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Grace Bennett

Author ››› Grace Bennett
  • Cable news is busy speculating about Trump while the Santa Fe shooting fades out of the news

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In recent days, the American public has been deluged with stories about President Donald Trump. Cable news has given these stories nearly wall-to-wall coverage at the expense of reporting on other important news, including the recent shooting at a Santa Fe, TX, high school.

    Donald Trump Jr. met with an emissary for Persian Gulf princes during the election, Trump is reportedly refusing strengthened security on his phone, he’s meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the run-up to a planned but uncertain North Korea summit, and, perhaps most pressingly, he issued a “demand” via Twitter commanding the Department of Justice to “look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes.”

    Cable news is obsessed with these events. At nearly any point in recent days, one could flip to CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News and immediately hear discussion on Trump’s unconventional decision to demand a DOJ investigation via Twitter; a conversation on the likelihood that there was a “spy” in the Trump campaign; or even a diatribe on the “nefarious deeds” of the FBI (on Fox at least). And while these are undoubtedly important issues to report on to some degree, the coverage in actuality has been constant, speculative, and redundant. As cable news continues to focus on Trump-related sagas, other stories aren’t always breaking through, to the detriment of viewers who are missing out on other equally important news -- most pressingly, that of the May 18 shooting at Santa Fe High School, which is quickly fading from cable news.

    The May 18 school shooting left 10 people dead and 10 more wounded, many of them students. The suspected shooter reportedly killed one female student after she had “4 months of problems from this boy” and “repeatedly” turned down his romantic advances. This behavior fits into a pattern of entitled, misogynistic, and rageful men responding with violence to women’s rejections, and it absolutely warrants attention. 

    The attack was the 22nd school shooting in the United States this year and the 288th since 2009, a number that no other major industrialized nation even comes close to meeting. It serves as yet another reminder that the U.S. consistently fails to keep its children safe and refuses to institute commonsense gun safety laws that would help prevent these tragedies.

    Despite the supremely disturbing nature of the shooting and the sickness it reveals in American society, coverage has started to dwindle just a few days after the massacre, fading from the news much quicker than the shooting at a Parkland, FL, high school in February did. While the disparity might be mostly due to the Parkland students’ advocacy, the diminished coverage about Santa Fe allows the massacre to retreat from America’s consciousness, even while the same thing will inevitably happen again elsewhere.

    Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that the media’s single-minded focus on Trump has left other important stories undercovered. Just last week, media outlets all but ignored a pivotal vote on net neutrality, choosing to prioritize Trump-related stories.

    The president’s insistence on making unsubstantiated claims about spies and his readiness to issue presidential orders over social media are both noteworthy and significant. The media has an obligation to report on the activities of the president and to resist normalizing what is at best unconventional -- and at worst highly corrupt -- behavior. However, in an ever-dramatic presidency, news organizations must not lose sight of other pivotal stories in order to offer constant attention to the histrionics of a media-obsessed leader.

  • Fox News virtually ignores report that Saudi, Emirati princes offered assistance to the Trump campaign

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News has almost entirely ignored a recent article published in The New York Times reporting that countries other than Russia may have offered to help the Trump campaign to victory in the 2016 election. According to the Times, a representative of the princes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation, offered Donald Trump Jr. assistance.

    On May 19, The New York Times reported on an August 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Joel Zamel, an Israeli social media expert; Erik Prince, the founder of the private military company Blackwater who reportedly also worked with the UAE in an attempt to establish a communication back channel for Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin; and George Nader, who served as an emissary for the princes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

    According to the Times, Nader informed Trump Jr. at the meeting that the princes were “eager to help his father win election as president.” In the months after this initial gathering, Nader became “a close ally” to Trump campaign advisers, and met frequently with both Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and Michael Flynn, who later served as Trump’s first national security adviser. Special counsel Robert Mueller is now investigating these interactions.

    Despite the significance of the news, Fox has all but ignored the story. Between the publication of the article on May 19 and 11 a.m. on May 21, Fox News mentioned the story only twice, both times in short Sunday afternoon reports.

    Fox’s failure to adequately cover the story is not surprising given the network’s history of ignoring news that could potentially be harmful to the president, especially stories related to the Russia investigation.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of “Saudi,” “Emirates,” “Gulf,” “Nader,” “Prince,” and “Donald Trump Jr.” on Fox News between May 19 and 11 a.m. on May 21. All mentions relevant to the story were included.  

  • 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.

  • Here's what you need to know about the right's theory that the FBI planted a spy in the Trump campaign

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In recent days, many on the right have pushed the claim that the FBI "infiltrated" President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign with a "mole." The claim relies upon the testimony of a co-founder of Fusion GPS, the research firm that hired a former British agent who compiled an intelligence dossier about Trump’s connections to various Russians. The claim also builds off of a recent squabble between the Department of Justice and the chairman of the House intelligence committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), over the release of classified information. Here is what you need to know about the story’s origins:

    • On January 2, Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, the founders of the research firm Fusion GPS, claimed in an op-ed that the FBI had a source “inside the Trump camp” during the 2016 election.

    • On January 9, the transcript from Simpson’s August 2017 Senate testimony was released, revealing that he had told the Senate Judiciary Committee it was his “understanding” that the bureau had an “internal Trump campaign source.” Simpson also testified during the hearing that conversations he had with the author of the dossier about Trump’s Russia connections, Christopher Steele, led him to believe that the FBI had “a human source from inside the Trump organization.”

    • The same day, reporters tweeted that the Trump campaign insider Simpson referred to was George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the campaign, and that the FBI's source was an Australian diplomat who informed U.S. officials that Papadopoulos had mentioned to him receiving Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton in May 2016.

    • Between January 9 and January 10, both The New York Times and The Washington Post reported that the “human source” Simpson had mentioned was allegedly the Australian diplomat, Alexander Downer.

    • On January 18, however, a lawyer for Simpson sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asserting that Simpson “stands by his testimony.” The lawyer stated that Simpson was not withdrawing his claim that Steele had “believed the FBI had another source within the Trump organization/campaign.”

    • On May 8, The Washington Post reported that the DOJ was refusing to hand over information requested by Nunes because it could “endanger a top-secret intelligence source.” The source, according to the Post, had developed information that was “provided to the Mueller investigation.”

    • Two days later, The Wall Street Journal’s Kim Strassel published an op-ed in which she speculated that the FBI may have secretly had a source “who used his or her non-FBI credentials” to interact with the Trump campaign.

      • Strassel wrote in the Journal that the DOJ and the FBI “outright hid critical information from a congressional investigation," which could mean that the FBI had a spy linked to the Trump campaign.
      • Strassel wrote that “When government agencies refer to sources, they mean people who appear to be average citizens but use their profession or contacts to spy for the agency,” asserting that the FBI could have secretly planted a source who interacted with the Trump campaign.
      • ​According to Strassel, any such move on the FBI’s part would “amount to spying.”
      • Strassel also concluded that "Now we find [the FBI] may have also been rolling out human intelligence, John Le Carré style, to infiltrate the Trump campaign."
    • Strassel doubled down on her assertion during a May 11 appearance on Fox News, claiming, “The FBI was using human intelligence to spy on a presidential campaign.”

    Right-wing media is pushing the "spy" theory 

    Radio host Rush Limbaugh claimed he knows “who the spy is” and that this person was “like an operative employed by the FBI to basically entrap somebody who worked with the Trump campaign in a peripheral way.” He also said that Papadopoulos “was entrapped by three people, including the person who is reputed to be the spy."

    Fox’s Sean Hannity argued that there was a spy embedded in the campaign and called the Strassel op-ed a “stunning new development” that raises “serious concerns and questions about the possibility [of] the F.B.I. planting a mole inside the Trump campaign.”

    The hosts of Fox & Friends devoted multiple segments to Strassel’s op-ed and also highlighted Limbaugh’s theory that the FBI planted a “spy” to “entrap” Trump associates. Fox’s Pete Hegseth argued that Limbaugh is “on to something,” and co-host Steve Doocy asked, “Was the FBI out to frame candidate Donald Trump?”  

    Trump sycophant and Fox Business host Lou Dobbs tweeted: “#ExposeTheMole- FBI & DOJ planted an spy in @realDonaldTrump’s 2016 campaign & didn’t tell congressional investigators.”

    During an appearance on Hannity’s radio show, Fox’s Sara Carter claimed, “It appears [the FBI] had somebody that was reporting back on information inside the Trump campaign, which would mean that they had a mole connected to people in the Trump campaign or within the Trump campaign.” Carter repeated the report on Hannity’s prime-time Fox News show, claiming, “Yes, I believe [the FBI] did have an informant, somebody that was reporting back to them.”

    The Daily Caller pushed the narrative in an article about Rep. Ron DeSantis’ (R-FL) appearance on Fox News: “Ron DeSantis Says He May Know Who Was Spying On The Trump Campaign: ‘There Needs To Be Follow Up’.”

    Pro-Trump site The Gateway Pundit ran multiple articles by founder Jim Hoft that pushed the claim, including one in which Hoft claimed to know the “probable” identity of the “spy,” and another that argued there were multiple “deep state” sources.   

    Far-right fringe blog Zero Hedge posted Strassel’s op-ed with the headline, “WSJ: The FBI Hid A Mole In The Trump Campaign,” even though Strassel never claimed the “mole” was actually inside the campaign.

  • The NRA hosted professional sexist Tucker Carlson as the featured speaker at its Women’s Leadership Forum Luncheon

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The National Rifle Association’s annual meeting began on May 3 in Dallas, TX, and will continue until May 6. According to the NRA’s website, the event “features 15 acres of the most spectacular displays of firearms, shooting and hunting accessories in the world.” On May 4, convention guests could choose to attend the Women’s Leadership Forum Luncheon with featured speaker Tucker Carlson, a Fox News host and a professional and virulent sexist.

    The NRA’s decision to host Carlson as a featured speaker is impressively tone-deaf given his long record of belittling women, dismissing sexual harassment, and ridiculing women’s issues, but is perhaps unsurprising given the NRA’s own history of sexism. Carlson often spends his show bemoaning the plight of men (often white men), while dismissing the very real issues faced by women every day. He recently spent Women’s History Month parroting YouTube's most extreme misogynists, arguing that the wage gap doesn't exist, and lamenting society’s treatment of men. Here are a few more examples of Carlson’s boundless sexism:

    • He claimed that Democrats “made up the concept of sexual harassment.”

    • He suggested that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) had met with President Donald Trump because “she’s the prettiest member of Congress,” asking, “What are her qualifications?”

    • He told a Teen Vogue writer she should “stick to the thigh-high boots” and stay away from political writing.

    • He cautioned against having too many female reporters covering female candidates.

    • He suggested that a female president would be “more emotional.”

    • He whined that sexual assault is the only crime "where you would print the name of the accused but not of the accuser."

    Not only is Carlson a dedicated misogynist, but he is also a favorite of white nationalists and frequently espouses racist and xenophobic rhetoric. During his nightly Fox News show, Carlson spends significant time fearmongering about immigration, whining about apparent bias against white people, and defending bigots. He also frequently hosts racists who use his show to espouse their bigotry. Here are several examples of Carlson’s racist rhetoric:

    • He compared affirmative action to Jim Crow policies.

    • He claimed that the lesson of 9/11 is that “not all cultures are equal."

    • He has often defended public figures who’ve made obviously racist remarks.

    • He whined about people pointing out the KKK’s support for Trump, calling them “truly divisive.”

    • He argued that Trump cannot possibly be racist against Puerto Ricans because “Puerto Rico is 75 percent white.”

    • He attempted to paint Mexico and its “offspring of conquistadors” as “far more racist” than the U.S.

    • He claimed, “The American Nazi Party and the KKK don't really exist in a meaningful [way]."

  • Meet Gregg Jarrett, the Fox News analyst whose upcoming book Trump hawked on Twitter this morning

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In a mid-morning tweet, President Donald Trump promoted Fox News analyst Gregg Jarrett’s upcoming book, The Russia Hoax: The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump. Jarrett, who joined Fox News in 2002, is an frequent shill for the president, especially on all matters related to the Russia investigation, and a favorite of Trump propagandist Sean Hannity. The president’s interest in Jarrett’s new book, which he tweeted is “a must read,” is hardly unexpected given Jarrett’s constant, and often legally dubious, explanations for why the Trump team’s actions are legally acceptable and why Trump’s opponents, especially those in the intelligence community, are the real lawbreakers.

    Jarrett’s willingness to shill for the president appears boundless, and his sycophancy has checked all the boxes to earn a coveted spot in a Trump tweet:

    • Jarrett has repeatedly claimed that even if the president or his team colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election, they wouldn’t have broken any laws. During an appearance on Hannity, the Fox analyst went so far as to argue that, because “the Constitution gives us the freedom to freely associate with anybody, including Russians,” “Vladimir Putin, former KGB, could have sat in on that [Donald Trump Jr.] meeting and it wouldn't be a crime.” In another appearance, he said, "It was always a myth that collusion in a political campaign is a crime." Jarrett also claimed, “Even conspiring to subvert the government doesn't rise to the level of treason.”
    • He has defended the idea that the president might fire special counsel Robert Mueller and called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “un-recuse” himself and fire the entire special counsel team.
    • He frequently slanders special counsel Mueller, whom he once accused of sticking “up his middle finger at the justice system.” He aims similar jabs at others who find themselves in the president’s bad graces, such as Sessions and FBI Deputy Director Rod Rosenstein, whom Jarrett described as part of a Justice Department “cartel,” calling it “the equivalent of the mob.”
    • He has argued that former President Barack Obama should be subpoenaed. 
    • Jarrett has described Trump as the real “victim” of Russian collusion.

    In addition to his pro-Trump shilling, Jarrett has frequently spewed misinformation and made cruel, belittling comments on air:

    • Jarrett criticized New York Mets player Daniel Murphy for taking two days of paternity leave when his son was born. Jarrett said that Murphy "is rich. He could have like 20 nannies taking care of his tired wife, and he's got to take off two days? It's absurd. It's preposterous."
    • Jarrett said that he didn’t “mean to be sexist” but still suggested that a female judge could be biased against a male defendant who cheated on his girlfriend. 
    • Jarrett suggested that family members of those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting were pressing for tougher gun control regulations because Obama was "engineering them for political purposes" and "outright manipulating them into taking a stand on a vital constitutional right."
    • Jarrett pushed the myth that former President Ronald Reagan faced a recession that was “equally devastating” to the one Obama encountered.
  • Turning Point USA and Campus Reform are defending a Florida professor with ties to a white nationalist group

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A recent investigation exposed ties between a Florida professor, Marshall DeRosa, and the white nationalist hate group League of the South. DeRosa currently serves as faculty adviser for his university's chapter of the conservative organization Turning Point USA (TPUSA). In response to student activism in the aftermath of the report, TPUSA and fellow conservative organization, Campus Reform -- both of which have recently gained influence in the conservative media echo chamber --  are defending DeRosa and attempting to whitewash his history.

    TPUSA is perhaps best known for a misguided 2017 protest in which its members wore adult diapers to “trigger the libs,” but the organization’s stated mission is to “identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government.” Campus Reform is a project of The Leadership Institute, a decades-old and Koch-funded nonprofit that trains young conservative activists and policy leaders to sell right-wing ideals through seminars on media, fundraising, communications, and campaigning. TPUSA’s website lists The Leadership Institute as one of its “partners.”

    Both TPUSA and Campus Reform have gained prominence in part due to right-wing media’s readiness to offer them a platform. Fox News frequently hosts TPUSA founder and conservative “boy wonder” Charlie Kirk and relies upon Campus Reform’s content (which includes selectively edited videos) to fearmonger about “liberal facism” and the plight of conservative students on college campuses. Other conservative outlets, including Breitbart.com, The Daily Caller, and National Review, have also cited Campus Reform to stir up outrage about American colleges.

    In March, a report by the activist group UnKoch My Campus, which highlights the influence Republican megadonors Charles and David Koch have on colleges and universities, revealed a connection between DeRosa, a Koch-affiliated professor at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), and League of the South (LOS), a white nationalist, neo-confederate group. According to both UnKoch My Campus and The Nation, DeRosa was a “faculty member” at the LOS Institute, the “educational arm” of white-nationalist group League of the South (LOS), from 2000 until at least 2009.

    The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has described LOS as a neo-Confederate hate group dedicated to a second Southern secession and “a society dominated by ‘European Americans.’” Group members participated in the August 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA, and one LOS member has since been charged with viciously beating a black man during the rally.

    DeRosa’s association with LOS isn’t the only damning information to come to light in recent months. After the UnKoch My Campus report was released, students discovered two extremist and bigoted essays that DeRosa had penned on the website of the conservative Abbeville Institute, which was created by the founder of the LOS Institute. In one essay, DeRosa claimed that “linking … slavery with white supremacy is a gross over-simplification” and that, in fact, “black supremacy is the origin of Southern slavery.” In another, DeRosa repeatedly misgendered Olympic gold medalist and reality television star Caitlyn Jenner, asserted that Jenner will “never be a woman,” and called her “somewhat repulsive from a Christian perspective.”

    Since DeRosa’s ideological leanings and former ties to LOS came to light, students at Florida Atlantic University have been protesting his position at the school. Regardless of clear evidence of DeRosa’s unsavory associations and extremist views, however, TPUSA and Campus Reform have defended him throughout the controversy, and attempted to explain away his racist past. The professor himself has attempted to downplay his relationship with the neo-Confederate group. He told The Nation that he “disengaged early on” after he “got an inkling as to some of the characters involved.” But, as experts on LOS told The Nation, it’s unlikely that DeRosa could have spent nine years within the group without recognizing the racist beliefs at the organization’s core. According to SPLC's Heidi Beirich “LOS was different when DeRosa was involved, not as militant, but it still had very, very bad racial views.” She added that DeRosa “can’t scurry away from the fact that for a long time he was a member of a group that had white-supremacist views.”

    Despite this, TPUSA chapter President Morgan Sachs told Campus Reform that the group supports its adviser and added that she is proud of DeRosa for “refusing to back down” in the face of “these false allegations.” University Press wrote that Sachs claimed “she’s used to antagonistic left-wing groups targeting” her organization and that as soon as she saw the posters decrying DeRosa, she covered them with TPUSA “socialism sucks” stickers.

    Campus Reform has run two articles on its website defending DeRosa as a “conservative” and condemning the students protesting his position at the university. The first article, posted March 29, was titled “Flyers defame conservative prof as a 'white supremacist'” and argued that students were smearing DeRosa “over his connection to conservative organizations.” The second post, from April 10, was titled “Students crash faculty meeting to attack conservative prof,” called the protests against DeRosa a “crusade,” and defended the professor, claiming he “has explained that while he was once a faculty member with the League of the South, he cut ties with the group long ago once it began to become more extreme.”

    As the TPUSA and Campus Reform grow more prominent thanks to the platform given to them by right-wing media, the risk only increases of the racist ideologies they excuse and enable being popularized as well.

  • Fox News figures are downplaying Trump’s moves towards a trade war with China

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    As President Donald Trump ramps up a potential trade war with China, Fox News and Fox Business figures have been downplaying the damage his actions could do.

    Since the beginning of 2018, President Donald Trump has been rolling out increasingly aggressive tariffs on Chinese goods. In January, the president announced new tariffs targeting solar panels and washing machines, goods that primarily come from China. In March, he announced further tariffs on steel imports. And this week, the U.S. announced $50 billion worth of new tariffs, prompting the Chinese government to retaliate, placing tariffs on “128 American-made products” and asserting that the U.S. tariffs “violate World Trade Organization rules.”

    Following the news of China imposing retaliatory tariffs, CNN interviewed several economists who expressed concern that the increased economic hostility between the two nations might soon spiral into an all-out trade war. Joseph Brusuelas, chief U.S. economist at accounting and consulting firm RSM, told CNN, “This is a classic lose-lose proposition, no one wins.” After Trump threatened to impose additional tariffs, and the Chinese government promised to respond in kind, experts warned that additional tariffs would hurt both countries.

    Despite experts’ concerns, Fox News and Fox Business figures are downplaying fears of a trade war:

    • On America’s Newsroom, Fox’s Maria Bartiromo dismissed concerns about trade, commenting that she’s “not worried” about trade fears because she looks “at the broader picture.”

    • On Fox News’ Fox & Friends, host Steve Doocy downplayed Trump’s trade moves by claiming, “there are no tariffs,” arguing that “this is the starting point,” and “it’s all a suggestion, it’s all a negotiation.”

    • Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce argued that “this is not about a trade war,” and compared America’s trade deficit with China to “a battered woman situation.” She also asserted that ““this will, in the end, because of Trump’s ability to negotiate, work out well.”

    • During the same broadcast, Fox Business’ Charles Payne claimed that “President Trump [has reminded] us that we’re not in a trade war,” because, “China already won that.”

    • On Fox News Radio's The Brian Kilmeade Show, Fox’s Brian Kilmeade dismissed the possibility of a trade war, claiming, “I do believe this is what we call the pre-fight, and so far, it's hype. It doesn't mean there's actually going to be a Showtime, HBO main event.”

    • Trump sycophant Lou Dobbs dismissed those who claim there is no trade war, claiming that there already is a trade war with China, but the United States simply wasn’t “fighting it until this president arrived in Washington.”

    • Fox Business' Stuart Varney explained away stock market backlash to Trump's tariffs as "an emotional response,” and claimed that “all this talk of a trade war” is “overblown.”

    • Frequent Fox guest Ron Meyer referred to China’s retaliatory tariffs as “minor.”

    • Fox’s Charles Payne claimed that the stock market drop following the announcement of China’s retaliatory tariffs was actually Wall Street “not only overreacting but trying to intimidate the White House."

    • On America’s Newsroom, Bartiromo claimed that she’s “not afraid of a trade war.” and that Trump’s actions are “more of a negotiation.”

    • During an appearance on America’s Newsroom, Payne dismissed fears about a trade war by claiming “we’re already in a trade war. We have been fighting with one hand behind our backs.”

    • On Fox News’ Outnumbered, Fox’s Geraldo Rivera argued that China’s retaliatory tariffs were insignificant and represented “chump change,” and expressed his confusion about why the market responded “so emotionally” to China’s tariffs.

    • During the same broadcast, Fox’s Trish Regan expressed her dismay at unfair Chinese trade policies, and said, “If it takes throwing around the idea of a few tariffs … maybe that works. Maybe it is, indeed, the art of the deal.”

    • Fox’s Sean Hannity dismissed concerns about a trade war on his radio show, claiming, “I don’t think there’s ever going to be a trade war.”

    • On Fox News’ Outnumbered, Fox’s Dagen McDowell defended Trump’s “approach with China,” claiming that there is a “method to this madness,” and that we don’t know if these “tariffs will ever be put in place.

  • This is what it sounds like when right-wing media figures talk about Martin Luther King Jr.

    In the last year, they’ve compared King to Trump and misrepresented his legacy 

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS & GRACE BENNETT

    On April 4, 1968, civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, TN. Fifty years later, most of the United States remember King for his tireless efforts toward achieving racial equality and his leadership during the civil rights movement. But in the last year alone, various right-wing media figures have misrepresented King’s legacy and invoked his name to push for their own interests. Here is what they’ve had to say about the King in the last year:

    • Former CNN commentator Jeffrey Lord twice compared President Donald Trump to King. He told CNN viewers to “think of President Trump as the Martin Luther King of health care,” and then doubled down on that comparison, claiming Trump and King used similar “strategy.”

    • Lord then penned an op-ed for The American Spectator in which he claimed that identity politics -- “the grandson of slavery” -- “is merely the modern version of the segregation that King would give his life fighting to end.” Lord also scolded the NAACP for being insufficiently grateful to Trump after “black unemployment had hit its lowest level on record.”

    • Fox’s Pete Hegseth attacked King’s 9-year-old granddaughter, who spoke at the March For Our Lives: “Her grandfather, Martin Luther King, did so much for this country, but she's saying, ‘I dream of a world without guns.’ It's like, I dream of a world without Islamists, too.”

    • Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones compared himself to King, claiming, “I’m one of the biggest proponents of nonviolence [along with] Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.”

    • Fox’s Neil Cavuto questioned whether King would have recoiled at Confederate statues, asking King’s niece Alveda King, “Did your dad or uncle have anything to say about growing up in the Atlanta area and the South where there were a lot of these statues back then -- did they recoil at them? Did they hate them?” King’s niece replied, “There was never a recoiling.”

    • Pro-Trump writer Jacob Wohl compared Trump to King, tweeting: “President Trump, like Martin Luther King, is a civil rights icon.” Wohl also argued that “Martin Luther King would be a Trump Supporter” and recycled a favorite right-wing claim that the Democratic Party was the party that “opposed Abraham Lincoln, founded the KKK, supported segregation and attacked Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

    • Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson tweeted, “Modern ‘progressive’ activists & #BlackLivesMatter supporters oppose everything Martin Luther King stood for. Judge people on the content of their character, not the color of their skin.”

    • Fox opinion contributor Jeremy Hunt wrote, “Please stop politicizing Martin Luther King Day. It's a day for national unity, not political division. … On a day designed for public service and national unity, some in the media insist on making it about politics.”

    • The New York Post's editorial board wrote, “Race is no longer a barrier to elective office, let alone to voting,” and added that King would be “distressed by today’s hypersensitivity and growing political correctness that have made honest dialogue and discussions of race and other issues nearly impossible.”

    • During a white nationalist rant, Alex Jones compared King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech to the rise of Trump-ism in America: “It’s just incredible that we’re in the middle of this epic historical battle. And Trump’s right when he said this is the new American moment. This is like Martin Luther King 'I Have a Dream' speech.”

    • The Atlantic’s Kevin Williamson wrote, “Using King’s moral stature to promote socialism or global-warming legislation in 2018 is morally and intellectually dishonest.”

  • While covering teacher walkouts in Oklahoma and Kentucky, Fox News didn’t host any teachers

    CNN has hosted teachers and educators 10 times. MSNBC hosted them 17 times.

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Thousands of teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky have staged protests and walkouts over the last several days, demanding better funding for their schools, higher pay, and pension protections. A Media Matters study found that both CNN and MSNBC have offered a live platform for teachers and education experts to explain the walkouts and their demands, while Fox News has failed to host a single educator or education expert, featuring Oklahoma's governor as the sole guest to talk about the issue.  

    On Friday, March 30, hundreds of teachers across Kentucky called out sick to protest proposed cuts to their pensions. Their protests continued into this week, and they were joined by thousands of Oklahoma teachers, whose walkout forced almost half of the state’s 500-plus school districts to close. The teachers are demanding raises for themselves, as well as a pay increase for support staff and millions more in funding for their woefully underfunded schools. Educators in Kentucky and Oklahoma were inspired to protest by teachers in West Virginia, whose statewide nine-day strike in March led to the teachers winning all five of their demands, including a pay increase. The current walkouts are a significant national development, and national media coverage has allowed teachers to shine a light on the calamitous condition of their public schools and the obstacles they face every day as educators.

    But coverage on Fox News has entirely excluded the voices of teachers, outside of brief clips in packaged reports. Between midnight April 2 and noon on April 3, Fox News hosted only one guest to discuss the walkouts in Oklahoma and Kentucky, Oklahoma Republican Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, who said he supports a pay raise for teachers and increased classroom funding but also made clear that he opposes tax increases to pay for them.

    By contrast, CNN and MSNBC have interviewed numerous educators and education experts, offering them a platform to explain their demands and the conditions of their schools. CNN hosted teachers seven times, as well as the president of the National Education Association, the president of the Kentucky Education Association, and the president of the Oklahoma Education Association. MSNBC hosted teachers 10 times, as well as the president of the National Education Association, the president of the Oklahoma Education Association, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, a professor of education at UCLA, and the author of a bestselling book about the history of teaching in America.

    CNN also ran a packaged report that profiled multiple teachers, who explained that they are forced to work extra jobs and use soup kitchens in order to make ends meet:

    Teachers and education advocates have been the driving force behind the walkout movement and are, along with students, the people most affected by and best able to speak on the issues facing the U.S. education system. As such, their voices should be centered during any discussion of the walkouts. While CNN and MSNBC offered their viewers the pivotal perspective of educators and education experts, Fox News (not for the first time) failed to highlight the most important voices in the story.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Snapstream from midnight April 2 until noon April 3 for “Oklahoma,” “Kentucky,” and “strike” on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. We reviewed and coded relevant segments for guests who were interviewed live.