded language, and non-criminal immigrants will bear the brunt of the fallout.

  • Local and national media outlets virtually silent as GOP assault on health care encourages higher premiums

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT & DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Both local and national media have largely failed to cover recent proposals by Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance providers to increase premiums in Maryland and Virginia, and media have all but ignored the connection between Republican efforts to weaken the ACA and increasing health care costs.

    On May 4, two of Virginia’s ACA health insurance providers requested that state officials approve significant premium increases in 2019. Cigna and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield both proposed average premium hikes that are in the double digits. They were joined days later by several other Virginia insurers and both of Maryland’s providers, Kaiser and CareFirst, the latter of which requested a 91 percent rate increase for members on its PPO plan.  

    These increases are not unexpected; many organizations, as well as the Congressional Budget Office, predicted that insurance rates would skyrocket if the Trump administration and the Republican-held Congress eliminated the ACA’s individual mandate, which required people to have health insurance or pay a penalty. On December 22, President Donald Trump signed the Republican tax bill into law, officially repealing the individual mandate and ensuring a rise in insurance premiums. Both Cigna and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield have already blamed the termination of the mandate for their soaring rates.

    Without the individual mandate, people are more likely to withdraw from the market, meaning that cost sharing is spread among fewer people, and, as a result, the burden increases for everyone. Additionally, young and healthy people are the most likely to forego purchasing health insurance, leaving the market saturated with older and unhealthy people who require more medical attention, which pushes premiums up. Trump’s former Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price, admitted as much during a May 1 speech at the World Health Care Congress in Washington, where he said that repealing the mandate would lead to “younger and healthier” people exiting the exchanges and “consequently, that drives up the cost.”

    Virginia and Maryland media largely ignored the story

    Four major TV news stations in the Baltimore media market mentioned premium increases a combined four times in evening weekday coverage. Two stations didn't mention them at all. Between May 7 and May 14, rising premiums were mentioned four times among the four major local TV news stations during their weekday evening news coverage*; only one network noted the role of Republican health care reform in proposed premium increases:

    • ABC’s WMAR did not mention the looming premium hikes in its 12 hours of weekday evening news coverage.

    • Fox’s WBFFDT also neglected to mention the premium increases in its 12 hours of weekday evening news coverage.

    • NBC’s WBALDT discussed the proposed increases once during nine hours of coverage, and the report did not explain their connection to the repeal of the individual mandate.

    • CBS’ WJZ mentioned requested increased premiums three times in its 15 hours of coverage, but none of the mentions extended beyond a brief headline, and the network did not explain that the expected increases are related to the repeal of the individual mandate.

    Three major Maryland newspapers ran a total of just two articles that mentioned rate increases. Since Maryland insurers requested double-digit premium hikes on May 7, only two of three major print newspapers have printed a report on it:

    • The Baltimore Sun ran one article about the proposed soaring premiums between May 7 and May 14. The article accurately pointed out the connection between the proposed increases and the individual mandate repeal.

    • The Daily Times in Salisbury mentioned expected rising premiums in one article (which ran twice, on May 12 and May 14).  

    • Annapolis’ The Capital did not report on potentially rising health care costs.

    Four major TV news stations in Virginia’s largest media market mentioned premium increases a combined three times in evening weekday coverage. Two stations didn't mention them at all. Of the four stations carrying local news in the Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News media market, only two discussed potential premium increases between May 4 and May 14:

    • CBS’ WTKR mentioned the proposed rate increases and their connection to the repeal of the individual mandate one time in the 17.5 hours of evening weekday news programming.

    • ABC’s WVEC mentioned that premiums were likely to rise twice in the 17.5 hours of evening weekday news programming. Once the issue was mentioned during an off-topic segment about underfunding of Virginia’s prison system, and the other time it came up during a discussion about a health care plan proposed by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). Neither segment actually noted that Virginian health insurers had already requested a rise in premiums, although the second segment did mention Kaine’s insistence that the Trump administration's watering down of the ACA is leading to increased premiums.

    • Fox affiliate WVBT did not mention the expected premium hike during its four and a half hours of evening weekday news programming.

    • NBC affiliate WAVY also did not mention the looming premium increases during the station’s 17.5 hours of scheduled evening news programming.

    Three major Virginia newspapers ran a combined five articles about the proposed premium hikes, but mostly excluded important context about the GOP sabotage effort. Between May 4 -- when several Virginia insurers first requested premium hikes -- and May 14, three major Virginia newspapers ran five articles that mentioned potential rate increases:

    • The Richmond Times-Dispatch ran one article informing readers about potential rate increases, but it failed to connect the rising premiums to the Republican-led repeal of the individual mandate.

    • The Virginian Pilot also printed one article about the premium jumps; it was the only article among those in Virginia’s top three newspapers to explain that the repeal of the mandate was largely to blame for the increases.

    • The Roanoke Times mentioned rising health insurance premiums in three articles; only one of them informed readers about the Republican Party’s complicity in their rise.

    National news outlets hardly mentioned the expected rise in premiums

    The looming premium hikes were mentioned a total of six times on all evening national cable news outlets. From May 4 to May 14, the requested premium increases were mentioned twice on Fox News, twice on CNN, and twice on MSNBC. In almost every instance, the premium increases were brought up in the context of Democratic messaging for the 2018 midterm elections, and none of the discussions mentioned specific examples of where or by how much premiums could potentially rise. During a May 5 interview with Tom Price, the former health and human services secretary attempted to clarify his statement from May 1 in which he acknowledged that ending the individual mandate will lead to higher premiums if other reforms are not implemented; this was the only segment that tied the increases to the GOP-led health care reform effort.

    Of the three national broadcast evening news programs, only one mentioned the expected rise in premiums. CBS Evening News was the only national broadcast evening news program to mention the premium increases; the brief mention failed to explain the role of the Republican individual mandate repeal in rising premiums. The other two broadcast evening news programs, NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt and ABC World News Tonight with David Muir, did not report on the news.

    Only one major U.S. newspapers mentioned the premium increases. The Washington Post was the only major newspaper to discuss the premium hikes in a news article. The paper published two articles that referred to the proposed premium hikes. The New York Times published one opinion piece about the proposed increases and tied the change to the GOP’s individual mandate repeal. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, the New York Post, and Chicago Tribune have not reported on the proposals in their print editions.

    In the past, media outlets have often left audiences in the dark over the negative effects of the Republican health care push. And while local media outlets have covered this issue better than national outlets, so far, the reporting on potentially increasing premiums from Virginia and Maryland outlets has been lackluster. As insurance companies continue to propose higher premiums across the country, national and local media outlets must do a better job preparing their audiences for the upcoming changes to their health care.

    Methodology

    Using Nexis, Media Matters searched three widely circulated Virginia-based print newspapers, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Virginian Pilot, and The Roanoke Times, from May 4 to May 14 and reviewed relevant articles that included variations of the terms "premium," "rate," "insurance," "health," or "coverage," and "increase," "change," "go up," "rise," or "jump.". The same search was used to search widely circulated Maryland-based newspapers, The Baltimore Sun, Annapolis’ The Capital, and The Salisbury Daily Times, from May 7 to May 14. The search was replicated for major national print outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, the New York Post, and the Chicago Tribune between May 4 and May 14. The database Factiva was used to search for relevant articles from The Wall Street Journal during the same time frame with the search terms “health care,” and “premium.” Articles that only appeared online were not included.

    Using iQ Media, Media Matters searched Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, the largest local news market in Virginia, between May 4 and May 14 and relevant transcripts that included some variation of the terms "health care," "healthcare," "premium," or "insurance" on local CBS, ABC, Fox, and NBC stations. The same search was conducted in Maryland’s largest news market, Baltimore County, between May 7 and May 14. Weekend coverage was not counted.

    Media Matters searched Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC for “health care” or “premium” using SnapStream between the dates of May 4 and May 14 and reviewed all relevant mentions of the expected premium hikes. Mentions were included only if they addressed rising premiums specifically.

    *Each local station varies in its news programming depending on the network and market. For this reason, the number of times the premium rises were mentioned was presented as a proportion of the individual station’s total evening news programming per week.

  • Trump-obsessed media outlets again ignore critical net neutrality news

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    Today, senators voted on a resolution to undo a 2017 move by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to end net neutrality regulations, but major television and print media outlets have devoted little more than a few mentions to the issue.

    This dearth of coverage may stem in part from the distraction of President Donald Trump, as since his election, media outlets have been laser-focused on his statements and actions. Several significant Trump-related stories did break today, but it’s nonetheless obvious that media outlets have done little to address their Trump obsession and prioritize the many other issues that matter to Americans.

    Net neutrality requires internet service providers (ISPs) like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon to give their users equal access to all internet content. Upending these rules means that, for a fee, ISPs can prioritize certain websites, allowing them to load more quickly on their users’ devices, and slow down or even block other sites. As Wired’s Klint Finley explained, “Well-established services from deep-pocketed companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft will likely remain widely available. But net-neutrality advocates argue that smaller companies that don’t have the money to pay for fast lanes could suffer. In other words, protecting net neutrality isn't about saving Netflix but about saving the next Netflix.”

    The FCC, led by Trump-nominated Ajit Pai, decided last year to end net neutrality rules in a move that voters across the political spectrum largely opposed. Leading up to the FCC’s vote, though, many media outlets were shockingly silent on the repercussions of upending consumer protections on internet access.

    As Democratic senators made a last-ditch effort to salvage net neutrality rules -- which passed in the Senate -- coverage by many media outlets is still nowhere to be found.

    Today on national cable news, MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle and Fox Business’ FBN AM mentioned the net neutrality vote in brief headline segments. Fox News aired two segments on The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino and Shepard Smith Reporting, and CNN has not mentioned the vote at all.

    Fox Business and One American News Network, a decidedly pro-Trump outlet known for pushing conspiracy theories, aired full reports of the net neutrality vote. Both of the reports recited Chairman Pai’s debunked talking point that the deregulation will encourage investment in broadband infrastructure and disparaged Democrats for insisting upon the vote at all.

    Additionally, a Nexis search for “net neutrality” produced zero results among the nation’s top newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Post, and USA Today.

  • Homeland Security Secretary uses Fox News interview to lie about violence against border patrol agents

    As the Trump administration moves to house immigrant children in sheds, conservatives aim to gin up sympathy for the detainers

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    On May 16, Fox’s Laura Ingraham hosted Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on The Ingraham Angle for a softball interview in which Nielsen falsely claimed that there has been a 73 percent increase in assaults on border patrol agents. Ingraham’s failure to push back on Nielsen’s lie is representative of Fox’s recent strategy of circulating DHS’ lies in order to help foster sympathy for federal immigration agents who are terrorizing immigrant families.

    Last night on her show, Ingraham played a clip of a Senate hearing in which Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) asked Nielsen about DHS’ new policy that would separate immigrant families at the border and then asked, “How do you as DHS secretary combat ... the emotional push on this?” Nielsen responded, “It is the law,” adding, “For every [immigrant] sob story, we have 73 percent border assault increase. We have people like Kate Steinle. Where is the compassion for the flip side of this conversation?”

    Nielsen’s claim that there has been a 73 percent increase in “border assault,” presumably meaning assaults on Border Patrol agents, is false. According to The Intercept, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), an agency within DHS, has “falsely and grossly inflat[ed] the data” on cases of assault at the southern border, “making it appear to the public that far more agents were assaulted.”

    In the past, Ingraham and Fox News have done their part to hype DHS’ false narrative that agents are under attack and to promote the agency’s brand. Earlier this year, Ingraham and her Fox cohorts spent weeks distorting the facts of Border Patrol agent Rogelio Martinez’s death to claim that he was the victim of a “vicious attack” at the southern border. But evidence indicated that Martinez’s death was an accident, and the FBI said it had “found no evidence of a homicide.” President Donald Trump repeated Fox’s botched reporting during a speech yesterday, calling Martinez’s death “horrific” and “violent.”

    In March, a spokesperson for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) San Francisco field office resigned in protest after being asked to repeat the agency’s lie that “864 criminal aliens and public safety threats remain at large in the community” as a result of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s decision to warn her community about ICE raids. The lie was repeated on Fox throughout February and March, but a correction was never issued.

    And Fox’s morning show, Fox & Friends, repeatedly hosted representatives of Border Patrol-related organizations to praise the hosts for covering the asylum seekers fleeing violence in the “caravan” from Central America as “dangerous criminals” who were “going to come here and break the law.” The show has been criticized by others for this distorted and incendiary coverage.

  • Video: All of Trump's in-person TV interviews in the past year have been with sycophants

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR & DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Ever since President Donald Trump’s disastrous interview with NBC’s Lester Holt on May 11 2017 -- in which he may have admitted to obstructing justice -- Trump has given in-person TV interviews to only friendly journalists who mostly avoid asking tough questions.

    Over the past year, Trump has appeared on television for in-person interviews 14 times and only with fawning reporters. He has given 11 interviews to Fox News and Fox Business, one to Christian Broadcasting Network’s Pat Robertson, one to Trinity Broadcasting Network’s Mike Huckabee, one to CNBC’s Joe Kernen, and one to ITV’s Piers Morgan. Oftentimes, rather than posing hard-hitting questions, the journalists use their time with the president to compliment his performance, criticize the media, and hype his achievements:

    In total, Trump has given 23 interviews to print, TV, and radio outlets since May 11, 2017 -- 17 of which were with reliably sympathetic hosts:

    May 13, 2017: Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro

    June 23, 2017: Fox News’ Ainsley Earhardt

    June 25, 2017: Fox News’ Pete Hegseth

    July 12, 2017: Reuters’ Steve Holland

    July 13, 2017: Christian Broadcasting Networks’ Pat Robertson

    July 19, 2017: The New York Times’ Peter Baker, Michael Schmidt, and Maggie Haberman

    July 25, 2017: The Wall Street Journal’s Gerard Baker, Peter Nicholas, and Michael Bender

    September 28, 2017: Fox News’ Pete Hegseth

    October 3, 2017: Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera

    October 7, 2017: Trinity Broadcasting Network’s Mike Huckabee

    October 11, 2017: Fox News’ Sean Hannity

    October 17, 2017: SiriusXM’s David Webb

    October 17, 2017: Fox News Radio’s Brian Kilmeade

    October 22, 2017: Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo

    October 25, 2017: Fox Business Network’s Lou Dobbs

    November 2, 2017: Fox News’ Laura Ingraham

    December 28, 2017: The New York Times’ Michael Schmidt

    January 11, 2018: The Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Ballhaus, Michael Bender, Peter Nicholas and Louise Radnofsky

    January 17, 2018: Reuters’ Steve Holland, Roberta Rampton, and Jeff Mason

    January 26, 2018: CNBC’s Joe Kernen

    January 28, 2018: ITV’s Piers Morgan

    February 24, 2018: Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro

    April 26, 2018: Fox News’ Ainsley Earhardt, Brian Kilmeade, and Steve Doocy

  • Fox & Friends hardly mentions Russian oligarch’s payments to Trump lawyer Michael Cohen

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Fox News’ flagship morning show, Fox & Friends, breezed past new reports that a shell company used by President Donald Trump’s lawyer and business associate, Michael Cohen, to pay hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels "received payments totaling more than $1 million from an American company linked to a Russian oligarch and several corporations with business before the Trump administration."

    Yesterday, following a tweet from Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenetti, The New York Times reported on financial records that show Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants L.L.C., received “payments last year of about $500,000 from Columbus Nova, an investment firm in New York whose biggest client is a company controlled by Viktor Vekselberg, the Russian oligarch.” Essential Consultants also received payments from various other major companies, including AT&T. CNN noted that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators have questioned Vekselberg, who is close to Vladimir Putin, as part of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

    The potential scope of the corruption here is staggering.

    Fox News has had relatively little coverage of these Cohen developments. It was briefly mentioned on Special Report, but the story was ignored through the network's prime-time lineup, and not again mentioned until Fox News at Night during the 11 p.m. hour, according to a SnapStream search.

    Fox & Friends, which Trump has been known to watch frequently, briefly mentioned the news once throughout the three-hour show. The show spent more time discussing therapy goats:

    Melania Trump’s approval ratings:

    And a “controversy” about high school cheerleaders in New Jersey:

  • Fox brought on an Iraq War booster and anti-Iran hawks to talk about the nuclear deal

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented material that he claimed showed Iran had lied about the objective of its currently inactive nuclear weapons program -- information reportedly already known to American and European leaders -- Fox News almost exclusively hosted guests who hyped Netanyahu’s claims and advocated ending the Iran nuclear deal and taking hawkish positions against Iran.

    On April 30, Netanyahu appeared on Israeli media to present evidence that Iran had been dishonest about its pursuit of nuclear weapons. But as Vox explained, “the nuclear weapons research program he was discussing ended about 15 years ago,” and Netanyahu offered no information to suggest that Iran is violating the 2015 nuclear deal’s provisions restricting its nuclear activities. Iran’s lies about the now-inactive program were already known, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the global nuclear watchdog, have confirmed that there’s no evidence Iran hasn’t complied with the deal, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

    Many saw Netanyahu’s presentation, delivered in English and heavily sprinkled with images and words printed in large text, as an attempt to persuade President Donald Trump to decertify the deal. That interpretation was reinforced when, the following day, Netanyahu himself appeared on Fox & Friends to restate his pitch. (Trump regularly watches the program.)

    Later in the show, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice argued that pulling out of the nuclear deal would be “just fine” and not “the disaster that everybody is talking about.” As a member of the George W. Bush administration, Rice demonstrated a hawkish vision for addressing Middle East affairs, including advocating for the invasion of Iraq. Rice claimed in 2011 that “the intelligence was as clear as any intelligence I've ever seen” that Saddam Hussein had access to weapons of mass destruction (he didn't), and in 2017, she admitted that the U.S.-led interventions in the Middle East and Central Asia were not about spreading democracy, as the Bush administration had claimed they were at the time. Rice also made an appearance on Fox’s The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino later in the day and appeared as a guest on CBS This Morning, each time brushing off the ramifications of ending the deal.

    On America’s Newsroom, Michael Waltz voiced support for exiting the agreement. Waltz was a counterterrorism adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney and now works for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, an organization long known for promoting hawkish Middle East policies, advocating aggressive positions against Iran, and aligning itself with Netanyahu’s Likud party in Israel. Raj Shah, White House principal deputy press secretary, also appeared on America’s Newsroom and denigrated the nuclear deal as “the worst negotiated deal in the history of kind of modern time by this government,” as did Ambassador Dani Dayan, the consul general of Israel in New York, who also appeared later in the show to hype Netanyahu’s presentation.

    Another Netanyahu surrogate, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon, pushed the Israeli prime minister’s talking points on Happening Now. And Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), who has been a vocal opponent of the deal, appeared on Outnumbered Overtime, saying Iran will “get a bomb eventually” because it was “laid out in the plans.”

    Former CIA chief of station Daniel Hoffman and retired Col. Douglas MacGregor were the only guests to appear on Fox to talk about Iran all day who didn’t attack the deal and push Netanyahu’s context-free talking points.

    Additionally, several Fox News contributors themselves overtly pushed for the decertification of the deal, with some falsely claiming that Iran had violated the deal and opened the door for Trump to end it.

  • ICE is wrongly designating immigrants as gang members to deport them -- and conservatives are thrilled

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has repeatedly used ambiguous criteria to wrongfully accuse undocumented Latino immigrants of being affiliated with gangs -- often the brutal, Los Angeles-founded street gang MS-13 -- as a pretense to arrest them. Right-wing media outlets have responded by hyping the narrative of the prevalence in the U.S. of MS-13 to promote ICE.

    There have been a number of reports that ICE uses vague and sometimes overly broad criteria to wrongfully label a person as affiliated with a gang, which allows officers to arrest people without a criminal warrant. The result is unjustified arrests of law-abiding undocumented immigrants and overinflated numbers of how many undocumented immigrants are gang members, which right-wing media broadcast to their audiences without proper context.

    Last week, hosts and guests on Fox News mentioned gangs in the context of immigration on at least five different occasions. The Washington Examiner and Drudge Report also hopped on the bandwagon.

    But according to a CityLab report, gang databases maintained by states and ICE are often “riddled with error.” The report pointed to California’s CalGang database as an example, which has been shown to include “unfounded entries” and “hundreds of names that should have been purged years ago.” Many juveniles were added to this database without being notified, and some of the information in these databases may be violating individuals’ privacy rights, the report states. The New Yorker reported that “ICE identifies someone as a gangster if he meets at least two criteria from a long list that includes ‘having gang tattoos,’ ‘frequenting an area notorious for gangs,’ and ‘wearing gang apparel.’” And The Intercept wrote that “gang documentation is a unilateral designation by law enforcement and is extremely difficult to challenge in criminal court. … Challenging gang classification by law enforcement is more difficult during deportation proceedings because defendants cannot compel the government to disclose the evidence against them as they can in criminal court.”

    As a result of these tactics, ICE has been targeting undocumented immigrants who haven’t been shown to be involved in any criminal activity. Daniel Ramirez Medina, for example, who was supposed to be protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, was placed in ICE custody, supposedly for gang involvement, for more than six weeks before being released. According to The Intercept, “the sum of the evidence is a tattoo on his arm that immigration officials believe is gang related, and statements that he allegedly made in custody” about people he spends time with. Similarly, ICE arrested -- and used excessive force against -- Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez after police erroneously identified him as a gang member. He was left with a fractured shoulder and loss of vision in one eye, and was denied proper medical attention while in custody. The New Yorker reported that because of ICE’s “nebulous indicators,” a teenager in Long Island, NY, was put in deportation proceedings for reasons including that he wore a Brooklyn Nets hat and allegedly performed “a gang handshake.” The third reason was his girlfriend: a 16-year-old U.S. citizen who had been kidnapped by a previous boyfriend after she ended their relationship when she found out he was an MS-13 member. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has argued that the tactic of “using unsubstantiated claims of gang affiliation to illegally detain teenagers” encourages profiling of Latinos, and the organization has filed a lawsuit alleging that federal immigration authorities were “wrongfully arresting Latino teens in New York” based on unfounded gang-related charges.

    Right-wing outlets are uninterested in telling such stories.

    Appearing on Fox News’ America’s Newsroom last week, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) pointed to Operation Raging Bull -- an anti-gang operation led by ICE in 2016 and 2017 -- to demonstrate the alleged pervasiveness of immigrant gang members in the U.S. When that operation concluded, the right-wing media sphere was set ablaze with headlines trumpeting ICE’s arrest of between 200 and 300 gang members (the final count was 214 arrests in the U.S.). But the right-wing media outcry breezed over the fact that more than half of those swept up in ICE’s “gang crackdown” were arrested not on criminal charges but on immigration violations.

    Misinformation about MS-13 is particularly prevalent among right-wing outlets, but mainstream media are also sometimes guilty of dramatizing coverage of the gang. Fordham Law professor John Pfaff once called out The Washington Post for “extrapolat[ing]” facts about MS-13’s presence in Long Island, NY, and Northern Virginia “to the nation as a whole” and warned of “the uncritical acceptance of law enforcement’s narrative.”

  • Wisconsin radio host cites debunked meme to claim Democrats think “the average black voter is stupid”

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    On April 26, conservative radio host John Muir of Green Bay, WI, claimed that “Democrats, many of them, think that the average black voter is stupid” and pointed to a fabricated quote from former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as evidence.

    Muir was taking advantage of Kanye West’s endorsement of far-right commentator Candace Owens, who has made a career out of lying about race and attacking Democrats, to argue that Democrats manipulate black people for their votes. Muir followed up by saying, “Hillary Clinton about 10, 15 years ago came out and talked about how the African-American voter is easily manipulated because they're not intelligent.” This claim appears to derive from an internet meme about Democratic voters that has been debunked: It held that Clinton said in 2005, “Look, the average Democrat voter is just plain stupid. They’re easy to manipulate. That’s the easy part.” And it’s simply not true.

    Muir’s irresponsible commentary comes at a time when some local radio stations across the country have been spreading fake news to their audiences.

    From the April 26 edition of WTAQ’s The John Muir Show:

    JOHN MUIR (HOST): It seems that Democrats, many of them, think that the average black voter is stupid. If you disagree with that statement, I can give you Hillary Clinton about 10, 15 years ago came out and talked about how the African-American voter is easily manipulated because they're not intelligent. And that's one of the leaders of the Democratic Party, or at least was until very recent times. They assume -- the Democrats assume that the African-American voters will not catch onto the manipulation, but many African-Americans do see through it.

    A reader tip contributed to this story.