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John Whitehouse

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  • Twitter and Periscope finally ban Alex Jones and Infowars

    A day after Jones harassed Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and numerous others on Capitol Hill, the social media platform finally enforces its policies against the conspiracy theorist and his outlet

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Twitter finally did what it should have done a month ago. The platform announced that it was removing Alex Jones and Infowars, citing a video posted to Twitter attacking CNN reporter Oliver Darcy.

    This permanent suspension comes weeks after Twitter had failed to enforce its standards after Darcy previously identified more than a dozen examples of Infowars content on the platform that appeared to violate the rules. Twitter told Darcy at the time that the content did in fact violate the rules -- but that because the tweets were deleted by Infowars, no action would be taken.

    During the evening of August 14, Twitter took action against Jones’ primary account after it sent a tweet that linked to a video on Periscope in which Jones called on his supporters to get their “battle rifles” ready:

    Twitter limited Jones' primary accounts for one week following that incident. Under the terms of the action, Jones was forced to delete the tweet linking to the Periscope video in order to start the countdown on a seven-day period in which the account was prohibited from tweeting. Jones found ways around that limitation and he was active on his @Infowars and @RealAlexJones accounts following their suspension until they were banned today.

    There are already troubling signs that Twitter does not understand the full scope of Infowars’ accounts on the platform. An account associated with Paul Joseph Watson, Infowars' editor-at-large, tweeted the same video about Darcy that Twitter cited in banning Jones, but it remains active and is currently tweeting about Jones' and Infowars' supposed ban from the platform. Since the ban was announced, Jones has already shown up on the Periscope for Infowars' show War Room, which was not banned either.

    Update: Via Jared Holt, War Room's Periscope page is no longer active.

  • MailChimp confirms that it terminated accounts of Alex Jones and Infowars

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    Update: In a statement to Media Matters, MailChimp confirmed it has removed the accounts for Infowars, citing "hateful content":

    MailChimp doesn’t generally comment on individual users or accounts, but we’ll make an exception today. MailChimp notified Infowars that their accounts have been terminated for violating our Terms of Service, which make it clear that we don’t allow people to use our platform to disseminate hateful content.

    We take our responsibility to our customers and employees seriously. The decision to terminate this account was thoughtfully considered and is in line with our company’s values.

    After Stitcher, Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube all removed Alex Jones and Infowars, Alex Jones aired a shot of a document during a live stream showing that MailChimp removed him "effective immediately" because his account "is in violation of our Terms of Use."

    Full video

    Jones has regularly used his show to push conspiracy theories targeting survivors of tragedies, including 9/11 and the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Jones has repeatedly used his platform to push for violence and allege that domestic right-wing terrorism in America, such as in Oklahoma City, is actually part of a secret government plot.

  • Sean Hannity in 2008: “If you cheat on your wife, are you going to be honest with your country?”

    Sean Hannity: Americans “have a right to know before we elect somebody” president if he had an affair

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    Sean Hannity said in 2008 that presidential candidates who have affairs have a “character issue” because they are “living a life that’s a lie.” Hannity, who made the comments during a discussion about the affair of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards on Hannity & Colmes, also said that Americans “have a right to know before we elect somebody” whether the candidates have had such affairs. He also speculated, “If you cheat on your wife, are you going to be honest with your country?”

    In a subsequent episode of Hannity & Colmes, Hannity went further, stating that “If you take a vow, a promise, a pledge, a solemn vow, and you promise to love, honor, cherish, be faithful to, in good times and in bad, richer or poorer, better or worse, and be faithful, you know, till death do you part, if you don't -- if you can't keep that vow, why should people not be suspect that you keep a vow to, you know, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States?”

    President Donald Trump is currently under fire for paying hush money during the 2016 campaign to conceal affairs with model Karen McDougal and adult actor Stormy Daniels. Hannity is Trump’s confidant and top propagandist.

    SEAN HANNITY: That is a sign of love that I think all human beings can aspire to, so if that -- and her personal life is her choice, I admire her. I think that's great. But she did take a shot at the Enquirer when she said, “Most recently, the pain is caused by the desire for sensationalism and profit without regard for human consequences.” She's got to know he's running for president. She's got to know he is a contender for vice president, or was. So I honestly applaud the Enquirer.

    KIRSTEN POWERS: Well, I guess it comes down to whether you think this kind of stuff needs to be in the public domain or not and I think we probably disagree. I tend to think that it is a private matter.

    HANNITY: If you're going to be president?

    POWERS: And I don't -- I think -- yes, yes, I do. I don't think that.

    HANNITY: It doesn't matter if you're president and you're having an affair.

    POWERS: Look, as far as I can tell, George Bush has been faithful to his wife. I don't think he's been that great of a president. That's just my personal -- I know you disagree with me. But I don't think that's the mark necessarily -- FDR, JFK, there are plenty of people, and I -- but I do think that they -- it is -- it was brought into the public domain by her husband, though.

    HANNITY: But if you're living a life that's a lie.

    POWERS: Right.

    HANNITY: If you're not honest, it's a character issue.

    POWERS: It is a character issue. I agree.

    HANNITY: Don't we have a right to know before we elect somebody?

    POWERS: Look, Sean, my feeling is that it's a character issue if I was looking at that person do I want to marry this person. That's a decision. But it's -- as far as the president.

    HANNITY: If you cheat on your wife, are you going to be honest with your country?

    POWERS: Like I said -- but we have plenty of -- I mean do you think that FDR was an honorable president? I mean I think that he was. So I don't think that that's necessarily be the measure. But to Elizabeth's point, her husband put this in the public domain, you know?

    HANNITY: We got to take a break. We're going to come back. More details on the Edwards affair and what about the baby?

    Later in the show, Hannity emphasized the seriousness of an affair, saying “Where’s any level of love there?”

    CHIP SALTSMAN: I mean this is a true tragic dark story, if you - what you and Barry were talking about. It sounds cold and calculating, and here's a guy that was running for president of the United States, running for his nomination on the Democrat party and had just no care in the world and said, “Nah nobody's going to find out about it.” I mean, this runs deeper issues, and we wonder why we have such low approval ratings of our politicians when we now expect them to lie because they do.

    SEAN HANNITY: You know something. It's sad. Going back to what Barry just said, Kirsten, about that, I've got to wonder, you know, just putting aside all the politics and interpersonal relationships, if I was married to somebody and that was revealed to be true, where's any level of love there? Where's any level of concern?

    KIRSTEN POWERS: I don't know. I don't think we can really look at other people's marriages and know what's going on. You know, they have a long history together. They've been together since they were in law school. They, you know, were obviously very close, and I think that perhaps, you know, she's forgiven him, and you know, he's stumbled, and she's decided that she has -

    ALAN COLMES: That's what John says before. Because if this is - it's a wonderful example of forgiveness if she's able to do that. I mean, we could all aspire to be as forgiving as Elizabeth Edwards appears to be.

    Days later, Hannity was even more emphatic.

    SEAN HANNITY: And there are also reports, the Enquirer, that has had it right up to this point, Chris, is pointing out that there were numerous liaisons at this hotel in Beverly Hills that came -- went on much, much later.

    But there are other questions that may become a legal issue for him. Number one, did he really know about the hush money? Did he know about $15,000 being paid monthly? Did he know who paid for the expensive mansion she was living in, in Santa Barbara? And this woman, who's not qualified to do these documentaries, was this a, you know, job of silence?

    CHRIS WILSON: Was paid over $100,000 to go shoot documentaries, which she'd never done before. And really, the narcissism and hypocrisy go behind -- that go into this is just remarkable.

    You look at one, he's running for president on moral values. His wife has been diagnosed with cancer, and yet, this is a man that we're going to trust of leading the free world?

    ALAN COLMES: He's not running for president any more.

    HANNITY: Hang on a second.

    WILSON: No, he's not now, but he was at the time, and he was considering it. And I think that's really the whole -- that's why this is an issue.

    HANNITY: Let me go back to Ronald, because Ronald…

    AMANDA CARPENTER: I think that's part of the…

    HANNITY: I want to go back to this fundamental issue. I want to know: you've got to explain this to me. I'm just not getting this. Explain to me -- I'm just a regular guy.

    And I'm wondering if you can't keep the promise to your family, can't keep your promise to your wife, you're having an affair, you're lying about the affair repeatedly, why should the American people trust you when you say you're not going to lie to them? Why should we trust you?

    Later in that show, Hannity made clear he was more upset at Edwards’ affair than that of Sen. John McCain because of Edwards’ wealth and his haircut.

    SEAN HANNITY: Can I explain something in the last segment?

    ALAN COLMES: Sure.

    HANNITY: Senator McCain spent 5.5 years of his life for his country being tortured, beaten on a daily basis with broken bones and broken body.

    COLMES: War hero.

    HANNITY: Excuse me. The fact that they didn't break his spirit -- if you can't see the difference between him and Mr. Two Americas in his 28,000-square-foot mansion with his, you know, doing his hair, $1,000 hair cut…

    COLMES: Excuse me. Let me ask you a question.

    HANNITY: Excuse me. If you don't see the difference than I can't explain it to you.

    COLMES: Let me ask you a question. With all due respect, and I've never denounced John McCain for his service to his country. He's a true American hero. However, does that give him -- does that mean it's OK to have an affair when you come back from war?

    HANNITY: No, but here’s the difference. There are extenuating circumstances. And he is the first to admit that when he came back after five and a half years of being tortured for his country, that he was not the person that he is now, it was 30 years ago. And for you to make the same thing about Mr. Hair Cut, I'm sorry.

    COLMES: No, no. I do not equate his being a war hero with cheating on his wife. I don't conflate the two.

    In the years since, Hannity has returned to the topic on Twitter. In June 2012, Hannity tweeted in response to @MariaHasAQuill that “I doubt mrs h. And my 2 kids would like that. I m not john edwards.”

  • Facebook once again gives special treatment to conservative media

    Facebook keeps rolling out the red carpet for conservatives. There's no similar track record with liberals.

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    UPDATE (7/17): A Facebook executive reportedly claimed in a congressional hearing to not know that Jon Kyl was working with the Trump administration.

    A Wall Street Journal report reveals that Facebook arranged a meeting with about a dozen news companies. The social media giant invited roughly six conservative outlets, seemingly to act as a counterbalance to the more mainstream outlets in attendance, according to BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith:

    At the off-the-record meeting between Facebook officials and publishing executives in New York on Thursday, BuzzFeed Editor in Chief Ben Smith said that, by his count, there were about six conservative-leaning publications among the dozen or so outlets represented at the gathering. He said the ratio implied a fundamental misconception among Facebook employees about the workings of the news industry, according to people familiar with his remarks.

    Mr. Smith said that the number of conservative publications in attendance indicated that Facebook had bought into the idea, promoted primarily by conservatives, that mainstream outlets such as the New York Times are liberal and should be counterbalanced by right-leaning opinion outlets, said people familiar with his remarks.

    Facebook rolled out the welcome mat to conservatives previously as well. In 2016, the company met with conservatives complaining about content being suppressed on the site, and even though an internal review found no bias, Facebook fired its human editors anyways, flooding the site with fake news. In 2017, when conservatives starting baselessly complaining about new fact-checking partners working with the site, Facebook added right-wing site The Weekly Standard as the only partisan fact-checker. This year, when conservatives started baselessly complaining about content being suppressed again, they hired plugged-in Republican lobbyist Jon Kyl, a former Arizona senator, who is also working with Trump on the side to get his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, confirmed. In June, Facebook executives also reportedly met with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), RNC chair Ronna McDaniel, and Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale to discuss "bias against conservative content."

    All of these concerns are total nonsense. A study we conducted using internal Facebook data shows that among top pages, conservative content outperforms liberal and nonaligned content on the platform:

    Right-wing photos (that is, memes) are the content that gets the most engagement on the platform:

    Specific allegations have also been debunked. And yet, conservatives are never going to stop complaining to Facebook. Progressives should feel empowered to do the same. In the absence of any regulatory regime, it’s apparently the only thing that Facebook listens to.

  • After her appearance was advertised, Jeanine Pirro didn’t show up on Bill O’Reilly’s digital show

    Bill O'Reilly scrubbed a mention of Pirro from his website

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    On July 10, Media Matters reported on Bill O’Reilly’s announcement that Fox News host Jeanine Pirro was going to appear on his digital show to discuss President Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

    A Google cache version of the preview for O’Reilly’s show has Pirro’s name:

    At some point after publishing, her name was removed from the post.

    Pirro never showed up, and O’Reilly instead discussed the matter with former U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman:

    Media Matters emailed Fox News and Pirro, asking for comment about whether Pirro and Andrew Napolitano (who had reportedly been slated to be O’Reilly’s guest July 12; as of now, nothing on O’Reilly’s site from this week mentions Napolitano) were pulled from the program. So far, we have not received a response.

    In April, O’Reilly announced that he was appearing at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., for “An Evening With Bill O’Reilly.” Patrons who gave contributions of more than $5,000 were slated to be rewarded with an “invitation to behind the scenes tour of Fox & Friends.” After a Media Matters post on the matter, a Fox spokesperson told The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple, “We had no knowledge of this and we are not allowing Fox & Friends to be part of any donation package.”

    O’Reilly left Fox News in April 2017 after a sustained pressure campaign following revelations of multiple sexual harassment settlements. O’Reilly has since made multiple appearances on Sean Hannity’s radio show and one appearance on Hannity’s Fox News show.

    Bobby Lewis contributed research to this post.

  • Fox News can’t quit Bill O’Reilly

    Jeanine Pirro and Andrew Napolitano are scheduled to be guests on his digital program

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On April 19, 2017, Bill O’Reilly and Fox News severed ties. Or so we thought.

    Letting O’Reilly go was not the network’s first choice; O’Reilly left only when Fox News had no other option. The New York Times had revealed that O’Reilly and 21st Century Fox, Fox News’ parent company, paid roughly $13 million in settlements with five women who had reported O’Reilly for sexual harassment. In fact, Fox News had been silencing women who spoke up: According to the Times, “Fox News and Mr. O’Reilly adopted an aggressive strategy that served as a stark warning of what could happen to women if they came forward with complaints.”

    O’Reilly remained on the air.

    But then, relentless activism (including from Media Matters) spurred advertisers to pull their ads from the The O’Reilly Factor’s time slot. Sexual violence survivors demanded that Fox take action.

    It was only then that Fox agreed to remove O’Reilly from the air. 

    But the network and some of its personalities quickly started helping O'Reilly rehabilitate his image. They barely covered the story at all.

    Before long, O’Reilly popped up on Sean Hannity’s radio show. In an appearance on September 18, 2017, Hannity helped O’Reilly attack the women who reported him for sexual harassment, smearing a former Fox News clerical temp who had reported workplace misconduct by O’Reilly to the 21st Century Fox hotline. In return, Hannity said O’Reilly was a victim of a nefarious left-wing campaign aimed at silencing conservatives.

    A week later, O’Reilly returned to Fox News. In an appearance that Fox teased throughout the day, Hannity welcomed the exiled host back for a lengthy in-studio chat, in which they whined about at the “totalitarians” at Media Matters.

    O’Reilly hasn’t returned to Fox News since then. He did appear again on Hannity’s radio show, though.

    Over the past several months, we have learned more about O’Reilly’s behavior. In October, The New York Times reported that O’Reilly had settled a sexual harassment claim with former contributor Lis Wiehl for $32 million. 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch claimed, “It was news to me,” even though Fox gave O’Reilly a lucrative contract after that settlement.

    Months later, the draconian terms of O’Reilly’s settlements were revealed.

    In April, Media Matters pointed out that a marketing campaign for an O’Reilly event at Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., was pushing a tour of the Fox & Friends studio as a donation reward. A Fox spokesperson told Washington Post’s Erik Wemple, “We had no knowledge of this and we are not allowing Fox & Friends to be part of any donation package.”

    Now, months later, Fox News personalities Jeanine Pirro and Andrew Napolitano are appearing on O’Reilly’s digital program, helping him reestablish his media presence:

    Pirro, a Fox host, has downplayed sexual misconduct allegations against then-Fox News CEO Roger Ailes and President Donald Trump. When multiple women spoke out about Trump touching them inappropriately, Pirro rejected their reports as “a little too convenient.” Napolitano, Fox’s senior judicial analyst, has appeared on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ show and once described Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) as a "good looker" on air.

    O’Reilly has commented on Pirro’s appearance before in public. In April 2017, The New Yorker’s Kelefa Sanneh drew attention to a moment on air between the two:

    But, on Thursday night, there was an odd moment when O’Reilly drew attention to the appearance of a female colleague. He was introducing Judge Jeanine Pirro, a Fox News host who is launching a new show, and he wanted the producer to move from a shot of his face to a shot of hers. “On her, please—much more photogenic than I am,” he said. “Judge Pirro—take a good look—is now going to host a show on the Fox broadcast network.”

    O’Reilly’s interviews with Pirro and Napolitano come after Hannity arranged a top White House job for former Fox executive Bill Shine, even though Shine has been repeatedly implicated in the rampant sexual misconduct at Fox News. Fox News' new CEO has reportedly ignored sexual harassment and retaliating against complaints as well.

    While O’Reilly has gotten numerous chances from Fox even after being let go, others have not been so lucky. Former Fox host Gretchen Carlson two years ago filed suit against Ailes for sexual harassment. She also detailed gender-based harassment from Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy.

    Carlson has never been back on Fox News. Doocy still has his job.

  • Fox News runs the government

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Update (7/5): Shine has been officially named as Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications.

    Donald Trump is reportedly close to bringing aboard Bill Shine, Sean Hannity’s former producer and the former president of Fox News, as the next White House communications director.

    This makes perfect sense.

    Shine has been repeatedly implicated in the rampant sexual misconduct at Fox News. He played a similar role inside of Roger Ailes’ Fox News that Michael Cohen played for Donald Trump. As the senior executive vice president at the network, Shine reportedly retaliated against women who reported sexual harassment by then-CEO Roger Ailes and helped participate in covering up the reports that eventually led to Ailes’ ouster.

    Former Fox News reporter Rudi Bakhtiar was reportedly fired from the network following her complaint that Brian Wilson, a former Fox News Washington bureau chief, had “made unwanted sexual advances toward her.” Bakhtiar reported the harassment, which Wilson denied, to Shine through her agent in 2007. Even though Shine reportedly promised to investigate, Bakhtiar was fired and eventually settled with the network for $670,000 through mediation after signing a nondisclosure agreement.

    Shine reportedly helped Ailes interact with Laurie Luhn, a former Fox booker who eventually reported Ailes for harassment. Luhn had a nervous breakdown after Ailes “psychologically tortured” her. Shine reportedly checked her into hotels in different cities to keep her from reporting her circumstances and started reviewing her outgoing emails. A spokesperson for Shine told reporter Gabriel Sherman, who is now with Vanity Fair, that Shine denied reviewing the emails.

    In July 2016, Sherman described how Shine “played an integral role in the cover-up” of Ailes’ reported misconduct. Sherman said that Shine “pushed women into confidential mediation, signing nondisclosure agreements in exchange for their contracts to be paid.”

    The New York Times’ Emily Steel and Michael Schmidt reported in 2017 that Shine refused to intervene when it became clear that then-host Bill O’Reilly would air a segment lecturing women about sexual harassment. While Shine was co-president of Fox News, 21st Century Fox reportedly made multiple payments to women who reported that Bill O’Reilly sexually harassed them.

    Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes that also named Shine as being complicit in Ailes harassment and “punishing her for raising the issue.”

    Shine was also tied a racial discrimination and harassment lawsuit. A group of Black employees at Fox News sued the network for racial discrimination and harassment. The lawsuit explained that Shine "has demonstrated an obsession with race when it comes to discussions with [then-Fox News anchor Kelly] Wright, including regularly asking him, 'how do Black people react to you' and 'how do you think White viewers look at you?'"

    Also, Shine is close friends with Sean Hannity, whose now-defunct show Hannity & Colmes he used to produce. When Shine left Fox News, rumors swirled about whether Hannity would invoke a clause in his contract to leave as well.

    This should all sound familiar.

    Over 20 women have spoken out about Trump engaging in sexual misconduct, including 12 nonconsensual physical encounters. The media has for the most part repeatedly forgotten about them, even though there is audio of Trump bragging about sexual assault. And oh yeah, Sean Hannity and Fox News led the charge to discredit the women in the first place.

    Trump’s racism is obvious, and yet it frequently gets papered over. Right-wing media defend it, mainstream outlets dance around it, and everyone just forgets it ever happened as soon as the next news tsunami hits.

    So yeah, Bill Shine is a perfect fit for the Trump White House.

    Trump bringing in Fox News people is now just a regular thing. It’s commonplace to see Fox host Jeanine Pirro in the Oval Office one day, and hear about host Lou Dobbs phoning in White House meetings the next. Fox & Friends weekend host Pete Hegseth is rumored to be the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs one week and is being considered for a communications job a few weeks later. Former Fox & Friends anchor Heather Nauert was installed at a top position in the Department of State. Former Fox contributor John Bolton became the national security adviser. Former Fox commentator Mercedes Schlapp is the director of strategic communications at the White House. Former Fox commentator Tony Sayegh is a Treasury Department’s spokesperson. Former Fox commentator Richard Grenell is now ambassador to Germany.

    There are also those who didn’t make it: former contributor K.T. McFarland resigned as deputy national security adviser and later withdrew her nomination to become ambassador to Singapore due to controversy over work for disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn; and contributor Monica Crowley was never hired after it was reported that she plagiarized parts of her Ph.D. dissertation. And there’ve been rumors at various times that Trump is considering hiring Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity.

    Fox News has spent its entire existence as the mouthpiece of a revanchist, faux-populist oligarchy. Thanks to Donald Trump, that infrastructure is now in the White House.

    It took decades and a number of brave women and men speaking out to reveal the full scale of the horrors of Roger Ailes and Bill Shine’s Fox News.

    One wonders what we will find in the future about Trump’s White House.

  • CNN bemoans a lack of civility after spending years hiring pro-Trump commentators

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    CNN has been on a civility kick. A transcript search shows that variations of the words were said over a hundred times on June 25 alone. One good example is the network’s June 25 highlight reel of allegedly incivil things that have recently been said by various people. As my colleague noted, the video conflated examples of liberals being mean with conservatives being racist:

    CNN then brought on longtime centrist commentator David Gergen and pro-Trump whisperer Salena Zito to discuss the supposed decline in civility. Apparently no progressive voices were available.

    Later in the day, when discussing Trump’s separation and detention of immigrant families with immigration lawyer David Leopold, CNN anchor Kate Bolduan interrupted Leopold and chided him for calling White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller a white nationalist, asking, “Where is the fact on that?”

    Calling Miller a white nationalist is not some gratuitous insult. It is a simple, straight-forward analysis of his ideology. Splinter News’ Clio Chang aptly noted the evidence:

    There is plenty of evidence that Stephen Miller, the architect of Donald Trump’s hard-line racist immigration policies, is a white nationalist. He crafted Trump’s Muslim ban. His thumbprint is smeared all over the administration’s family separation policy, the point of which is to tear immigrant families apart and deter others from entering the country. Miller reportedly laughed during a meeting when Trump made up names for immigrants and described imaginary crimes they might have committed. He has pushed for some of the harshest overhauls of our immigration system, including cutting legal immigration by half over the next decade. A White House aide recently told Vanity Fair Miller “actually enjoys” seeing pictures of children detained at the border: “He’s Waffen-SS,” the person said.

    As journalist Chris Hooks also noted, Miller and white nationalist Richard Spencer worked together at Duke University to bring in white nationalist Peter Brimelow to speak about immigration. Spencer even told Mother Jones that he was glad no one was reporting on this connection:

    “It’s funny no one’s picked up on the Stephen Miller connection,” Spencer says. “I knew him very well when I was at Duke. But I am kind of glad no one’s talked about this because I don’t want to harm Trump.”

    This determined ignorance of the Trump team’s white nationalism is particularly galling since CNN has been profiting off of Trump’s team for years now. The network has hired a parade of pro-Trump analysts who, like the children at Willy Wonka’s factory, have been inevitably dropped as they become too toxic.

    The hirings started during the 2016 campaign when Trump told CNN executives to hire Jeffrey Lord. Soon after, CNN programming was inundated with Lord, Corey Lewandowski, Kayleigh McEnany, and Scottie Nell Hughes. These hirings frequently raised ethical questions. Current Vox correspondent Carlos Maza examined the problem for Media Matters before the election:

    As Maza noted, the presence of pro-Trump voices turned discussions into screaming matches more suited to reality television than to a news network. And like reality television, the names rotated in and out with the content staying the same.

    Lewandowski resigned from CNN following the election (CNN refused to fire him even after reporting revealed the Trump campaign was still paying him). McEnany moved on to become the spokesperson of the Republican National Committee. Hughes left CNN before the inauguration. And most notably, CNN eventually fired Lord after he issued a Nazi salute on Twitter.

    In their stead, CNN rolled in new pro-Trump voices. One of the first was former Trump senior communications adviser Jason Miller. By mid 2017, the channel’s paid Trump shills were flooding the network:

    Media Matters’ senior fellow Matt Gertz noted in October 2017 how the network continued to flood its airwaves with bullshit:

    [Ben] Ferguson, for example, has repeatedly been called out by his CNN colleagues this month for offering nonsensical diversions in discussions of Trump’s attacks on NFL players who protest racial inequality during the National Anthem. And [Stephen] Moore -- who typically appears on the network to lie about Trump-backed health care proposals -- on Monday derailed a CNN panel discussion about then-Fox News host Bill O’Reilly paying a hefty sexual harassment settlement by saying that the real solution is for powerful men to never be alone in a room alone with a woman. [Jack] Kingston, for his part, last night attempted to make excuses for Trump’s unprecedented falsehoods, saying that “the American perception is that politicians lie” and Trump is no worse than other presidents; the rest of the panel denounced him, with anchor Don Lemon scolding him for “condoning bad behavior.”

    When major stories break, such as Trump’s string of indefensible responses to the lethal white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, Trump’s CNN supporters blanket the network’s coverage. That result was a trainwreck, with the president’s shills sidelining discussions with praise for Trump’s response and dismissals of the importance of the rally.

    In September 2017, CNN hired Ed Martin, president of the Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund, ostensibly as Lord’s replacement. CNN was either ignorant or tolerant of the fact that Martin had previously called CNN “fake news” and had made flatly racist statements. In 2016, Martin told a crowd at a right-wing rally: "You're not racist if you don't like Mexicans. They're from a nation. If you don't think Muslims are vetted enough, because they blow things up, that's not racist."

    Martin predictably used his appearances to turn CNN into a trainwreck, while using his radio show to rail against the network:

    • Martin called on the air for a total end to immigration, saying, “Stop all immigration right now.” (11/2/17)

    • Martin argued that Leigh Corfman, the woman who reported that former Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore molested her as a child, should not be believed, saying, “What is this woman? She’s got multiple bankruptcies." (11/11/17)

    • Martin endorsed Moore and tried to get him elected even as CNN was doing great reporting on him. (11/7/17)

    • Martin said that Trump’s racist remarks about LaVar Ball, father of one of the basketball players arrested in China, could not be a “racial thing” because Trump also attacked Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). (11/20/17)

    • Martin defended Trump’s racist “Pocahontas” comment to World War II Navajo code talkers as “100 percent” appropriate. (11/27/17)

    • Martin contended that Trump’s racist anti-Muslim tweets were actually helpful because they were “starting a conversation.” (11/30/17)

    • After Roy Moore said that America was at its best during slavery, Martin argued that Jewish slaves had families: “When the Jews were in bondage for years, they still loved each other.” (12/11/17)

    • Martin called fellow CNN employees and co-panelists “black racists.” (12/14/17)

    • Martin praised Trump for ordering CNN’s chief White House correspondent out of the Oval Office, saying it was “amazing to see” and “really funny.” (1/18/18)

    • Martin gave an award to disgraced conservative operative James O’Keefe, who had on numerous occasions run deceitful stings against CNN. O’Keefe once attempted to lure then-CNN correspondent Abbie Boudreau onto a boat full of sex paraphernalia. (1/12/18)

    Martin stopped appearing on CNN after December 14 when Media Matters posted audio of Martin complaining about appearing on a panel with CNN commentators “who were just rabid feminists, actually racial, racists -- two of the women were racists, they were just were racists, black racists.” CNN eventually confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter on January 18 that Martin no longer worked for the network.

    Martin’s role was soon taken by pro-Trump commentator Steve Cortes, who has said that he went to CNN “partly at the suggestion of the White House itself and the president himself.” Like Martin, Cortes also had previously called CNN “fake news.” During his time as a contributor at Fox News, Cortes had compared undocumented immigrants to violent thieves. And on CNN, Cortes has not only made similar statements, he’s also made laughably false and ridiculous claims. Michelle Wolf called out CNN’s charade with Cortes:

    MICHELLE WOLF (HOST): Aw man, as a fan I just love this kind of TV magic. Watching the host act like the guest forced his way into the studio is so compelling, you almost forget that he was invited on and paid! Good job, Don, you knew full well Steve was going to lie and you gave a fun clip to share, and that's exactly why you invite him back all the time.

    Here’s a brief history of things that paid CNN commentators have said on-air since the inauguration:

    • Stephen Moore made a completely false claim about coal jobs that an actual economist immediately corrected. (3/29/17)
    • Jason Miller made sexist remarks about Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), calling her “hysterical.” (6/13/17)
    • After Trump encouraged police brutality, Jeffrey Lord dismissed it as a "New Yorker sense of humor." (7/31/17)
    • Lord called Trump “the Martin Luther King of health care.” CNN then talked about it for an entire day. (4/13/17)
    • Lord compared the Congressional Black Caucus to the KKK. (2/16/17)
    • Ben Ferguson criticized civil rights icon John Lewis for not educating Trump about civil rights. (12/8/17)
    • Rick Santorum said that Parkland school shooting survivors aren't taking personal responsibility and should learn CPR instead of engaging in activism. (3/25/18)
    • Kayleigh McEnany attacked Barack Obama for golfing in 2002 when George W. Bush was president. (3/28/17)
    • Ken Cuccinelli told panelist Symone Sanders to shut up while discussing white supremacists in Charlottesville. (8/14/17)
    • Paris Dennard posited that Trump was better than Obama at calling out white supremacists. (8/14/17)
    • Kayleigh McEnany defended Trump’s sexist remarks to an Irish reporter: "The press should be applauding the fact that he's bringing reporters into the Oval Office, calling them out and including them." (6/28/17)
    • Rick Santorum attacked reporters for asking Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for details about North Korea and nuclear weapons. (6/14/18)
    • Miller dismissed reports that Trump had an affair with adult actor Stormy Daniels and paid her hush money because, according to him, the alleged payoff was nothing to a billionaire. (3/7/18)
    • Santorum accused Obama of exacerbating racism in America. (6/3/18)
    • After a suicide bombing killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert, Lord said that it would be fair for Trump to criticize Grande for not providing enough security. (6/5/17)
    • Lord used a Nazi analogy to attack London Mayor Sadiq Khan. (6/5/17)
    • Stephen Moore repeatedly lied about the Affordable Care Act, often without CNN fact-checking him. (7/17/17)
    • After Roy Moore was accused of child molestation, Stephen Moore argued that his opponent was “no saint either” because he supported abortion. (11/20/17)
    • Jack Kingston pushed a conspiracy theory that shadowy forces were behind the rally against gun violence organized by Parkland survivors. (2/20/18)
    • While discussing sexual harassment, Stephen Moore said that he would never take a one-on-one meeting with a woman. (10/23/17)
    • Jack Kingston said that Bill O'Reilly's racist remarks about Waters' hair were just like liberals calling Trump “orange.” (3/29/17)
    • Bryan Lanza argued that discussing sexual assault allegations against Trump "seems like a waste of time." (12/20/17

    And it’s not only the paid commentators who are a part of CNN's “false equivalency” problem. Just last week, after Lewandowski mocked a 10-year-old with Down syndrome who was separated from her mother at the U.S. border, CNN invited him on to talk more about his remark.

    At the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, Michelle Wolf called out this sycophantic relationship between the media and those in power. Wolf later told Vulture (emphasis original): “It was gross! Like, I saw [CNN President] Jeff Zucker hugging Kellyanne Conway, and it was just like, Oh! You’re all in this together! People are really getting hurt, and you guys are just celebrating your money. It’s all a game, nothing more than ‘How will we best profit off of this?’ It was icky.” Nevertheless, a CNN panel criticized Wolf’s jokes, with a CNN host saying that some of her jokes were “way too personal.”

    America is not enduring a crisis of civility. America is enduring a crisis of facts, brought on largely by the rise of the filter bubble, with specious liars given credibility by feckless media and tech companies. It’d be nice if they were all at least a bit more self-aware about it.

    Katie Sullivan contributed research to this post.

  • An NRA source just admitted that NRA representatives met with Putin’s inner circle during the 2016 campaign

    NRATV called the Russia investigation a lie, even as there is an FBI investigation into whether the Russian government used the NRA to illegally funnel money to support Trump

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    We already knew, thanks to previous reporting and a Senate Judiciary Committee report, that the Russian government may have used the NRA to aid Trump’s campaign in 2016. And per previous reporting from McClatchy, the FBI is investigating whether Russian banker and NRA member Alexander Torshin used the NRA to illegally funnel money to support Trump's election. 

    Now, a new McClatchy story cites an NRA source to confirm that high-level meetings took place between members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and NRA representatives during the election:

    Several prominent Russians, some in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle or high in the Russian Orthodox Church, now have been identified as having contact with National Rifle Association officials during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, according to photographs and an NRA source.

    The contacts have emerged amid a deepening Justice Department investigation into whether Russian banker and lifetime NRA member Alexander Torshin illegally channeled money through the gun rights group to add financial firepower to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential bid.

    Other influential Russians who met with NRA representatives during the campaign include Dmitry Rogozin, who until last month served as a deputy prime minister overseeing Russia’s defense industry, and Sergei Rudov, head of one of Russia’s largest philanthropies, the St. Basil the Great Charitable Foundation. The foundation was launched by an ultra-nationalist ally of Russian President Putin.

    The Russians talked and dined with NRA representatives, mainly in Moscow, as U.S. presidential candidates vied for the White House. Now U.S. investigators want to know if relationships between the Russian leaders and the nation’s largest gun rights group went beyond vodka toasts and gun factory tours, evolving into another facet of the Kremlin’s broad election-interference operation.

    Even as the contacts took place, Kremlin cyber operatives were secretly hacking top Democrats’ emails and barraging Americans’ social media accounts with fake news stories aimed at damaging the image of Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton and boosting the prospects of Republican Donald Trump.

    NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch dismissed the reporting as old news:

    While NRATV has largely avoided mentioning Russia, contributor Dan Bongino has been railing against special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. On Fox & Friends in May, he called the Russia investigation “an obvious frame job.” On a June 2 Fox & Friends Saturday appearance, Bongino blasted the investigation as a “total scam,” leading to a Trump tweet on the matter quoting him.

    On June 4, jumping off that Trump tweet, Bongino went on a wild rant on his NRATV program, complaining that the entire Russia investigation was fake and that he had spent six months studying the matter for a book he is working on. He even argued, referring to Australian diplomat Alexander Downer, that going through non-official channels implies guilt -- which is incredible as an investigation is looking at the possibility that the NRA was used by a foreign government to illegally intervene in an American presidential election.

    Here’s the entire rant:

    The whole thing’s a scam, folks. This Russia investigation’s a scam. So, the president must have saw it, tweeted out the comments, which I always appreciate, but I meant it. I meant every word of it.

    This is a scam. The whole thing is a scam and the entire story is falling apart. I have some incredible sound here I’m going to play in a minute, and video, from Congressman Devin Nunes [(R-CA)], who’s been doing an unbelievable job uncovering the scam that this whole Russia thing has been. But before I play it I just want to set you up what we’re talking about here.

    Folks, the media cannot agree on a story how the darn investigation started, because the investigation’s crap -- it's garbage. The reason they can’t cite to you what paragraph one of this investigation reads -- in other words, at this time, at this place, this happened, and therefore we investigated Donald Trump -- is because no one can explain why it started, because it started for political, not law enforcement or counterintelligence, reasons. We were told initially that the case started because of a guy named Carter Page, who went to Russia; we now found out that a lot of that information contained in that dossier was false. The media narrative then changed to, “Oh, it was a meeting between Alexander Downer and a guy named George Papadopoulos working for the Trump team where some information about Russian emails were exchanged.” I’m going to get to Nunes in a second. Now that narrative is falling apart. The media is now trying to change the narrative again -- to, “Well, no, it started when a spy interacted with the Trump team and the British gave us information on the Trump team as early as 2015,” which begs the very simple question, if you knew about Russians trying to involve themselves in our election back in 2015, why the hell didn’t you do anything about it? Fair question? Heh? Kinda? Sorta?

    Well, with regards to story number two, because again there’s four or five different iterations about how the FBI started this case, none of which make any sense. On story number two, about a low-level Trump operative by the name of George Papadopoulos interacting with an Australian in London, an Australian diplomat by the name of Alexander Downer, and exchanging some information about the Russians having emails on Hillary, the FBI says, “Oh well we had to investigate, look at that,” and the Democrats will parrot that line. Here’s Devin Nunes again debunking critical elements of story number two.

    That liberals still defend this, right, and they just don’t take a bath on it and just come out and admit at this point that this whole thing’s been a scam, is beyond perplexing to me. It’s dragging them down at the polls. It’s obviously a scam. They obviously have no evidence of any Russian collusion at all, and yet they continue -- it reminds me of a shirt I saw once at Six Flags Great Adventure New Jersey, remember that? Was that exit 7a or something? The shirt said “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” How -- are you going to continue to smash your head against the desk, liberals, with this dopey case? Nothing you’ve said is true. Nothing. The whole case is a fabrication.

    There are two critical takeaways from that commentary by Devin Nunes on Maria Bartiromo’s show (again hat tip Fox News there). Two points. Number one, he brings up again how this information supposedly that was so devastating about a Trump team member who mentioned something about emails, he mentions again how it was passed through non-official channels. Folks, why would you do that? Why would you do that? What movie is that from? Anybody in this studio know? Denise, who’s our pop culture guy? Why would you do that? That’s from a movie. That’s going to drive me crazy the whole time. Why would you pass the information through non-official channels? You would pass it through non-official channels because if it went through official intelligence channels and it was fake, it would be exposed as fake. This isn’t hard. There’s a reason they went through political channels with what they deemed to be counterintelligence and intelligence information, because if they passed it through official intelligence channels, it would have been laughed at as garbage.

    There’s another takeaway from that, not specifically mentioned in the piece but that’s been breaking about this Downer piece. Remember, Downer’s the Australian diplomat who allegedly dealt with this Trump kid on the Trump team who had information about the emails. Now Downer himself is saying, ”Well, the Trump team member never mentioned anything about emails.” Folks, is anything about this story true? Anything? The answer is no. Nothing about this story’s true. You’re being worked, as I said in the tweet.

    All right, let me move on, because this is going to drive me crazy. I could talk about this all day, but just trust me on this. I’m putting a book together on this -- it’s been my entire life for the last six months.

    There is not a single critical fact in this case that the liberals, the swamp rat Republicans, and the people advocating for this Trump/Russia collusion fairy tale, not a single critical fact that has turned out to be true. Not one. It is garbage.

  • Scott Pruitt’s EPA blacklists reporters from summit on toxic water contaminants, forcibly removes reporter from the building

    Journalists from AP, CNN, E&E News, and Politico were all prevented from attending

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    This post was updated on 5/23/18 to incorporate additional news reports.

    Reporters from The Associated Press, CNN, E&E News, and Politico were barred from attending parts of an Environmental Protection Agency summit on water contaminants on May 22 and 23. At one point, security guards used force to remove an AP reporter from the building.

    From a May 22 AP report:

    The Environmental Protection Agency is barring The Associated Press, CNN and the environmental-focused news organization E&E from a national summit on harmful water contaminants.

    The EPA blocked the news organizations from attending Tuesday’s Washington meeting, convened by EPA chief Scott Pruitt.

    EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told the barred organizations they were not invited and there was no space for them, but gave no indication of why they specifically were barred.

    Pruitt told about 200 people at the meeting that dealing with the contaminants is a “national priority.”

    The AP’s environmental reporter tweeted about the incident:

    An E&E News reporter tweeted:

    Hallie Jackson of NBC News relayed an EPA spokesperson's response:

    CNN issued a statement:

    The EPA issued a statement opening the second half of the May 22 meeting to any outlet, contradicting a previous statement:

    But on the following day, May 23, the EPA again blocked journalists from attending the summit, including Emily Holden from Politico, author and journalist Mariah Blake, and, once again, journalists from E&E News and CNN.

    As Holden reported, "The Federal Advisory Committee Act states that ‘any committee, board, commission, council, conference, panel, task force, or other similar group’ used by an agency ‘in the interest of obtaining advice or recommendations’ for the federal government must be open to the public.” Holden asked for a statement about why the EPA thinks its actions were not a violation of the act, but the EPA simply pointed her to its statement from the previous day about the event being at capacity.

    This is just the latest in a long string of incidents in which EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's press team has blocked reporters from events as well as dropped them from press release distribution lists and retaliated against them in other ways. On April 3, Pruitt barred reporters from his announcement about loosening automobile fuel economy standards. Journalists have been escorted out of Pruitt events by police. Reporters from The Associated Press and The New York Times have been personally attacked in official agency press releases. And the EPA has repeatedly refused to give reporters basic information about the agency's staffing and activities.

    Pruitt is currently under fire for multiple scandals and seemingly corrupt activities, including a sweetheart deal he got to rent a D.C. condo from the wife of an energy lobbyist.

    The Trump administration has a history of blacklisting reporters. In February of 2017, reporters from The New York Times, CNN, the Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed News, and Politico were barred from attending a briefing in then-press secretary Sean Spicer’s office. During the campaign, Trump banned a number of outlets from his events. There are numerous other examples of Trump’s war on the press.

    The May 22 and 23 summit on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) comes days after a Politico report revealed that Pruitt’s EPA and the White House sought to block a Health and Human Services study about PFAS and water contamination that “would show that the chemicals endanger human health at a far lower level than EPA has previously called safe.” According to the article, a Trump aide had said the release of the study would cause a “public relations nightmare.”