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Grace Bennett

Author ››› Grace Bennett
  • Fox plays defense for Rep. Devin Nunes’ lawsuit against Twitter

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On March 19, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) filed a lawsuit against Twitter and three specific users, claiming that the site has censored him and allowed him to be the target of defamation. The Washington Post called the lawsuit's merits "questionable at best," but Fox hosts and contributors covered the lawsuit credulously, suggesting or even outright agreeing that Twitter tries to censor conservative accounts.  

    In the $250 million suit, Nunes argues that Twitter is routinely “shadow-banning conservatives” on its platform by allowing them to post but not letting other users see or interact with the content. Twitter denies that it shadow bans accounts, and CEO Jack Dorsey told Congress last year that the company has not found any evidence of a difference in the reach of tweets from conservative and liberal accounts. Following similar allegations of shadow banning last summer, The New York Times also found no evidence that Twitter engaged in the practice.

    In the suit, Nunes also takes issue with several specific users he claims Twitter allowed to defame him. Among them are @DevinNunesMom and @DevinCow, satirical accounts aimed at mocking Nunes. Some of the remarks that the suit specifically mentions as defamatory include a claim by the @DevinNunesMom account that Nunes was “voted ‘Most Likely to Commit Treason’ in high school,” and the @DevinCow account's tweet that “Devin’s boots are full of manure. He’s udder-ly worthless and its pasture time to move him to prison.”

    Some journalists have suggested that far from being a serious legal dispute, Nunes’ lawsuit is simply aimed at silencing critics. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake wrote:

    The legal merits of the case appear highly questionable at best. The standard for defamation of a public figure such as Nunes is much higher than for an average person. One expert The Washington Post talked to cited the landmark Supreme Court case in which Jerry Falwell sued Hustler magazine for a satirical advertisement in which his likeness was engaged in sexual activity with his mother in an outhouse. The court ruled that public figures aren’t protected from “patently offensive speech” if the statements couldn’t be understood as actual facts.

    So feel free to chuckle about the spectacle of Devin Nunes suing “Devin Nunes’ cow” — especially given Nunes’s past opposition to “frivolous lawsuits” — but know that this most likely isn’t about his purported cow or what it said. Nunes is telegraphing an expansive effort to go after people who hurt Republicans with their public discourse. Its potential impact, not so much legally as from personal behavioral standpoint, shouldn’t be so casually dismissed.

    Fox hosts and contributors took a different approach than others in the media, choosing to take Nunes at his word and cheering on the lawsuit.  

    After news of Nunes’ suit broke, Fox’s Sean Hannity hosted the congressman on his show and allowed him to rant about Twitter’s alleged political bias and supposed censorship.

    During the March 19 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that Twitter is “already suppressing people like Don [Trump] Jr. and conservatives.” Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano also argued that Nunes is “focusing a spotlight on Twitter’s bias.”

    Later in the day, on Fox Business’ Varney & Co., Kilmeade told host Stuart Varney that Nunes is making a “very courageous move.” Varney responded, “I think it’s about time we had it out about censoring conservatives on social media.”

    On Fox’s America’s Newsroom, Fox contributor Ken Starr said the lawsuit is proof that litigation can be “a powerful engine for getting the truth.” He also argued that the suit could be “one of those action-forcing events. It’s calling Twitter, and more broadly these social platforms, into the age of accountability.”

    Fox contributor Bill Bennett argued on America’s Newsroom that Nunes “has a very important point” and contended that “there is bias in a lot of these [tech] companies.”

    Fox contributor and former Arkansas Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee told America’s Newsroom co-host Sandra Smith that he is “so proud of the congressman” because the lawsuit will “hold these social media companies’ feet to the fire.” He claimed the tech companies have been “shadow banning conservatives, they’ve been making it very difficult for conservatives to get the message out,” and “they are in essence a contributing force to the Democratic Party and a contributing force against Republicans.”

  • Jeanine Pirro’s history of anti-Muslim attacks 

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    During her March 9 show, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro suggested to viewers that Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) hijab was "indicative of her adherence to sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution." Amid widespread criticism of her hateful remarks, Fox News responded that the network “strongly condemn[s] Jeanine Pirro's comments,” but took no further public action. Pirro herself claimed that her “intention was to ask a question and start a debate" and that “of course because one is Muslim does not mean you don’t support the Constitution.” But this isn’t the first time Pirro has made hateful and extremist comments about Muslims while appearing on Fox News.

    Here are some of Pirro’s prior attacks on Muslims:

    Just last month, Pirro suggested that Omar should be grateful to be in the United States because “she is an empowered Muslim woman, while many Muslim women aren't allowed to be educated and they just started driving.” From the February 16 edition of Fox News' Justice with Judge Jeanine
     

    JEANINE PIRRO (HOST): And the amazing part is she’s a freshman congresswoman, and I believe she came to the United States as a refugee, and now she’s in our Congress claiming that the Jewish state -- that Israel and Jews are what? Evil?

    PIRRO: Have you heard that anyone who is going to move to remove her from Foreign --

    QANTA AHMED (CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST): No. And I think this presents a dilemma for the left. Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi, just like American Muslims have a liability in this woman, they have a liability in this congresswoman. She is showing the marriage of left-wing politics in the Democrats with Islamism. Bernie Sanders congratulated her and said he stands with his Muslim brothers and sisters. To me, he stands with Islamists, and they do not distinguish between the two. It's very problematic. The Islamism only succeeds by portraying itself as a victim and left-wing politics thrives on victimization, victim ideology. She's no victim, as you said. She came as an asylum seeker. She's moved to one of the highest offices in the land within 23 years. What other country gives a refugee that opportunity?

    PIRRO: She is an empowered Muslim woman, while many Muslim women aren't allowed to be educated and they just started driving.

    During an unhinged rant in 2015 about “radical Muslim terrorists,” Pirro repeatedly fearmongered about Islam and Muslims. She claimed that “this Islamic cancer metastasizes throughout the world” and argued that Muslims “have conquered us through immigration” and “through interfaith dialogue.” In the same screed, she claimed “there is a reverse crusade in progress” and said that “there will be efforts to limit our First Amendment, our free speech, to comply with Sharia blasphemy laws.” From the January 10, 2015 edition of Fox News' Justice with Judge Jeanine

    JEANINE PIRRO (HOST): We need to kill them. We need to kill them. The radical Muslim terrorists hellbent on killing us. You’re in danger, I’m in danger. We’re at war and this is not going to stop. After this week’s brutal terror attacks in France, hopefully everybody now gets it. And there’s only one group that can stop this war: the Muslims themselves. Our job is to arm those Muslims to the teeth, give them everything they need to take out these Islamic fanatics. Let them do the job. Let them have at it. And as they do, we need to simply look the other way. It is time for this to be over, and stop sending American dollars to any Arab country that does not support this mission. Pakistan at the top of the list. Force Arab nations to choose: They’re either with us or they’re against us. And stop with this nuclear negotiation nonsense. They don’t operate the way we do. You can’t negotiate, you can’t mediate, and you can’t bargain. You can’t even reason with these people.

    Now I’ve been telling you for a year that they’re coming for us. That there is a reverse crusade in progress -- a Christian genocide. Hundreds of thousands of innocents killed in the Middle East. Seven months ago, I said that we need to bomb ISIS, as it began its steamroll through Iraq -- bomb them, bomb them, and bomb them again -- for which I was roundly criticized. Our country’s response to this threat? The FBI destroys tens of thousands of documents deemed offensive to Islam. The CIA removes the word “Islamic” before “terrorist” in those Benghazi talking points. The Fort Hood massacre, the Oklahoma beheading? Both “workplace violence.” Are we morons?

    And as we cower to these Islamic fanatics, our president and former Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton say they will prosecute the man who made the video, free speech be damned. They call murders accompanied by “Allah akbar,” “workplace violence.” This surender is nothing more than a coward's response to the fear of this fanatical terrorism. And this political correctness will be the death of us. They can kill us but we can’t hurt their feelings? I’m surprised the president hasn’t signed a new executive order that simply says, “Don’t offend Muslims.” And make no mistake -- as sure as I’m talking to you, there will be efforts to limit our First Amendment, our free speech, to comply with Sharia blasphemy laws which call for death to those who slander the Prophet Muhammad.

    Our government’s response to the terror threat is to have an interfaith dialogue to try to understand and empathize with the enemy. And when they want to shut us up, they call us Islamophobes. Muslim groups like CAIR and the Nation of Islam have been integrated into our society, Muslims invited to worship at our National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. We’re directed by a political correctness that is so bizarre, so disconnected from reality that it does nothing but assist our enemy in our own destruction. They have conquered us through immigration, they have conquered us through interfaith dialogue, and they have conquered us by co-opting our leaders into a position of embarrassment.

    As this Islamic cancer metastasizes throughout the world -- Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabab in Somalia, Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, Al Qaeda, ISIS -- and as it goes through Europe, it is headed our way.

    "Stop defending Islam, start protecting Americans": After Obama noted violence carried out in the name of religion isn't limited to Islam, Pirro furiously listed off violent attacks by Muslim perpetrators. Pirro cited violent incidents by Muslim perpetrators (while ignoring that right-wing terror was considered the main terrorist threat in the U.S.), asking, “Mr. President, please identify what other violence is being committed against Americans in the name of any other religion -- or is it just a coincidence?”

    JEANINE PIRRO (HOST): Mr. President, what’s most interesting is that with the crusaders you so easily identify them as Christians. Why is it so hard for you to identify today’s jihadi terrorists as Muslim? Throw a rock at Christians, no problem, but never speak of Islamic terrorists. Mr. President, aside from the obvious that was then and this is now, the Quran is interpreted by some as demanding jihad, the taxing or killing of nonbelievers, and a worldwide caliphate. And surprise -- today’s terrorists are beheading, imposing that same jizya tax, and in their march to create an even bigger Islamic State. Stop apologizing and stop pussyfooting around with this language dance. We get it -- not all Muslims are terrorists. It was Egypt, a country of 90 percent Muslim that rose up against the jihadists who were also Muslim.

    Consider this: The first World Trade center attack in 1993 -- by Muslims. The USS Cole bombers were Muslim. The Fort Hood shooter was Muslim. The shoe bomber was Muslim. The underwear bomber was Muslim. The Boston bombers were Muslim. The September 11 hijackers were Muslim. Mr. President, please identify what other violence is being committed against Americans in the name of any other religion -- or is it just coincidence?

    You identify terrible deeds in the name of the Christ. Why not identify terrible deeds in the name of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam? Calling Fort Hood “workplace violence” is a joke. People can’t believe that that’s how you characterize it. But then again, your administration erases words out of reports identifying terrorists as Islamic. Stop defending Islam, start protecting Americans. Stop saying what Islam doesn’t stand for, and start saying what you as our president intend to do about this.

    During a 2016 appearance on Fox’s Hannity, Pirro suggested Middle Eastern refugees were violent and couldn’t assimilate. She said this about Middle Eastern refugees: “We've got these guys beating their wives, you've got domestic violence, you've got them hating gays, and we are bringing them to this country. We think they're going to assimilate. They are not.” She also agreed with host Sean Hannity that “this is a clash of cultures.” From the September 20, 2016 edition of Fox News' Hannity

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): I honestly think that the issue of not saying "radical Islam," Jay -- and there's such a difference between Hillary and Donald Trump -- the issue of vetting refugees and allowing people that come from cultures that clash -- directly clash with our Constitution, that Americans fundamentally understand that we have to know if they're coming here to become American and assimilate or do they want to proselytize and bring their value system, which is the opposite of ours, with them?

    JEANINE PIRRO: It is insane. It's insanity. But when we've got these guys beating their wives, you've got domestic violence, you've got them hating gays, and we are bringing them to this country. We think they're going to assimilate. They are not. And what we've got to do, they've got to move their citizenship --

    HANNITY: This is a clash of cultures.

    PIRRO: Exactly.

    During another appearance on Hannity, Pirro claimed the United States needs to know if refugees or immigrants “believe in Sharia law,” arguing that if they do, “that means it is inconsistent with the Constitution. You do not believe in free speech, you do not believe in women's rights, you do not believe in gay rights.” From the May 24, 2017 edition of Fox News' Hannity

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): How is it that if somebody comes from a country with what I call a clash of cultures -- where they literally believe men should tell women how to dress, and men should tell women if they can go on an airplane and travel or leave the house without a male relative, where gays and lesbians are killed, where Christians and Jews are persecuted -- I'm trying to fully and completely understand why, if you come from that country, we need to know -- do you believe that? Do you want to proselytize us or do you want to join our family?

    JEANINE PIRRO: You know, Sean, that is exactly the issue. Do you believe in Sharia law, and if you believe in that, that means it is inconsistent with the Constitution. You do not believe in free speech, you do not believe in women's rights, you do not believe in gay rights. All the things that they would trash you and me for if, God forbid, we didn't believe in those rights, we are willing to allow people that we know are individuals -- actually, we don't know who they are -- to come here, stick to their own rules, and then say, “Gee, if they kill us, well, we have to make sure that nobody commits a crime of hate.” This is hogwash, Sean. And what is happening in the U.K. --

    HANNITY: See, you're xenophobic, you're homophobic, you're a racist.

    PIRRO: I am not.

    HANNITY: Well, that's what the left says.

    PIRRO: I am none of those things.

    HANNITY: Neither am I.

    PIRRO: And I'll tell you why, Sean, and neither are you. The problem is that we expect these people to integrate. And one of the issues is -- and assimilate. One of the issues is they don't want to. And now we've got people in Congress saying because they are de facto segregated from the rest of us that we have to understand that they’re angry with us. We let them in the country.

    In 2016, Pirro argued that “we’ve got to start having a conversation about surveillance in mosques” and said she agreed with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich that the United States should “test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported.” From the July 15, 2016 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends

    JEANINE PIRRO: I agree with [Newt Gingrich]. I totally agree with him. We have a president who is an apologist. Look, I'm an amateur and in June of 2014 when I first heard about ISIS, I said bomb them, bomb them, and then bomb them again. I took some heat, but I was right. They were the JV team then. If we had done something, if this president would stop apologizing for what we do, what we are, and stop saying, “You Christians, it's your turn,” as he did at a prayer breakfast, then maybe America would be united in a way where we understand that they're coming. They're here, we're next. I've got to tell you I'm as aggravated as everyone who sat in this chair today. If we've got people standing in the blood of innocent victims when they go for an innocent celebration, then we've got to recognize that we've got a problem at the top of this country.

    Our president didn’t want to support [Egyptian President Abdel Fattah] el-Sisi. Thirty-five million Egyptians stood up and said, "We don't want the Muslim Brotherhood. We are Muslims, we don't want the Muslim Brotherhood." And this president would prefer to give tanks and airplanes to [former Egyptian President Mohamed] Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood, forget that. Right now, they are here, they're going to kill us. Women, children, it doesn't matter. We have got to declare war on them. We've got to start having a conversation about surveillance in mosques. We've got to make sure that in the jails these imams are going in and radicalizing people, they just want to kill us. I mean, how dumb are we? And Newt is right. We're sheep saying, “Why are the wolves killing us?” Or, “Be nice to the wolves, not all wolves are bad.” Baloney!

    While guest hosting on Hannity, Pirro asked an imam if “Muslims here in America need to speak out more to try to prevent [terrorist] attacks from happening?” and then cut him off and told another guest that “the Muslim community is not coming forward.” From the December 27, 2016 edition of Fox News' Hannity

    JEANINE PIRRO (GUEST HOST): That was President-elect [Donald Trump] during his recent thank you tour vowing to fight radical Islam. After the latest terror attack in Europe and the radical Islamist threat growing around the world, do Muslims here in America need to speak out more to help to try to prevent these attacks from happening?

    PIRRO: We have got this Islamic threat. You don't deny that?

    IMAM MOHAMMAD ALI ELAHI: Well, judge, before I start --

    PIRRO: That's a yes or no. Let’s start with a premise, there is an Islamic threat facing the United States, correct? Yes or no?

    ELAHI: Well, let me answer this way. First of all --

    PIRRO: No.

    ELAHI: I'm going to answer your question. But let me first of all say, I mean, to the Pope Francis prayer for peace in Christmas ceremony --

    PIRRO: I'm happy for the Pope.

    ELAHI: Peace for Syria, peace for Yemen, peace for Iraq, peace for Holy Land, for Africa. And also peace for America, an America free of racism and hatred and intimidation and violence and crimes, and everything.

    PIRRO: What’s your point?

    ELAHI: My point is that first of all the expression of “Islamic radical” is kind of hijacking the identity of the Muslims.

    PIRRO: OK, all right, you don't like the term. You don't like the term.

    ELAHI: It is like somebody --

    PIRRO: Can I ask you a question? Who is responsible for the World Trade Center? Who is responsible for San Bernardino? Orlando? Paris? All right, Imam, you know what, you got all your time.

    PIRRO: Brigitte, the Muslim community is not coming forward. So Imam, I'm going to give you another chance, I'm going to give you another chance. Otherwise we're going to finish totally with Brigitte. All right, here is the chance. Should the family of the San Bernardino attackers, who saw the weapons, who saw all of the instruments that they used, should they have said something and why didn’t they?

    In 2017, Pirro claimed that President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban is targeted at “Joe Schmo Muhammad,” who is from a country where “they promised to send in individuals and jihadists to kill us.” From the February 10 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

    JEANINE PIRRO: This is -- and let me make one thing perfectly clear: If you are not a citizen of the United States of America, you do not have the right to come to the United States, period, end of the story. The president has a plenary authority, the power to determine who comes into this country. And all this talk about constitutional rights -- if you are from Somalia, I got a news flash, you do not have constitutional rights in this country. And Congress has agreed with the plenary power authority of the president in terms of national security and immigration with, what is it, 8 U.S.C., what is it, 1182-F. When they said that the president at any time can make a decision to block an alien from coming to this country. So it's not about people with green cards. It's about Joe Schmo Muhammad, who doesn't have any vetting from another country that -- where they promised to send in individuals and jihadists to kill us.

  • How right-wing media tried to spin Michael Cohen’s testimony 

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On February 27, longtime Trump lawyer and confidant Michael Cohen delivered damning testimony about President Donald Trump to the House oversight committee. Cohen alleged that Trump was aware of WikiLeaks’ plan to release hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, that Trump lied during the campaign about his plans to build a Trump tower in Moscow, and that Trump directed Cohen to repeatedly pay off women to keep quiet about their sexual relationships with him. Cohen also called the president a “racist” and a “con man.” Despite the serious criminal allegations, right-wing media were quick to dismiss and reject Cohen’s testimony.

    Here are the ways they tried to spin the hearing:

    Cohen’s testimony wasn’t newsworthy

    Right-wing media figures argued that Cohen’s allegations weren’t newsworthy and aren’t worth discussing.

    • Fox’s Sean Hannity asserted that the hearing was “a Democratic party [and] a hyperventilating, hysterical media putting politics over country with a political charade designed to just embarrass and trash the president.”

    • Fox contributor Dan Bongino claimed that Cohen’s presentation of the reimbursement check he says he received from Trump for paying off adult film actor Stormy Daniels is irrelevant. “I don’t think it’s damaging at all,” he said. “This has all been baked into the cake. There’s no news here.”

    • After the Cohen testimony was over, Fox’s Greg Gutfeld asked, “Why did we endure this spectacle?” He claimed, “People here are acting like this is news. We need to believe that it's news because we are forced to cover this. I don't feel like this is news. I can't find the news.”

    • Right-wing radio host Mark Levin said on Twitter, “The Democrats are a farce. Their media handlers are as well. What was the legislative purpose of the Cohen hearing? There was none.”

    Cohen's testimony was a distraction, especially from Trump's North Korea summit

    Others in right-wing media branded the hearing a distraction, especially from Trump’s summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Some figures also argued that the Democrats shouldn’t have held the Cohen hearing while Trump was in negotiations with Kim.

    • Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk: “Democrats holding a hearing with convicted liar Michael Cohen while [Trump] is in Vietnam negotiating peace with North Korea tells you everything you need to know about the left. They would rather see America fail than see Donald Trump succeed.”

    • The Federalist’s Ben Domenech: “The Cohen circus is a perfect encapsulation of the 2016 Forever era: A bunch of salacious noise from which we learn very little, even as much greater concern should be focused on *what's actually happening* as a matter of policy.”

    • National Rifle Association spokesperson and radio host Dana Loesch said that Trump is de-escalating hostility with North Korea, “India and Pakistan are on the brink of war, but this Cohen guy tho that already undermined himself.”

    • Fox’s Ainsley Earhardt complained, “You’ve got this major news story that’s happening on the other side of the world, and then in D.C., they’re trying to put this guy who already lied to that very committee, ... and they’re putting him on the stand the very day that our president’s talking to Kim Jong Un.”

    • Fox’s Jason Chaffetz said, “This Cohen situation is such a distraction from what is going on that is actually going to matter in the world.”

    • Fox’s Andrew Napolitano argued, “The Democrats should be ashamed of themselves for doing this today. Politics is supposed to stop at the water's edge and whatever they have on the president, they ought to cut him a break and let him freely and without worrying about what’s going on in Washington, D.C., be in a position to negotiate with Kim Jong Un.”

    • Fox’s Geraldo Rivera: “I think it was pathetic, the timing. … They easily could have postponed it 48 hours, 72 hours to let the world focus on this profoundly significant event.”

    • Fox’s Sean Hannity complained that at the “very same moment” of a “historic summit with the president of the United States,” Democrats “purposely scheduled and hauled in Michael Cohen … just to embarrass the president.”

    • The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro questioned why Cohen was even testifying if he couldn’t provide “direct evidence” that Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia. He concluded, “Democrats want headlines so they can distract from their own incompetence and garbage legislation, and Cohen shifts the headlines.”

    • Fox’s Tucker Carlson claimed Cohen’s testimony “doesn't have anything to do with anything and that is the exactly the point of it,” and said, “This is a distraction, and we are falling for it.”

    Cohen’s allegations don’t hurt the president

    Some right-wing media figures claimed that Cohen’s testimony -- which included allegations that the president committed multiple felonies -- doesn’t hurt Trump, especially not legally.

    • Right-wing radio host Mark Simone claimed, “Michael Cohen’s testimony will be the 2019 version of the Michael Wolf gossip book. They’ll call it a ‘bombshell’ and two weeks later it’ll be forgotten about.”

    • Prior to Cohen’s testimony but after his opening statement was published by The New York Times, Fox’s Geraldo Rivera argued that the statement suggested that the “Cohen testimony will be dramatic, entertaining, embarrassing, nothing new & will not advance Collusion narrative.”

    • The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro said on Twitter: “Cohen's testimony falls into three buckets for Trump: (1) illegality; (2) embarrassing for Trump; (3) stupid hilarity. There's not much in bucket (1), there's a lot in bucket (2), and there's a fair amount in bucket (3).”

    • Shapiro also wrote: “So is Cohen's testimony damaging to Trump? In terms of public relations, sure. In terms of impeachment, meh. In terms of legal liability, not really.”

    • Fox’s Dan Bongino insisted that, even if it is true, “there's no there there" on Michael Cohen's claim Trump knew about WikiLeaks' plan to publish hacked DNC emails, saying, “None of this is great politically. The question is, is it criminally damaging? And the answer is no.”

    The testimony actually helps Trump’s legal case

    Other right-wing media figures suggested that far from hurting the president, Cohen’s testimony to Congress actually helps him.

    • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh: “Remarkably Cohen's testimony exonerates Trump. He says Trump never directly told him to lie, he has no evidence of collusion, and Trump only worked on the Moscow project because he thought he wouldn't win, which means he wasn't trying to leverage the presidency for financial gain.”

    • Breitbart’s Joel Pollak: “Michael Cohen’s not saying anything new legally. His testimony exonerates Trump from telling him to lie to Congress. There’s nothing new about collusion. And his recollection of things Trump said is unclear by his own admission.”

    • Frequent Fox guest John Solomon claimed the hearing was “a good day for the president,” and “a good day for his legal defense.”

    Former Clinton lawyer Lanny Davis orchestrated the hearing

    Some right-wing media figures unsurprisingly tried to tie the Cohen’s testimony to the Clintons by noting that his lawyer has previously worked with them.

    • Fox’s Katie Pavlich: “Everything you need to know about Cohen’s testimony is sitting behind him: Lanny Davis. This is about revenge for Clinton’s 2016 loss in 2020.”

    • Breitbart’s Joel Pollak said that Cohen’s testimony was partly “Lanny Davis talking thru Cohen’s mouth.”

    • Fox’s Lisa Boothe: “How is this not ridiculously sketchy to everyone? Lanny Davis, a Clinton loyalist, is working for Michael Cohen for free. I wonder what is in it for Davis.”

    • Boothe: “Doesn’t Lanny Davis representing Michael Cohen and sitting behind him today tell you everything you need to know? Democrats still can’t get over the fact that Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump in 2016.”

    • Fox’s Sean Hannity said that the hearing was “highly orchestrated by, yes, the biggest Clinton supporter on the entire Earth, Lanny Davis, who is apparently representing Michael Cohen for free.”

  • Fox & Friends ignored report that Republican fraud has spurred a new election in North Carolina 

    Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham also failed to cover the election fraud story

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On February 21, following allegations of Republican election fraud, the North Carolina State Board of Elections ordered a new congressional election in the state's 9th District. The decision is highly unusual: It will be the first congressional election to be redone in over 40 years. But Fox & Friends failed to mention the story even once after the news broke, as did Fox’s Hannity, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and The Ingraham Angle.

    Fox’s decision to ignore the story on its major shows is particularly noteworthy given the network’s obsession with the idea of voter fraud.

    Over the past week, North Carolina investigators have argued to the elections board that a Republican operative named Leslie McCrae Dowless, who worked for Republican candidate Mark Harris, directed an intricate scheme to tamper with absentee ballots. Harris appeared to win the November election by fewer than a thousand votes -- but even he was forced to call for a new election after listening to state investigators’ case.

    The board’s decision to order a new election was a dramatic end to a congressional race that has remained uncalled for more than three months, but Media Matters found that Fox’s prime-time and morning shows didn’t even mention the story. In fact, Fox & Friends’ only mentions of North Carolina came in a short segment about someone vandalizing a statue and an update on Nike stock after a basketball player’s Nike shoe gave out in Wednesday’s University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill versus Duke game.

    Fox’s decision not to discuss the story on its major programs is especially notable given the network’s obsession with baselessly fearmongering about voter fraud. For years, Fox guests and hosts have pushed dubious or baseless allegations of fraud, 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 wring their hands about -- is virtually nonexistent, and other types of election fraud are exceedingly rare. But the network tends to quietly move on once the claims fall apart.

    Fox’s interest in election integrity seems to cover only instances of alleged voter fraud by Democrats and not cases of proven election fraud by partisan operatives working on behalf of Republicans. The network’s indifference is noteworthy, but it’s unsurprising given the close relationship between Fox News and the Republican Party.

  • After Trump mocks the U.S. government's Trail of Tears genocide, some media figures shrug

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On February 9, President Donald Trump tweeted an attack on Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) that not-so-subtly joked about the Trail of Tears, a horrifying chapter of American history in which the U.S. government forced thousands of Native Americans to make a genocidal relocation march. But some in the media have glossed over or ignored Trump’s racist mockery of the genocide.

    Following Warren’s formal announcement that she will be running for president in 2020, Trump revived one of his go-to racist attacks, referring to her as “Pocahontas” and promising to see her “on the campaign TRAIL”:

    Many journalists were quick to point out that Trump’s capitalization of “TRAIL” in the last sentence of the tweet is a reference to the Trail of Tears. In the 1830s, President Andrew Jackson -- whom Trump admires greatly -- forced thousands of Native Americans to abandon their land and march more than a thousand miles to make way for white settlers. Thousands of Native Americans died during the march, which is remembered by the Cherokee Nation as the "trail where they cried."

    After Trump sent out the tweet, his son Donald Trump Jr. posted a screenshot of it and a callous response to Instagram, writing, "Savage!!! Love my President”:

    Savage!!! Love my President.

    A post shared by Donald Trump Jr. (@donaldjtrumpjr) on

    In some discussions of the tweet, media reacted to the Trumps’ racism and casual disregard for atrocity with indifference or even ignored it all together. For example, on February 10, segments of Fox News’ America’s News Headquarters and NBC’s Today both showed the tweet without making any mention of the reference to the Trail of Tears. The February 10 edition of MSNBC Live also showed the tweet, but the panel did not mention the reference to genocide and guest Ned Ryun immediately turned to bashing Warren instead of Trump. Fox & Friends Sunday went even further, with co-host Pete Hegseth attempting to defend Trump by claiming, “No one is making fun of the fact that people suffered and died. Like, you can recognize a historical tragedy while at the same time also making fun of someone who misrepresented themselves.”

    This isn’t the first time that media figures and outlets have glossed over, downplayed, or defended Trump’s racism. Unfortunately, this is just the latest example of the media’ repeatedly lowering the bar on when to hold the president accountable.

  • Right-wing media attack Stacey Abrams after she delivers the Democratic response to the SOTU

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    After Stacey Abrams, the 2018 Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate, delivered the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, conservative media figures reacted by downplaying voter suppression.

    On January 29, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced that Abrams would deliver the Democratic response:

    In addition to giving a platform to a prominent figure in the party, Abrams' selection sent a message after House Democrats proposed their first bill of the 2019 session, which included provisions to expand and protect voting rights. Abrams’ narrow loss in the governor’s race was tainted by widespread voter suppression in Georgia in the two years before the 2018 election -- much of it spearheaded by Abrams’ opponent, now-Gov. Brian Kemp. Kemp, who was Georgia’s secretary of state and oversaw his own election despite calls for him to resign, was responsible for purging more than 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012. He also placed more than 53,000 registration applications on hold, nearly 70 percent of which came from Black people. Many of the applications were held up because of small errors such as “a dropped hyphen in a last name.”    

    In stark contrast to Kemp, Abrams is a strong advocate for voting rights, as Schumer also noted during his announcement. Abrams also aggressively condemned Kemp’s undemocratic and racist tactics both before and after the election.

    Despite Abrams’ record of backing voting rights and Kemp’s attempts at voter suppression, some right-wing media figures argued after the selection was announced that Abrams had attempted to undermine the results of the gubernatorial election. Sinclair’s Boris Epshteyn wrote that Abrams was “unable to accept her loss in the race for governor.” Others mocked Democrats for picking a “failed” candidate to deliver their response.

    Predictably, right-wing media reacted to her February 5 response to the State of the Union with a denial of the impact of voter suppression:

  • Mark Levin called Pelosi a “fascist” for postponing the State of the Union, but in 2014 he urged Republicans to boycott the address 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    On the January 23 edition of his radio show, Mark Levin railed against Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for her decision to revoke an invitation to President Donald Trump to give the customary State of the Union address so long as the government remains shut down. Levin denounced Pelosi’s decision, calling her a “fascist” multiple times and accusing her of “destroying” a “long-held tradition” because she doesn’t want Trump to give the speech with “pomp and circumstance.” But Levin hasn’t always been so committed to the integrity of the State of the Union address. In fact, when Barack Obama was president in 2014, the radio host urged Republicans to boycott the address “so half of the House floor” would be empty while Obama spoke:       

    From the January 23 edition of Westwood One's The Mark Levin Show:

    MARK LEVIN: [Nancy Pelosi] is literally destroying certain long-held traditions in this country. Her decision today to revoke an invitation to the president to speak before a joint House and Senate Congress -- it is the first time in American history an invitation of that sort has been withdrawn.

    She does not want the president of the United States to be able to deliver the State of the Union address from the Capitol with all the pomp and circumstance. And I find it troubling that some of these conservatives and pseudo-conservatives say, “It’s no big deal, he’s destroying -- the president -- another tradition.” He’s not destroying anything, Nancy Pelosi is. They are denying a duly elected president -- who most of you voted for -- the right that every president who’s wanted to do so, to speak before a joint session of Congress to the American people.

    Nancy Pelosi has hijacked the federal government; that’s why part of it is closed. She has unilaterally decided that our borders will be open, and now she has undermined this tradition of a president speaking before both houses of Congress.

    Nancy Pelosi is the closest thing we have in government to a fascist, to a radical authoritarian. They like to throw that label around when it comes to the president of the United States. The president of the United States has done nothing of that sort. Nancy Pelosi repeatedly conducts herself like a fascist. And now we have a problem -- the speaker of the House is an American fascist.

    From the January 16, 2014, edition of Westwood One's The Mark Levin Show:

    MARK LEVIN: Here’s what should happen at the State of the Union speech -- since these men and women will not use the Constitution to defend this nation, since they will not use the Constitution to confront a lawless president -- worse yet, since they’re funding his activities with these omnibus bills filled with all kinds of crap.

    What the Republicans should do is boycott the State of the Union. They should boycott the State of the Union so half of the House floor, because that’s where they meet, is empty. And they should get together and present their own case on the state of the union and explain in an articulate and concise way what the state of the union is and how the president threatens this republic. They need to do something bold that will get the attention of some of our fellow citizens and which the media, which will attack it, but cannot ignore it.

    h/t Nick Acosta

  • WSJ editorial board published a hit piece against striking Los Angeles teachers 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    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.