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Grace Bennett

Author ››› Grace Bennett
  • WSJ editorial board published a hit piece against striking Los Angeles teachers 

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Tens of thousands of teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) went on a strike on Monday, January 14. The same day, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board published an editorial attacking the local teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), and suggesting that teachers are both unrealistic and selfish.

    The educators began their strike after months-long contract negotiations with the district failed. Among the union’s demands are smaller class sizes; more support staff such as nurses, librarians, and academic counselors; a 6.5 percent pay raise; and better regulation of charter schools in the district. Class sizes in Los Angeles high schools often exceed 45 students, and almost 80 percent of schools in the district don’t have full-time nurses on staff. And while California is the fifth largest economy in the world, it ranked 40th in the nation in per-pupil spending in 2017. The strike follows a year of educators activism across the country -- teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, and Colorado all walked out last year, and many won hard-fought concessions for themselves and their students.

    Not everyone is supportive of the teachers’ strike for better funding, however, as The Wall Street Journal proved in a January 14 editorial titled “Unions in La-La Land.” In the piece, the Journal’s editorial board suggested that both the district and the state are so overburdened by paying for teachers’ pensions and health care plans that they could not possibly afford to meet the union’s demands. The editorial noted that the district commands a $1.8 billion reserve -- money that teachers want to see put toward better school resources -- but claimed that the district is “spending about $500 million more each year than its annual revenue,” suggesting that it is creeping “toward insolvency due to unaffordable labor contracts.” The Journal published an op-ed that same day by LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner, who similarly claimed that the district would go bankrupt if it attempted to meet union demands and suggested that the real issue inadequate funding from the state government.

    Teachers and UTLA representatives have repeatedly explained why they don’t find the argument that there isn’t enough money credible, especially in the face of underfunded and overextended classrooms -- but you won’t read about that in the Journal’s editorial. UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl told CNN that the union is in contact with the governor’s office about the need for more state funding, but he also claimed that the district has “always been wrong in [its] projections” of its monetary reserves size. In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Caputo-Pearl wrote, “Three years ago, district officials projected that the 2017-18 reserve would be $105 million. They were off by more than $1.7 billion.” He also noted that over the past five years the district has overestimated its spending on books and other supplies “to the tune of hundreds of millions, meaning more money is available.” It also bears mention that some of the union’s demands wouldn’t cost the district any money -- including  reducing standardized testing and giving parents more control over how money is spent at their children's’ schools -- but the Journal’s editorial didn’t address these demands at all.

    The editorial also complained that the teachers union campaigned for “soak the wealthy” tax increases to raise money for education that was instead spent on teacher pensions. But while pensions are undoubtedly a big expense for the state, they’re necessary not just as compensation for years of educating students, but as important tools for recruiting new teachers -- a particularly crucial task given the nation’s teacher shortage and the extremely high housing and cost-of-living expenses in California. While the editorial repeated Beutner’s talking point that “schools can’t spend money they don’t have,” it didn’t once mention that Southern California’s inflation rate is at a 10-year high, or that California ranks 47th in student-to-teacher ratio, or that its student-to-counselor ratio is 945:1.

    The editorial concluded by criticizing the teachers union for calling for increased regulation of charter schools, claiming that “the union wants to stop” their expansion “lest [they] embarrass the failing results in union-run schools.” While it managed to malign public school teachers, the editorial didn’t find space to mention that charter schools in the district expanded 287 percent between 2005 and 2015 and cost nearly $600 million, money that is drained away from public schools, each year. As Los Angeles public school teacher Adriana Chavira explained, competition from charters -- which operate with less oversight and regulations than traditional public schools -- is draining the public system and leading to lower enrollment, less funding, and fewer resources for students.

    The Journal’s assault on the teachers union shouldn’t come as a surprise given the paper’s regular hostility toward unions in general, and teachers unions specifically. But the editorial does a great disservice to the paper’s readers -- not to mention teachers and their students -- by ignoring the sorry state of Los Angeles schools to focus on an anti-union screed.

  • Right-wing media attack Rep. Ilhan Omar for something she never said

    Omar criticized Sen. Lindsey Graham, and right-wing media accused her of homophobia

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On January 15, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) shared a video of a 2015 CNN interview in which Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called then-candidate Donald Trump “a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot,” commenting that Graham had since been “compromised.” (Her tweet was a retweet of another that linked to the video, noting, “I can’t even imagine what they have on Graham.”) Two days later, Omar clarified her comments on CNN, arguing that Graham’s shift in rhetoric on Trump over the past three years is evidence that he is “compromised to no longer stand up for the truth.” Some right-wing media figures twisted Omar’s tweet and claimed that the congresswoman was suggesting Graham was being blackmailed over his sexuality.

    Omar did not come close to making this argument. In fact, during her interview with CNN she suggested three things that could be held over Graham’s head in order to change his behavior: “his funding when it comes to running for office,” polling information from his district, and leadership positions in the Senate. But that didn’t stop Breitbart and right-wing media figures from putting words in her mouth. Tom Elliott, founder of the TV monitoring platform Grabien, tweeted Omar’s interview in which she explained her original tweet, but still suggested that she had claimed Trump was blackmailing Graham over “his homosexuality.” (Graham has previously said that he is not gay.)

    Many right-wing figures picked up Elliott’s tweet and ran with it:

    • Radio host Buck Sexton claimed Omar insinuated “Graham is gay to undermine him, which is grossly homophobic.”

    • Conservative host Steve Deace shared Elliott’s tweet and added: “Just imagine if this were an evangelical Republican saying this on television about a Democrat’s sexual proclivities…”

    • Commentary magazine’s Noah Rothman also shared Elliott’s tweet and commented: “The best part about this clip is that it begins with Omar offering some unobjectionable bromide about ‘inclusive societies.’”

    • Conservative CNN host S.E. Cupp also retweeted Elliott, writing, “This is ignorant, homophobic and unacceptable, @IlhanMN. Democrats, this is becoming a very bad look.”

    • Mediaite’s Pardes Seleh: “A sitting member of congress publicly theorizing, with ZERO basis, that senator lindsay graham is secretly gay and trump is blackmailing him for being gay. watch this video and tell me she doesn't sound like a kook.”

    • The Daily Wire’s Amanda Prestigiacomo: “Homegirl is batshit crazy pushing homophobic conspiracy theories abt Graham.”

    • Other right-wing media figures, including right-wing troll Jack Posobiec, Newsmax’s Joe Walsh, and National Review’s Rich Lowry re-tweeted Elliott and wrote disapproving comments without noting that the original tweet was fallacious. Fox’s Lisa Booth replied to Elliott’s tweet, writing, “WTH is wrong with this woman. This is reprehensible.”

    Many journalists and media figures pushed back on the lie.

    Omar herself responded to the bad-faith criticism:

    Intercept columnist Mehdi Hasan added:

    The Atlantic's Adam Serwer pointed to another reason right-wing voices were eager to run with a lie about Omar:

    Serwer also added that Graham is just "acting like a Republican" and is not being coerced.

  • Fox & Friends botches concept of marginal rates, claims Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants to take 70 percent of people’s paychecks

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    During the January 14 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-host Ainsley Earhardt incorrectly said in an interview with conservative writer Michael Goodwin that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) “will tax 70 percent of your paycheck if [she] gets her way.” In reality, Ocasio-Cortez floated the idea of a 70 percent marginal tax rate on incomes over $10 million -- the key word being marginal.

    As Ocasio-Cortez  explained to Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes, a marginal tax “doesn’t mean all $10 million are taxed at an extremely high rate,” but rather that some of top-earners’ income would be taxed at a higher rate after it passed a certain threshold. As Vox pointed out, “The United States used to have many more tax brackets, and the top marginal tax rates were extremely high.” Ocasio-Cortez’s suggested rate is actually lower than the 91 percent marginal rate top earners paid under President Dwight Eisenhower and right on par with the 70 percent marginal rate in effect under Presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

    Fox & Friends’ distortion of Ocasio-Cortez’s words isn’t surprising given Fox’s obsession with the freshman congresswoman and the network’s abject bias toward tax plans that benefit the rich.

    From the January 14 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Why are the Democrats -- what’s the appeal to race even farther to the left?

    MICHAEL GOODWIN (NY POST): Look, I mean, we're seeing it in the states like Gavin Newsom as we just saw in California --

    EARHARDT: Taxing water.

    GOODWIN: Yeah, Bill de Blasio here in New York City wants free Medicaid, paid vacations for every private employee. You see it certainly, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, on the border -- “There’s no problem, no big issue there, let's move along.” And of course Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who wants the New Green Deal and Medicaid for all. I mean, Medicare for All.

    EARHARDT: 70 percent tax.

    GOODWIN: Yeah, this is now what I call sort of the race to crazy land. Everybody on the left is acting as if there’s no history here. That we can, government can take all private property and redistribute it. It’s the great redistribution race that they're in and we're seeing it up and down the Democratic Party. And I think what it says is, it’s two things. Why? First is that, I think, Bernie Sanders was pretty successful in 2016 with this kind of socialist approach to free college tuition, Medicare for All. I think a lot of people saw that as the new wave of the party. And then secondly, I think, it is this rage against Donald Trump.

    EARHARDT: And some Democrats saying they're even open to illegals getting a chance to vote, to go to the polls and vote.

    GOODWIN: Oh sure. Look this is happening --

    EARHARDT: How do they have so much support though? Because when you hear they are going to tax 70 percent of your paycheck if Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gets her way, how do they have so much support? That’s a lot money for people to give back to the government.

    GOODWIN: I think a lot of it is ignorance. I frankly think American young people today are not being educated properly in schools. They don't know the history of our country. They don't know the history of other countries. They don't understand economics. Ocasio-Cortez, she is charming and delightful in many ways. She got an economics degree from Boston University and she clearly doesn't understand how the unemployment rate works. She said that it’s low because so many people have two jobs. Now, how do you get an economics degree from a major college and not understand that that’s not how the unemployment rate works? How is that possible? I think that is what we're seeing. Civics isn't being taught. So people don't understand government, they don't understand the economy.

  • CBS and NBC embrace both sides-ism in coverage of Trump’s dishonest address 

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    CBS This Morning and NBC’s Today Show embraced “both sides-ism” in their reporting on President Donald Trump’s misleading Oval Office address and the Democratic rebuttal. The networks attempted to paint Trump and Democratic leaders as equally responsible for the prolonged government shutdown and implied that both sides were lying to the American people.

    On January 9, CBS This Morning host Norah O’Donnell lamented that while Trump “did not offer any new proposals last night, … neither did the Democratic leaders.” She also complained to her co-hosts that “all that time that was spent preparing for these speeches, if they had actually spent time talking to each other and working out a deal, that would have served the people that put them in office a lot better.”

    This framing suggests that Democrats and Republicans are equally at fault for the shutdown and that both sides should be condemned for failing to reach a compromise. In reality, however, the shutdown is a direct result of Trump’s insistence that Democrats offer up billions of dollars to build a structure that even some Republicans say would be useless. Democrats have repeatedly demonstrated their desire to reopen the government and discuss funding for border security, and they even agreed to a deal that would have kept the government open until February 8 and provided more than $1 billion for border security -- a compromise the president walked away from. Trump, not Democratic leaders, is responsible for holding the government hostage over a border wall -- a role he embraced happily just last month when he said, "I am proud to shut down the government for border security.”

    NBC’s Today Show began its coverage of Trump’s speech and the Democratic response by promising to “fact-check the claims on both sides” suggesting the possibility of similar dishonesty by Trump, a famous and prolific liar, and Democratic leaders. But while NBC’s Peter Alexander listed several specific lies in Trump’s address, NBC’s Kristen Welker mentioned only two points: that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats voted for a bill in 2006 that authorized fencing at the border, and that Democrats “were well aware”  that the recent spending bill passed by the Democratic House had no chance in the Senate without border wall funding. Directly and repeatedly lying to the country is clearly not the same thing as voting for a bill more than a decade ago -- nor is it comparable to pushing legislation without wall funds -- yet NBC’s framing suggested that both sides’ claims were similarly dishonest.

    Welker also commented that, “like the president, [Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi] offered no new ideas, instead making it clear they’re still deeply dug in.” This suggested, like CBS’ report did, that Democrats are at fault for a lack of compromise -- even as Trump continues to stonewall negotiations over his unpopular and unrealistic proposal.

    While CBS and NBC dropped the ball, ABC’s Good Morning America did a better job covering Trump’s address without giving in to the temptation to present both sides “equally.”

    Both sides-ism has been a plague on political news and analysis for years, and it played an especially sinister role in the 2016 election. News outlets pretending that both sides have equally legitimate points and faults in every disagreement is both intellectually and morally dishonest -- and that dishonesty is bad for journalism and the country.

  • Laura Ingraham’s radio show has ended. The world will be a better place without it.

    Unfortunately, Ingraham’s extremism will still be available on her new podcast

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After 17 years of torturing Americans’ ears, Laura Ingraham’s radio show finally came to an end this December. The weekday show has long served as a safe space for the Fox News host and her guests to make cruel jokes, practice racism, demonize immigrants, and push wild conspiracy theories. The world will be better off without it.

    Unfortunately, Ingraham’s cruelty and racism will still have a home on her Fox News show and her new podcast beginning next month. But for now, we can bid a happy farewell to a truly awful program by remembering some of its most repulsive moments.

    Ingraham’s show bullied and slandered immigrants and refugees constantly

    Ingraham fawned over Donald Trump’s bigoted rhetoric on immigration; she defended his calls for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, and even argued that the ban was “not broad enough,” claiming that she would “go farther” and be “even worse than Trump.”

    She asserted that “Middle Eastern countries have got to be told… we’re cutting you off,” questioned why the U.S. should allow Muslim immigration ”knowing that we can't tell if an Islamic individual is going to be radicalized," and said the U.S. should only accept refugees “who we can verifiably say are Christians. … But all these other people, they've got to stay in the Middle East.”

    She fearmongered about Muslim immigrants as “people who have dual loyalties … whether it's the Quran, or the Quranic way of thinking, versus the loyalties to the United States.”

    Ingraham claimed that Trump’s assertion that Mexico is “sending rapists” is true, and stated that Mexicans “have come here to murder and rape our people.”

    She parroted Trump in claiming that “nobody has a right to be here except the people who are born here,” and said the United States should shoot deported immigrants if they try to re-enter the country.

    After the Trump administration adopted a policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border, Ingraham compared child detention centers to “a public schoolyard,” and she called it “hilarious” that people were upset about children being held in cages -- after previously ridiculing peoples’ concern for immigrant families torn apart by deportation.

    During a segment with far-right extremist and noted Adolf Hitler fan Pat Buchanan, the two compared immigration reform to appeasing Hitler.

    Ingraham suggested that “we could do a lot to enforce our immigrations laws” by a partial repeal of the 14th amendment “to end birthright citizenship.”

    In response to an activist claiming that 1,100 people were going to be deported that day, Ingraham wished, “If only.”

    She compared pro-DACA protesters to “wild dogs.”

    On 2016 World Refugee Day, Ingraham said “rural towns are now being flooded with these refugees” who are bringing a “litany of infectious diseases” to the U.S. She has also suggested that migrant children may spread drug “resistant forms of TB” to “public school kids across this country,” and she claimed the recent caravan of migrants was bringing “crime” and “disease.”

    She complained that “Spanish-language media” are teaching undocumented immigrants “how to avoid deportation.”

    She claimed that “Northern Virginia is a problem” because “we have mosques going up. We have a mass influx of illegal immigrants in Virginia. We have mass resettlement of Central America and Mexico in Northern Virginia.”

    She hyped fears of terrorism about Muslim refugee women, asking: “What’s underneath that burqa, baby?”

    Ingraham insisted that English “should be the national language of this country,” and asserted that immigrants should only be here if they’re “speaking our language.

    She complained that “dual immersion classes in Spanish” being taught in U.S. schools make you “think you’re in a foreign country,” and she said that multilingual schools are "costing the good people -- Catholics, Christians -- that’s costing them opportunities and money."

    She accused U.S. judges of "aiding and abetting" human traffickers and drug cartels by granting due process to immigrants.

    She claimed that “illegal immigration” has led to a “transformation electorally” in American communities.

    Ingraham and her guests spread casual racism and bigotry

    Ingraham complained that NFL players who kneeled in protest of police brutality were “bratty” and “using the excuse of Black Lives Matter” to “disrespect the country,” and she also claimed that “a lot of these guys are punks.”

    She criticized former President Barack Obama’s response to the 2014 Ebola epidemic, claiming that his “core ties to the African continent” were putting public safety at risk. She also suggested Obama was purposely exposing American troops to the Ebola virus to “atone” for colonialism

    Ingraham argued that affirmative action is "shafting people who are not of the appropriate color, or background, or ethnicity.” She hosted right-wing commentator Heather Mac Donald on the program, who similarly insisted that affirmative action “brings in students to schools who are not qualified.”

    Ingraham attacked “the toxic effect of Univision and Telemundo,” calling them “Hispanic-centric networks” that “revile the American experience.”

    She had a habit of making offensive and extremely stupid comparisons, once comparing a school reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic to “skinheads” reciting it, and another time comparing the surveillance of mosques to police wearing body cameras.

    She noted that she doesn’t “think of Jewish people as minorities because they’re so successful.”

    She mocked MSNBC host Jose Diaz-Balart for translating for a Spanish-speaking guest.

    She aired a war cry sound effect while complaining that Trump didn’t use a different ethnic slur when calling Sen. Elizabeth Warren [D-MA] “Pocahontas.”

    After then-gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis (R-FL) warned Florida voters to not “monkey this up” by electing his Black Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum, Ingraham defended him while she played a song called “Shock the Monkey.” She also complained that “apparently if you’re white, you just can’t criticize an opponent at all.”

    In “celebration” of the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech, she used the sound of a gunshot to cut off a sound bite of civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), whose skull was infamously fractured by a state trooper while marching with King on "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, AL, in 1965.

    She ranted that “shouting in Arabic” on a plane makes people “quite nervous, and for good reason.”

    Ingraham’s occasional co-host Raymond Arroyo suggested that money spent on housing migrants should be used in the “inner city … teaching people how to be hygienic, how to be clean.” Ingraham agreed, saying “we're pouring money down a rathole because of an open border.”

    Ingraham made wild, baseless claims and pushed conspiracy theories

    After the October 2017 mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival, she suggested that photos of the gunman’s room were staged and that he was in too “poor health” to have acted alone.

    Before the 2016 election, Ingraham implied that Hillary Clinton may try to kill then-FBI Director James Comey if she won.

    Ingraham pushed a discredited conspiracy theory that a Democratic National Committee staffer was murdered for leaking the hacked 2016 DNC emails.

    After Christine Blasey Ford accused then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, Ingraham argued that “George Soros is involved” because Ford’s “social media was scrubbed.” She also claimed -- without offering any evidence -- that Ford’s accusations were “a left-wing conspiracy.”

    She routinely defended those accused of sexual assault and launched chauvinistic and sexist attacks against women

    Ingraham viciously attacked Ford and suggested that her “former boyfriends” should be contacted in connection to her accusations against Brett Kavanaugh. She also defended Kavanaugh at length and attempted to make the story about how “precarious” and “unfair” it is to be a man today.

    She accused anti-Kavanaugh protesters of being "hopped up on drugs," and said they would have physically assaulted Sen. Susan Collins [R-ME] if given the opportunity.

    She cast doubt on credible accusations of child sexual abuse by then-Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, arguing that “just because The Washington Post has decided to take someone out, don't jump on the grave prematurely.”

    She complained that Anita Hill, who accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in 1991, is “still dining out” on a “false allegation.”

    She suggested that teenage girls should dress modestly to avoid “date rape” and “misogynistic behavior.”

    She insisted that “a very compelling case could be made that” the women’s movement for reproductive freedom “has set women back,” and she called Planned Parenthood employees “heinous, Hitlerian freaks.”

    During the 2016 election campaign, she complained that Hillary Clinton “always wants to play the damsel in distress,” and argued that a Clinton-Warren ticket would turn off “every male voter in the United States.”

    While discussing former First Lady Michelle Obama’s comments on food insecurity in America, Ingraham said that “one of [Obama’s] daughters apparently is not living in a food desert.” The show’s producer later played Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” during a segment about a fellow Fox pundit calling Michelle Obama fat.

    She compared looking at former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to looking at “gruesome” pictures of Osama Bin Laden’s corpse.

    The show was chronically vicious toward the LGBTQ community, especially transgender people

    Ingraham has repeatedly attacked trans people's right to use transgender-inclusive restrooms. She claimed she doesn’t let her daughter use transgender-inclusive bathrooms by herself and suggested that people should literally wear diapers rather than share restrooms with transgender people.

    She claimed that giving hormone treatment to transgender children is “child abuse,” and lamented that schools are teaching that being transgender is “acceptable.”

    She questioned whether the military is paying for transgender people to “cut their private parts to death.”

    During an appearance on Ingraham’s show, Fox’s Tucker Carlson claimed that transgender equality is just a “solution in search of a problem.”

    Ingraham attacked nondiscrimination protections for transgender people, and also claimed that nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people are a “victory against religious liberty” that “Karl Marx would be very happy” to see.

    She expressed concern that opponents of same-sex marriage would face discrimination

    She likened same-sex marriage to state-validated incest.

  • This North Carolina TV station has been expertly covering local election fraud

    Charlotte’s WSOC has offered comprehensive coverage throughout the saga 

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, allegations of election fraud have been deemed serious enough that a bipartisan election board has refused to certify the unofficial Republican win, with state officials investigating reports that hundreds of absentee ballots from voters in Bladen and Robeson counties “were illegally cast or destroyed.” Despite the seriousness of the accusations, Fox News -- which usually trips over itself to focus on “voter fraud” -- has virtually ignored the story. Meanwhile, Charlotte television station WSOC, led by political reporter Joe Bruno, has skillfully taken the lead on covering the evolving story.

    WSOC began reporting on the story as soon as the bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement first refused to certify the election results on November 27, reporting that the board was investigating “possible fraud or corruption.”

    The following day, Bruno, who has also been dutifully chronicling the story on Twitter, tweeted that the crux of the board’s investigation had to do with “irregularities involving absentee ballots.” In a segment later that night, WSOC’s Liz Foster reported on both this development and a response to the board’s decision from Republican Mark Harris, whom the unofficial count showed defeating Democrat Dan McCready by less than 1,000 votes.

    On November 29, Bruno was the first to report on the the content of six sworn affidavits regarding the investigation that were submitted to the election board. On WSOC, Bruno explained that the documents suggest a man named Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. may have hired up to 80 people to illegally collect and even fill out voters’ absentee ballots, potentially while working for the Harris campaign.

    On November 30, Bruno conducted several on-the-ground interviews with the people who gave the affidavits. WSOC aired highlights of the interviews, which included a man saying a woman in a Mark Harris T-shirt came to his house to collect mail-in ballots.

    Bruno reported that Dowless, the man at the center of the scandal, has done get-out-the-vote work for other candidates and has previously served jail time for perjury and fraud. Bruno also noted that in the primary election, Republican candidate Harris received a surprising 96 percent of Bladen County absentee mail-in votes, and in 2016, Republican candidate Todd Johnson, who finished third in the primary race, received 98 percent of Bladen County absentee mail-in votes while Dowless was doing get-out-the-vote work for him.

    On December 3, Bruno was the first to speak to an absentee ballot witness who said Dowless hired her to collect ballots and deliver them to him. The woman told Bruno that she doesn’t know with certainty whether the votes were counted. She claimed that Dowless was working for Harris and the Republican candidate for sheriff, Jim McVicker.

    WSOC’s reporting suggests that a partisan operative potentially on the payroll of multiple Republican campaigns directed people to collect and possibly destroy or fill out voters’ ballots, which is deeply concerning. And in a race as close as this, it’s possible that election fraud could have changed the result. As multiple national sources have relied on Bruno and WSOC in their own reporting, the station’s comprehensive coverage is another reminder of the importance of investing in local news and on-the-ground reporters.  

  • Despite an obsession with “voter fraud,” Fox News has virtually ignored possible election fraud in North Carolina 

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District -- where Republican Mark Harris seemingly defeated Democrat Dan McCready by less than 1,000 votes -- allegations of election fraud have been deemed serious enough that a bipartisan election board has refused to certify the results. Instead, the bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement voted to hear evidence about “claims of irregularities and fraudulent activities” in the election. Fox News has almost completely ignored the allegations, despite the network’s usual interest in baseless fearmongering about “voter fraud.”

    In the aftermath of the November election, state officials are investigating reports that hundreds of absentee ballots from 9th District voters in Bladen and Robeson counties “were illegally cast or destroyed.” One Bladen County voter, Datesha Montgomery, recounted that a woman came to her door and said she was collecting ballots in the area. When Montgomery explained that she had completed votes for only two of the races, the woman remarked that the other races weren’t important and said that she would finish the ballot for Montgomery. It is illegal in North Carolina to take someone else’s ballot and turn it in.

    Additionally, a significant percentage of absentee ballots were requested but not cast in Bladen and Robeson counties -- more so than in any other county in the 9th District -- and Raleigh's The News & Observer found that “the unreturned ballots are disproportionately associated with minority voters.” In light of such accusations, election experts in North Carolina have noted that the Republican candidate received an unexpected proportion of absentee ballot votes in Bladen County: Harris received 61 percent of mail-in votes, but, as The New Yorker points out, only 19 percent of voters in Bladen County are registered Republicans. While the state’s election board hasn’t officially accused anyone of wrongdoing at this point, its refusal to certify the election results suggests that the board takes seriously the possibility that partisan actors collected and trashed absentee ballots of 9th District voters, possibly even filling out and casting ballots for them.

    Despite the extremely serious nature of these allegations, and the wealth of evidence backing them up, Fox News has almost entirely ignored the story.

    Fox has mentioned the allegations only once on air since the state election board announced it was investigating the results on November 27. Host Bret Baier spent less than 30 seconds discussing the story on Fox’s Special Report, but he did note that the state election board voted “to hear evidence on alleged absentee ballot irregularities.” Fox also posted one article about the story and one associated video on FoxNews.com.

    Fox’s close-lipped stance is particularly noteworthy given the network’s major focus on right-wing allegations of voter fraud. Fox is more than happy to push dubious or baseless allegations of fraud and then quietly move on once they fall apart. For years, Fox guests and hosts have spewed voter fraud conspiracy theories, some of which are rooted in obvious racism, and many of which are used to argue for voter suppression tactics. The vast majority of Fox’s accusations fall flat, largely because in-person voter impersonation fraud -- the type that right-wing pundits most commonly fearmonger about -- is virtually nonexistent, and other types of fraud are exceedingly rare. 

    Fox’s interest in election integrity seems to cover only instances of alleged voter fraud by Democrats and not cases of apparent election fraud by partisan operatives who may have stolen, trashed, or illegally cast voters’ ballots. The network’s indifference is noteworthy, but it’s unsurprising given the close relationship between Fox News and the Republican Party.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched Snapstream for mentions of McCready, North Carolina, Bladen, Robeson, ninth district, 9th district, and Harris (controlling for mentions of Fox’s Harris Faulkner) on Fox News from November 27 through the time of publication.

  • Fox and MSNBC give murder of EJ Bradford scant coverage compared to CNN

    CNN has aired 27 segments that discussed the police shooting of Bradford, while Fox has aired 15 and MSNBC has aired 7

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On Thanksgiving Day, a police officer shot and killed Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., known as EJ, during a mall shooting in Alabama. The police initially claimed that Bradford was the gunman, but later admitted the officer had likely shot the wrong man. In the days after the revelation, CNN offered significant coverage of the murder and conducted multiple interviews with Bradford’s family. Fox News offered markedly less coverage, and most of it occurred before the police admitted Bradford was not the shooter. MSNBC has covered the shooting the least, but has spoken to Bradford’s family and has largely discussed it in the wake of the police’s admission.

    On Thursday, November 22, police responded to a shooting at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover, AL, and fatally shot Bradford, a 21-year-old Black man, later pronouncing him the gunman. The next day, the Hoover Police Department admitted in a now-deleted tweet that “our initial media release was not totally accurate” and conceded that Bradford was likely not the gunman. Police maintain that Bradford was shot after he “brandished a gun,” but the department has not provided any evidence to the public to back up this claim; AL.com reported that the family’s lawyer, prominent civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, "asserts that, according to witnesses, Bradford was trying to guide people away from the area where the initial shooting occurred, that his gun was tucked in his waistband, and that as Bradford lay dying on the Galleria mall floor, police did not allow a nurse who was nearby to attend to him.” Bradford was an "Army veteran with a permit to carry a weapon." His family is demanding that police release videos of the mall shooting.

    Bradford’s murder is the latest tragedy in an epidemic of police violence against people of color in America. The Washington Post’s database on police violence shows that 191 Black people have been shot and killed by police so far in 2018, and a recent Vox study found that Black people comprised 31 percent of those killed by police in 2012, despite being only 13 percent of the U.S. population.

    In the four days following the incident, between November 23-26, CNN ran at least 27 segments, with more than 20 focused on Bradford’s murder after it was revealed he was not the shooter. Bradford’s father and Crump appeared on air twice, and his mother was also present for one interview. By comparison, Fox aired more segments on the initial mall shooting, in which two people were also injured, than it did on Bradford’s murder, and did not once speak to his family or their lawyer. On November 23, the day after the incident, the network dedicated nine segments to coverage of the shooting in which it reported that police had killed the gunman responsible for the violence; Fox aired six segments on November 24 after the police admitted the gunman was not the victim, and has ceased covering the story since. While MSNBC has aired just seven segments discussing the shooting, all but one occurred after the police clarification; Politics Nation spent nearly 10 minutes on the shooting, including one of MSNBC's two interviews with Crump and Bradford’s mother. CNN and MSNBC's coverage appears to be ongoing.

    Fox’s unimpressive coverage should come as no surprise given the network’s history of apathy toward victims of police violence. Fox figures and guests often blame victims of police violence, or else rely on racist portrayals of minority communities to excuse officers’ actions. The network routinely demonizes Black Lives Matter, a group protesting police violence against people of color, and constantly fearmongers about awar on cops” to avoid discussing the impact and frequency of police violence.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched Snapstream for mentions of “Bradford,” “Alabama,” “Birmingham,” “police,” “mall,” and any iteration of the word “shoot” on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC on November 22 through the time of publication.

  • Seven times Trump’s new acting attorney general defended him from the special counsel investigation

    Before becoming acting AG, Matthew Whitaker appeared on cable news as a legal commentator

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN, GRACE BENNETT & ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On November 7, the day after the 2018 midterm elections, Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned from his position -- reportedly at the request of President Donald Trump -- and Trump announced Matthew G. Whitaker would take his place as acting attorney general. Whitaker, who had been serving as Sessions’ chief of staff, previously worked as a U.S. attorney under President George W. Bush and as the director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), a group that calls itself a conservative ethics watchdog. More recently, he appeared multiple times on Fox Business Network, and on CNN as a legal commentator to discuss the special counsel investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia. Here are seven times that Whitaker defended Trump or attacked the investigation:

    Whitaker: Comey “didn’t report” his interactions with Trump “to any of his higher ups, which would be a real inference that he didn’t believe the president was trying to obstruct justice.”

    CHARLES PAYNE (HOST): Again, corroboration by Comey that indeed he told Trump more than once, on three occasions, that he was not the center of an investigation. I guess it might get back to the situation with Michael Flynn and how you parse these words: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go.” How do you see it?

    MATTHEW WHITAKER: Yeah, I see it similar to that, but what I also see is that what Jim Comey did at the time -- he admits that he didn’t report this to any of his higher ups, which would be a real inference that he didn’t believe the president was trying to obstruct justice. And I also note that in his prepared testimony, you know, that Jim actually says that the president wanted to know if anyone in his campaign or his administration had done anything illegal and did want those people ferreted out and potentially prosecuted. So I don’t think this looks anything like an obstruction of justice claim, or even an impeachable offense. [Fox Business, Making Money With Charles Payne, 6/7/17]

    Whitaker defended Trump firing Comey for the handling of the Clinton email investigation.

    STUART VARNEY (HOST): You know Comey, you like Comey, but you say President Trump was right to fire him. Make your case.

    WHITAKER: Well my case is pretty simple. When I came into the Department of Justice, Jim Comey was the deputy attorney general, and he orientated me to the Department of Justice, and over the years that we served together, I would interact with him on a regular basis. I know him well. And what I do know though is if you read Rod Rosenstein’s memo that outlined the basis for firing Jim, that he was accurate, that Rod’s case talks about how he took, how Director Comey at the time took the Hillary Clinton email server situation and made it not just a denial of prosecution, but made it kind of a little bit of a political circus, and ultimately did things inconsistent with not only FBI policies but also FBI traditions.

    VARNEY: The criticism of James Comey is that he went public and politicized the FBI and put the FBI into the middle of political debate and that’s something you really should not do. Is that in a nutshell, that’s the criticism?

    WHITAKER: That is the criticism. It’s also he took the role of the Department of Justice and the attorney general and made it his own -- and explained why a prosecutorial decision was made, which was not his role to make. [Fox Business, Varney & Company, 6/8/17]

    Whitaker calls Mueller examining the Trump Organization’s finances a “red line,” adding, “We cannot have [an] unaccountable prosecutor that pursues whatever they want to pursue.”

    CHRIS CUOMO (HOST):The big push back that we keep hearing Matthew, while premature at this point of investigation is none of this is a crime. Nothing that you guys are talking about is a crime. There's no proof there's any criminal transactions of a financial nature, even if the President had a heavy hand in drafting and arguably misleading statement about the Don Trump Jr. meeting. Not a crime.

    WHITAKER: Right. I think one of the developments today is the fact it's been leaked that grand jury subpoenas have been issued from the grand jury. But we still haven't had any evidence or proof of any crime and I guess I would like the go to the one point that needs to be made here and that is if Bob Mueller and his small U.S. Attorney's office does go beyond the 2016 election and get into Trump organization finances unrelated to the 2016 election and really unrelated to Russian coordination, if it exists. I think that would be crossing a red line. I think that is when the deputy Attorney General, the acting Attorney General for the purpose of this investigation Rod Rosenstein, who I served with in the Bush administration, he needs to step in and pull the reigns (sic) back on Bob Mueller if he starts to go outside of the bounds of his delegation of authority.

    CUOMO: Gentleman for a moment, just for the audience that didn't have the insanity to go to law school. Just because you hear scary words like grand jury and subpoena, the process should not be mistaken for the productivity. We don't know what will come from the requests for information and testimony. We'll have to see. I understand the special counsel has criminal jurisdiction here.

    But there is a parallel, at least co concern of a political nature and you mentioned earlier Matthew, Rosenstein may have to step in and pull back the reins if Mueller goes too far. But imagine if that were happen. Imagine if the president word to make good on his threat, a hyperbolic as it may have been intended, don't go after my money. That is too far, and then what would happen in this situation? Not legally but the optics and the politics and the realities of Rosenstein saying to Mueller stop doing that or the President saying Mueller's gone too far, step in. What would that mean?

    WHITAKER: It would be a complete political conniption in Washington D.C. But it would also I think be consistent with the constitution. We cannot have unaccountable (sic) prosecutor that pursues whatever they want to pursue without any relationship to the people ultimately --  [CNN, CNN Tonight, 8/3/17]

    Whitaker defended Donald Trump Jr. on his Trump tower meeting: The Russian lawyer “used a pretext to get a meeting” with Trump Jr., and “we have no information right now that would suggest that he knew who this individual was that he was meeting with.”

    WHITAKER: As a former U.S. attorney, we did conspiracies all the time and prosecute conspiracies. I mean what happen here is this lawyer used a pretext to get a meeting with, you know, some important campaign officials to really talk about the issue she wanted to talk which is getting rid of this U.S. policy regarding adoptions and used, you know, quite frankly here in Iowa we can call it a B.S. excuse of saying that she had opposition research.

    And listen nobody's talking about what that opposition research is because we all agree it's ludicrous. I mean that the fact that Russians are funding the DNC and, you know, helping Hillary Clinton. No one's advancing that. And Don Jr. when he heard that certainly dismissed it quickly as base on what he said. And I think, you know, sort of to suggest that there's a conspiracy here.

    I mean you would always take meeting. You would have somebody from your campaign take the meeting to try to get the information.

    ...

    WHITAKER: Well, we have no information right now that would suggest that he knew who this individual was that he was meeting with or who the three were going to meet. They just knew that they must have been sold the fact that there was some really good information that they needed to hear. And then having been in campaigns, I know what that pitch looks like. And you would always have somebody from the campaign take that meeting and hear that person out. [CNN, CNN Newsroom, 7/10/17]

    Whitaker tweeted an opinion piece headlined, “Note to Trump's lawyer: Do not cooperate with Mueller lynch mob,” calling it “worth a read.”

    [Twitter, 8/6/17]

    Whitaker: “Mueller's investigation of Trump is going too far.”

    Mueller has come up to a red line in the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing.

    It does not take a lawyer or even a former federal prosecutor like myself to conclude that investigating Donald Trump's finances or his family's finances falls completely outside of the realm of his 2016 campaign and allegations that the campaign coordinated with the Russian government or anyone else. That goes beyond the scope of the appointment of the special counsel.

    It is time for Rosenstein, who is the acting attorney general for the purposes of this investigation, to order Mueller to limit the scope of his investigation to the four corners of the order appointing him special counsel.

    If he doesn't, then Mueller's investigation will eventually start to look like a political fishing expedition. This would not only be out of character for a respected figure like Mueller, but also could be damaging to the President of the United States and his family -- and by extension, to the country. [CNN, 8/6/17]

    Whitaker objected to Mueller examining Trump’s finances, agreed with Trump it was a “red line.”

    KATE BOLDUAN (HOST): Matthew, the deputy attorney general says they are not going on any fishing expedition, but you think they are. Why?

    WHITAKER: Well, I was concerned when I read the CNN reporting, which you mentioned, that they were looking -- that the special counsel is looking at Trump's finances, unrelated to the 2016 election, unrelated to Russian coordination in that regard. I think that is a red line that is beyond the scope of the letter that the deputy attorney general issued and appointed Director Mueller as special counsel. Really, it's not controversial. It would be a fishing expedition if they start looking into essentially all of Trump's finances. I know that's what some on the left want. There is a Fourth Amendment issue, even as it relates to the president and others in his family. We cannot have unfettered prosecutors turning over every rock unrelated to any nexus to the underlying issues, which is the Russian coordination and the 2016 election.

    WHITAKER: I've noticed a lot of pushback from folks in response to my piece on CNN.com from yesterday where they say, well, Ken Starr, you know, in your analysis exceeded his authority and the independent --

    (CROSSTALK)

    BOLDUAN: Started with a land deal gone bad, and ended up with Monica Lewinsky.

    WHITAKER: Yes. There are two differences. One, it wasn't independent counsel under a different law. But also Ken Starr went back and sought, expanded jurisdiction, as Michael's describing, so he could go after other things unrelated to the initial investigation, which was the Whitewater land deal. So, I think there are key distinctions there.

    Listen, I -- you know, I'm not certain. I have to take the CNN reporting that they are looking at unrelated financial crimes as true. That gives me a lot concern. As a former prosecutor, somebody that presented cases to grand juries, grand jury investigations, I understand following the money. But at the same time, we cannot go on fishing expeditions, which are essentially casting a broad net looking for crimes unrelated to the purpose of the investigation, which is Russian coordination with the Trump campaign in the 2016 election. [CNN, At This Hour, 8/7/17, via Nexis]