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John Whitehouse

Author ››› John Whitehouse
  • Fox News tried to quietly pull Jeanine Pirro's show from its weekly Saturday night slot. It didn’t work.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On March 16, Fox News pulled Jeanine Pirro's Justice with Judge Jeanine from its weekly Saturday night slot after a week of outrage over her anti-Muslim rant against a sitting congresswoman. The next morning, President Donald Trump lashed out in a series of tweets, demanding Fox “Bring back @JudgeJeanine Pirro” and “fight for our Country.” The entire sequence of events highlights an important reality for advertisers: Fox News is bad for business.

    During her March 9 show, Pirro suggested 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.” This outright bigotry prompted widespread outrage. A day later, Fox finally addressed it, saying that "we strongly condemn" Pirro's remarks and that the network "addressed the matter with her directly." Fox's statement was accompanied by a separate statement from Pirro in which she neither apologized nor showed any remorse for what she said.

    Fox replaced Pirro’s show with a documentary rerun on March 16. Jesse Watters, whose show airs before Pirro's, did not mention her at all; normally he notes that her show follows his. The president appeared to be upset at missing one of his favorite TV programs, tweeting the next morning demands that “Fox must stay strong and fight back with vigor” and “Keep fighting for Tucker, and fight hard for @JudgeJeanine.”

    There are four fundamental truths at play here. First, Fox News is under a lot of pressure following advertiser losses as a result of the network's malfeasance and bigotry. Second, Fox News is a propaganda machine for the president, with the two entities now essentially merged. Third, Pirro's show (and, for that matter, Tucker Carlson’s) is fundamentally bigoted to its core; she can never meaningfully distance herself from anti-Muslim statements since she's been spewing rhetoric like this for years. And fourth, the Fox News audience wants the bigoted and anti-Muslim statements. They've been fed this for years, and now expect no less. That's why you've seen people like Sebastian Gorka loudly defend Pirro this week.

    In terms of any discipline for Pirro, Fox News kept mum for several days on the matter; CNN's Brian Stelter is now reporting, per one source, that Pirro has been suspended for two weeks. But Fox executives' instinctive secrecy just shows how afraid they are of their network’s audience: If Fox News were a real news organization, then at a minimum it would say on air that Pirro's remarks were unacceptable and communicate what it is doing to its audience.

    Instead of doing any of that, Fox News wants to send one message to its hard-right audience and an entirely different message to its advertisers. They are welcome to try, but the Fox audience will never abet any meaningful move away from bigotry, and the rest of the public (and advertisers) don't have to play along. These are the tactics of a propaganda outlet, not a news organization.

    Update (3/17/19): Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz noted Pirro's absense on his March 17 show, but did not confirm the suspension. According to Kurtz, "Without some public explanation of why the show was pulled, It certainly looks like a suspension."

    This post has been adapted from Media Matters' weekly email. You can subscribe here.
  • Fox & Friends gave its script to Scott Pruitt before an interview. Don’t hold your breath waiting for consequences.

    Fox News in a statement is shocked that Fox & Friends was caught acting like the wing of the Republican Party

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Documents obtained by the Sierra Club show Fox & Friends gave its script for an interview with then-EPA chief Scott Pruitt to his office before he went on the show.

    Read Maxwell Tani at The Daily Beast for the blow-by-blow on how Fox & Friends catered to Pruitt’s team for two separate interviews. It’s pretty bad! And while it’s not surprising in the least, it is shocking to see it in text.

    A spokesperson for Fox gave a statement to Tani saying, “This is not standard practice whatsoever and the matter is being addressed internally with those involved.”

    But there is absolutely no reason to trust any internal investigation or disciplinary process at Fox News.

    Look no further than the Seth Rich matter. In May of 2017, Fox News -- and Sean Hannity in particular -- published and embraced a conspiracy theory about the murder of the Democratic National Committee staffer. When the story was revealed to be total garbage, Fox News promised an internal investigation into the matter.

    There have been, quite literally, no consequences for anyone:

    The network has not apologized to the Rich family -- in fact, its lawyers argued in a successful motion to dismiss a lawsuit the family had filed against the network that Fox’s reporting had actually portrayed Seth Rich as a heroic whistleblower.

    The reporter who wrote the story apparently remains a network employee, albeit one who has not published anything on the website since August 2017.

    The editor who worked on the story -- which, remember, the retraction acknowledges did not meet network standards -- was subsequently promoted.

    Hannity and Doocy have retained their lofty positions. Hannity, in particular, has never apologized for pushing the conspiracy theory, even as his instability and lack of standards triggered an ongoing advertiser exodus.

    Gingrich keeps hanging up on CNN reporters who ask him if he will retract his comments on the story.

    And Fox itself has gone quiet on the story, refusing to answer Darcy’s regular inquiries about the status of the network’s internal investigation.

    Or look at Fox News’ sham investigations into sexual harassment and assault at the network. (Somehow the men who were responsible for that culture all left with massive payouts.)

    Or look at Hannity’s close relationship with Donald Trump. Hannity shows no regard for the purported ethics of Fox News, and Fox shows no interest in actually holding Hannity to those standards.

    The swampy relationship between Fox News and the Trump administration is the news here. People move from one operation to the other. Last week, disclosure forms revealed that Trump’s communications director Bill Shine (who is also a close friend of Hannity) is still being paid millions by Fox’s parent company. Oh and, by the way, Shine was also repeatedly implicated for the culture of sexual misconduct at Fox. Trump also chats directly with Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Lou Dobbs, Pete Hegseth, and probably more Fox personalities.

    The emails between Fox & Friends and Pruitt are a scandal --  not just a scandal about Fox & Friends, but rather about how Fox News uses its news division to cover for the repeated malfeasance of the rest of the organization.

    And the mission of the organization has never been more clear. Fox News is the communications wing of the Republican Party.

  • Lachlan Murdoch wants empathy for Fox hosts who push propaganda and racism

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Amid growing pressure on advertisers to distance themselves from Fox News, Lachlan Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, told CNBC host Andrew Ross Sorkin that critics should be more tolerant of what airs on the network. Talking to Sorkin at The New York Times’ DealBook conference, Murdoch also claimed that the “biggest critics of Fox News are not watching Fox News,” and that President Donald Trump does not like Fox News, but rather “dislikes us less than everyone else.”

    Murdoch refused to take any responsibility for the company that he runs, instead offering a load of horseshit for an elite audience. While Murdoch claimed that Fox News just runs banal conservative programming in prime time, the network is actually broadcasting white nationalist propaganda indistinguishable from the likes of David Duke. And while Murdoch refused to acknowledge a revolving door between Fox News and the Trump White House, Trump is dialing up Fox hosts from the White House, and Fox is hiring people who leave the administration. Murdoch can pretend that Fox News is a normal news organization -- and he wasn’t really pressed on the matter because Sorkin isn’t terribly familiar with what happens on the network -- but the reality is that Fox News is a right-wing propaganda machine.

    Murdoch repeatedly pointed to Fox anchor Shep Smith to deny that the network is a pro-Trump operation. The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple discussed yesterday why this is laughable. In fact, the network repeatedly airs claims that Smith already debunked. Contrary to Lachlan’s assertions, Smith does not redeem Fox News. Instead, he reveals Fox News for the cesspool it is.

    Murdoch also highlighted Martha Maccallum as an example of straight news coverage, which is even more baffling if one is familiar with her Fox shows.

    Murdoch’s appearance came as Fox News is bleeding advertisers because of what the network’s talent puts on the air. Don’t take our word for it -- that remark comes from Murdoch’s own ad chief. And as Media Matters President Angelo Carusone noted recently, “Fox News’ most prominent shows -- the ones that are supposed to be most palatable for advertisers -- are also defined by bigotry, extremism, conspiracy theories, and outright volatility. From a business perspective, they’re a bad bet.”

    Sorkin gave the last question to esteemed New Yorker critic Ken Auletta, who asked Murdoch if he’s embarrassed by Fox News programming. Murdoch pivoted immediately into standard right-wing talking points that more tolerance is needed for conservatives who are under threat.

    After a week in which a would-be mass bomber and a mass shooter were inspired by right-wing propaganda indistinguishable from what Fox News airs, that embrace of victimhood rings more than a little hollow.

    From The New York Times DealBook conference, as broadcast by CNBC’s YouTube page:

    ANDREW ROSS SORKIN (MODERATOR): Let me ask you this, because as I said when you sat down, there's a lot of questions about the political discourse right now. And Fox News has come under question, criticism, fire, all sorts of things. When you think about the future of Fox News -- so Fox, new Fox -- is this supposed to be a red state media organization? I mean, do you think about it like that?

    LACHLAN MURDOCH (21st CENTURY FOX EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN): No, I think about it as an all-state media organization, right. So we have to program -- and by the way, you’re talking about Fox News, but the television network, the TV stations, Fox Sports, nonpolitical, unpolitical media businesses -- we program to everyone, right. So it's to the coasts, it's to California and New York, but also everywhere in between.

    SORKIN: But let me ask you this then, and this is where it gets complicated in the business. Because of the criticism -- and there is a lot of it, I want to talk about false flags and all sorts of other things -- there are people in the business who I imagine you would want to do business with who don't want to do business with you. This is the co-creator of Modern Family, Steve Levitan, who is -- you produced --

    MURDOCH: Yep.

    SORKIN: -- Modern Family for all these years. He goes and says the following, and this is about you: "I sincerely hope Lachlan Murdoch recognizes the damage this is doing" -- this is about the network -- "and finally brings sound journalistic ethics and standard to his network before more unhinged people are riled up to send bombs and shoot up churches and synagogues. I'm not going to do anything for the Fox network ever again as long as Fox News remains such a destructive voice in our society." When you hear that, you think what?

    MURDOCH: I know Steve pretty well. I think he's a genius, he's certainly a genius storyteller. And what makes, what makes Steve so good is that he has a huge amount of empathy, you know. People who tell stories -- and you're a writer, right -- people who tell stories, they have empathy and then they, they channel the empathy from people around them, right. And so what Steve is doing -- and I completely understand this and I accept his opinion on this -- he feels, frankly, the, you know, the anger and you know the intolerance of opinions that we're seeing across all of our community today in America. And so, and so you know when I hear that or read it on Twitter or wherever he wrote that, I completely understand where that's coming from. Now having said that, you have to look at our platforms, right. We have, you know whether it's people who look at Fox News and frankly, our biggest critics of Fox News are not watching Fox News. Right?

    SORKIN: Well they’re [CROSSTALK]

    MURDOCH: They’re taking up, they’re picking up pieces from Twitter and social media elsewhere. But you have to look at, you know, The Wall Street Journal. You have to look at The Times of London or the Australian --

    SORKIN: But I would say, but I would say there’s a distinction between what The Wall Street Journal op-ed page does and what you see on Fox News. And when I mentioned false flags before, or the conspiracy theories, the idea of trafficking in some of these ideas, even last week -- I don’t know if Ed Stacks is still here from Pittsburgh -- some of these ideas, I mean, are you -- when you see that stuff, are you proud of that?

    MURDOCH: So let me pick up a couple of points that you made. So if you look at Fox News today, right, and I think this would surprise most people -- most critics, who again frankly aren’t watching -- if you look across an average day, if we QMR opinion, right, our opinion timeslots, right, 8 o’clock to 11 o’clock at night. And I’ll even throw in breakfast, right, Fox & Friends mid-morning. It’s about 14 million viewers, QMing that time period up. In our news hours -- and you can’t, you know, Chris Wallace, Shepard Smith, Martha MacCallum, no, no, let me [Crosstalk]

    SORKIN: I know, I appreciate that.

    MURDOCH: In our news hours, 22 million viewers in those news hours. So far more people watching the news hours than the opinion hours. And so when, then to go to your point, when, I think it was on Lou Dobbs, right?

    SORKIN: Yes.

    MURDOCH: There was a guest on Lou Dobbs who said something the other day. The guest was immediately banned from coming back on, and Fox News apologized immediately.

    SORKIN: But were you upset about that personally?

    MURDOCH: We wouldn’t ban him and apologize if you didn’t think it was a mistake.

    SORKIN: OK, let me ask you the difference -- [Crosstalk]

    MURDOCH: And so, and so, news organizations, all news organizations, right, in particular ones that are 24/7. When they get something wrong, they have a responsibility, an absolute responsibility to correct it and to apologize for it when they need to.

    SORKIN: How do you feel about the fact that President Trump likes your network so much? And I say it because as a journalist, I want people to respect the news that I’m providing, I want them to need the news that I’m providing. But I’m not sure I’d always want them to like it as effusively --

    MURDOCH: Yep.

    SORKIN: As the president seems to when it comes to Fox News.

    MURDOCH: I think he dislikes us less than everyone else. If you look at Shepard like -- if you look at Shepard Smith, if you look at Chris Wallace, if you look at Geraldo was on Fox & Friends this morning criticizing the president, there is a huge number of hours a day, you know, guests, contributors, you know, that do not agree with the president --

    SORKIN: Do you think Fox News is contributing to any of this? And the reason I ask is you look the truck of the fellow who was sending out bombs to prominent Democrats last week, and there are pictures of Trump everywhere. There’s a big sticker that says “CNN sucks” right on it, which almost felt like it was out of a Fox show. I mean, is there any of that that you say to yourself, “You know what, that part I’m not proud of”?

    MURDOCH: I don’t think -- I don’t take responsibility for a criminal who was a criminal before Fox News even started, right, in the case that you’re mentioning. And so I think it’s unfair to make that criticism of me or Fox News or of any other media organization. So, but what I can say is that when we make mistakes -- and all news organizations do make mistakes -- it’s our responsibility as it is everyone’s to correct them and to apologize for them.

    SORKIN: Let me ask you though, related to the image though of the closeness between Fox and the administration. Obviously you just hired Hope Hicks, I’d love to understand that decision, choice, and even thinking about the optics of that. Bill Shine, by the way, who used to work with you, then went to the White House. And that creates -- at the minimum it creates an optics issue. Do you think about that?

    MURDOCH: I’ll maybe explain. We didn’t have anything to do with Bill Shine. We -- Bill Shine left Fox News and was gone for a while before he went to the White House. In terms of Hope, you know, we have an incredible opportunity in that we -- so with new Fox, what we’re doing is we’re bringing these companies in that are established, you know, profitable businesses with, you know, very strong brands. You know, Fox News, Fox Sports, the network, and then that business will make about $2.5 billion in its first year. But what we’re able to do, because this is a new company, is put a completely new management structure in place above that. And it’s really a once -- it sounds like a cliche, it is a cliche -- a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create this entirely new management structure to lead the company going forward. So what we’ve done is we’ve said, “Well how do we hire” -- this is, we do see this as a -- and there’s an endpoint, there’s you know, January or February when the new company comes out, everything has got to be in place and you’ve got to hit the ground running. So how do we hire the absolute best executives into those roles, how do we hire -- so we hired Charlie Collier from AMC, fantastic executive to run the TV network. We obviously promoted some months ago, Suzanne Scott to run Fox News, Eric Shanks to run Fox Sports. And Hope Hicks, we found out she was looking for her next job, said this is an incredible executive with incredible experience, who frankly will do a tremendous job -- no connection to the White House, no --

    SORKIN: Reports that Jared Kushner and others had talked to your father --

    MURDOCH: Talked to me. Hundred percent false, hundred percent false.

    SORKIN: OK, I’m glad that we set the record straight on that. Let me ask you a couple other quick questions.

    MURDOCH: Oh by the way, I should just mention, when we did do our due diligence on Hope, because it’s something you do, you go out and you interview someone and then you check their references, and you also call around -- someone in that role, in public relations, I had an advisor of mine call people she would have worked with, and universally -- and I should mention that many people from The New York Times -- universally said she was a fantastic choice.

    SORKIN: OK. Politics inside your family, when you -- do you consider yourself a conservative, a Republican, what are your own politics? And also I want to know about the conversations you have with James, because I think there’s a perception that he may be on the other side of you.

    MURDOCH: So look, I am -- I consider myself -- look, I’m conservative probably economically, on the economic sort of policy. I’m more liberal on social policy. And so I don’t fit neatly into a left-right, Republican-Democrat bucket, right? And so -- which I think is frankly important -- I think you need to be, particularly running media organizations, you need to be an independent thinker. What I do find is that when people tell me to think a certain way, or that I should think a certain way, I’m more inclined --

    SORKIN: To think a different way.

    MURDOCH: To think a different way, or certainly examine, why are they telling me that.

    SORKIN: Because I think James is on the other side, do you guys ever talk about what’s on Fox News?

    MURDOCH: Occasionally, occasionally. And James, to his credit, he’s incredibly strong on and gives a lot of money to environmental causes and so -- but you know, we are, we run a business with lots of different opinions, on different sides in our business. And we are a family with lots of different --

    SORKIN: OK, final question because I know we all have to run to lunch and I’m going to run out of time. Ken Auletta, of course from The New Yorker.


    KEN AULETTA (THE NEW YORKER CONTRIBUTOR): You mentioned that you are a social liberal, or to the left on social issues. You also extolled the word empathy. If you watch the prime-time programing on Fox News, it’s the opposite of that. Empathy is not championed, and they’re socially very conservative. Do you plan to make any changes in that since you have strong views on these things?

    MURDOCH: Look, I do have strong views on these things and I think I can -- and you know this because you know our companies very well -- we, I’ve run newspapers since I was 21 or 22 years old. You know, I don’t -- and it’s a practice I have had, I know it’s a standard practice, it should be if it isn’t, but I think it is a standard practice in almost every newsroom, certainly in the Western world. I don’t tell journalists what to say, or what to write. That’s not my role. What I do do, running a media organization, is obviously, you know, work closely with the managers of those newsrooms and with the managers of those newspapers, and it’s important that they get the positioning and the messaging right. We don’t always get it right. We don’t always get it right, and we have to call ourselves out on that when we make a mistake.  

    AULETTA: I understand that [inaudible]. But are you embarrassed by what they do?

    MURDOCH: No, I’m not embarrassed by what they do at all. You have to understand that Fox News is the only mass media company in America, in this country, with conservative opinion, with strong conservative opinion in prime time. It’s the only one, alright? It’s not one of a few, it’s the only one. And I frankly feel in this country, we all have to be more tolerant of each other’s views. And that does for everyone, everyone in this room, everyone in this country, everyone on both coasts, and in the middle. And that’s the problem -- we’ve come to this point where we are more and more intolerant of each other and frankly that just has to change.

    Media Matters watches all Fox News programming.

  • Chuck Todd and Meet The Press sanitize Erick Erickson's garbage

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Meet the Press hosted radio host Erick Erickson to talk about civility and the need for conservatives to believe in facts. This is like asking an exhaust pipe about the virtues of clean air, or a wolf about how to keep sheep alive.

    Erickson has repeatedly pushed conspiracy theories:

    • Erickson pushed a conspiracy theory about the timing of the so-called "caravan," the migrants in southern Mexico fleeing violence in central America.

    • Erickson pushed a conspiracy theory that Parkland survivor David Hogg was not actually at his school when the shooting happened.

    • Erickson pushed a slew of conspiracy theories about Christine Blasey Ford, the professor who came forward to report that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh had assaulted her.

    • Erickson pushed a debunked conspiracy theory about Planned Parenthood and has likened the organization’s leaders to Nazis.

    • Erickson pushed debunked lies about transgender people, whom he described as "perverts and the mentally ill."

    • Erickson pushed conspiracy theories about former President Barack Obama taking away guns.

    • Erickson defended then-ESPN analyst Curt Schilling when he tweeted a conspiracy theory and smear of Muslims.

    • Erickson hilariously argued that mass shootings in America are "so rare."

    Erickson also goes to absurd lengths to protect conservatives in the face of reported facts. He endorsed reported pedophile Roy Moore for a Senate seat until the very end, on the basis that Moore was "the only one standing" against "the left." He dismissed concerns about one of President Donald Trump’s cabinet members flying in private jets because he "needs to be protected." When Erickson is on Fox or on the radio, he's more than happy to defend Trump's behavior toward the mainstream press.

    And then there's just the ugly. He wrote a book warning of a "leftist-homosexual mafia" and argued in 2017 that gay men in bars who wear certain clothing are asking to be assaulted. Erickson has also endorsed the horrific practice of anti-LGBTQ "conversion therapy," a practice more akin to torture than therapy. He also compared members of the LGBTQ community to terrorists.

    Erickson is an unrepentant sexist. He said of the Women’s March, "I feel sorry for all the ham and cheese that won't get made into sandwiches while all those women are marching." He's argued that "the male typically is the dominant role" and that women should stay home while men bring "home the bacon."

    He called Trump's Muslim ban "brilliant politics." Erickson shot up a copy of The New York Times when the paper published an editorial on gun violence, and he blamed Obama for mass shootings. When Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis was briefly jailed for contempt of court for not issuing same-sex marriage licenses, Erickson warned of a civil war. In 2009, Erickson asked at what point people in Washington state might  "beat [their state representative] to a bloody pulp for being an idiot."

    Needless to say, none of this came up on Meet The Press, with host Chuck Todd only offering a brief nod to “some people” who say Erickson pushes conspiracy theories. Instead, Erickson was portrayed as a reasonable conservative interested in the facts.

    There's a real danger here: Presenting an extremist as a moderate only pushes people more toward that extremism. My colleague Parker Molloy explained that phenomenon regarding Erickson just a few weeks ago, writing about a piece in which The New York Times’ Margaret Sullivan wrote that he is seen as moderate.

    The long-term effect of the constant recalibration of what constitutes a moderate position can change perception not only in media, but in politics itself. Sure, what’s moderate in 2018 -- for instance, support for marriage equality -- would have likely be considered extreme in the 1950s. Recalibrations happen over time, but usually as the result of more organic forces, not ratings. This is the Overton window in action, being shifted not by a changing landscape of political views, but by the editorial decisions involved in boosting them. That should worry us.

    All of this raises the question: What role do CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post play in establishing and upholding the Erickson-as-moderate mythology? I asked Sullivan.

    In an email, she writes, “Although Erickson may be seen by some as moderate or may actually be relatively moderate compared to someone like Alex Jones, he’s not moderate in any real sense. And whenever we refer to him, we should be a lot clearer about that than I was in my column. We owe it to our readers not to reinforce a false idea.”

    Molloy and Sullivan are correct: Erickson is an extremist, and Meet The Press just gave him cover.

    Media Matters emailed Chuck Todd for comment on Friday asking why the program was hosting Erickson. Todd has not responded.

    Todd has said he wants to stop conservative media from taking over and discrediting the news. He should start with his own show.

  • The Fox News interview with Brett Kavanaugh was a sham. Here are seven reasons why.


    Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sat down for an interview with Fox News’ Martha MacCallum on Monday. Multiple women have come forward in recent days to report that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted them: Christine Blasey Ford has said Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party in high school; and Deborah Ramirez has said he exposed himself to her in college.

    Though MacCallum quickly received praise from right-wing media for the interview, she failed to highlight a number of crucial elements and did a poor job of following up on others.

    Here are seven ways the interview was a sham:

    Mark Judge’s history and credibility

    Ford reported that Kavanaugh’s high school friend Mark Judge was present in the room when Kavanaugh assaulted her. Judge clearly knew Kavanaugh and  wrote about attending his 2005 wedding. He is a conservative writer and recovering alcoholic who has extensively written about his misogyny and drunken escapades in high school. In one story, Judge even wrote about being a peeping Tom when he was younger. Judge’s ex-girlfriend told The New Yorker that he told her a disturbing story about him and his friends taking turns having sex with a drunk woman.

    And yet, MacCallum made just passing references about Judge during the interview and Kavanaugh didn’t acknowledge him at all. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are also resisting calling Judge to testify. Kavanaugh claimed over a dozen times to MacCallum that he wanted a “fair process.” It’s unclear why that process would exclude a key witness.

    Possible coordination between Kavanaugh, The White House, Senate Republicans, and operative Ed Whelan

    Conservative power player and writer Ed Whelan spun a conspiracy theory on Twitter that a doppelganger was the one responsible for the sexual assault of Christine Blasey Ford. The ridiculous theory backfired when it was met with widespread ridicule and Ford herself debunked it.

    After teasing Whelan’s revelation for days, conservative figures quickly denied that Kavanaugh had any prior knowledge of it. Whelan also denied any coordination with Kavanaugh or the White House.

    Whelan’s claim was undermined when Ford shared an email with The Washington Post that showed Whelan reviewed her LinkedIn page before Ford’s name was even public. Ford sent that email to the Post 90 minutes after the paper had asked the White House for comment.

    Sen. Orrin Hatch’s office denied being involved in any coordination with Whelan, even though a staffer appeared to have prior knowledge of what Whelan was about to do.

    There are a lot of questions about how something so unethical could have happened and who knew about it. While MacCallum did not ask about Whelan, Kavanaugh did imply that he thought it was possible that Ford could still be confused as to the identity of her attacker.

    Kavanaugh’s frequent tales of drunken parties and membership to misogynist fraternity and secret society

    Kavanaugh has repeatedly told stories about excessive drinking in college. In his Fox News interview, Kavanaugh implausibly suggested he wasn’t a heavy drinker and claimed that he never drank to the point of blacking out. Materials submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of his nomination contain text of several speeches in which Kavanaugh told stories about parties involving heavy drinking and drunken shenanigans. For instance, in a 2014 speech at a Yale Federalist Society banquet, Kavanaugh said:

    In the same speech, Kavanaugh bragged about arranging a party bus to go to a Boston Red Sox game:

    In a 2010 speech at the Yale Law Journal banquet, Kavanaugh also described drinking heavily before his own Law Journal banquet and characterized it as “not a good idea”:

    Kavanaugh also listed himself as the treasurer of the “100 Kegs or Bust” club in his high school yearbook, and multiple former classmates described the culture of the school to be one of frequent parties with excessive drinking. His former Yale roommate has stated of Kavanaugh: “He was a notably heavy drinker, even by the standards of the time, and that he became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk. ... I do remember Brett frequently drinking excessively and becoming incoherently drunk.”

    Additionally, Kavanaugh was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity, which was “notorious for disrespecting women.” The Yale Daily News reported that at the time, a common task for pledges was to raid women’s rooms and take underwear that would be fashioned into a giant flag that was paraded around campus. The DKE fraternity was suspended from 2011-2016 “after videos circulated of fraternity recruits chanting ‘no means yes, yes means anal’ in front of the University’s Women’s Center.” Multiple members have been accused of sexual assault.

    The Yale Daily News also reported that: “In addition to DKE, Kavanaugh also belonged to Truth and Courage, one of Yale’s secret societies for seniors. Among some students, the all-male club, which was popular with athletes, was known by the nickname ‘Tit and Clit.’” Buzzfeed reported that according to alumni, the society was known for being “mostly about drinking.”

    Reports that Kavanaugh likes a “certain look” in his women law clerks.

    During the interview, Kavanaugh bragged about his record of hiring women law clerks. But MacCallum never mentioned recent reporting from The Guardian that a “top professor at Yale Law School who strongly endorsed supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as a ‘mentor to women’ privately told a group of law students last year that it was ‘not an accident’ that Kavanaugh’s female law clerks all ‘looked like models’ and would provide advice to students about their physical appearance if they wanted to work for him.” Multiple women reported that they were coached on how to dress for an interview with Kavanaugh, including one woman who stated she was told that Kavanaugh hired women “with a certain look.”  

    Does Kavanaugh actually want an FBI investigation or not?

    MacCallum asked Kavanaugh’s wife whether she wanted an FBI investigation into these (and any subsequent) reports. Kavanaugh intervened, giving a non-answer. Instead of pressing for a clear response, MacCallum  instead started a line of questioning about how unfairly Kavanaugh thinks he’s being treated.

    Here’s the transcript, via The Washington Post:

    MACCALLUM: Do you believe there should be an FBI investigation into these allegations and that a pause should happen and, you know, sort it all out? If there’s nothing to worry about and nothing to hide, why not have that process, Ashley? And then I’ll ask you that, Brett.

    KAVANAUGH: I mean, I’ve said all along and Ashley, too, I want to be heard. I was first interviewed last Monday, the day after the allegation appeared by the committee staff under penalty of felony, and I denied this categorically and unequivocally and I said twice during that, I said, “I want a hearing tomorrow,” last Tuesday, a week ago.

    I want an opportunity – a fair process. America’s about fairness, I want a fair process where I can defend my integrity and clear my name as quickly as I can in whatever forum the Senate deems appropriate.

    MACCALLUM: When you hear senators who are on the committee – Senator Mazie Hirono and then you hear from others, you know, the New York Senator Gillibrand, she says, “I believe this woman. I believe all of them. They’re credible, and we all have to believe them.”

    When you hear United States Senators who are making judgments, final judgments, what does that make you think about the presumption of innocence in this country?

    KAVANAUGH: In America, we have fairness. We hear from both sides. I’ve spent my life in the judiciary, the – our judicial system, and part of the judicial systems as I’ve said during my first – my hearing was process protectium (ph). That’s what judges believe that’s what our system was built on, the rule of law, about fair process.

    MACCALLUM: Do you feel unprotected by the process?

    KAVANAUGH: Fair process means hearing from both sides, and I think the process – I want to have an opportunity to defend my integrity and clear my name and have a fair process. A fair process at a minimum – at a bare minimum requires hearing from both sides before rushing –

    MACCALLUM: Right. Let me ask you this. Separately from these allegations, is it fair to judge someone on something they did before they were 18-years-old? When they were 17-years-old, should anything they did then follow them later in life or should it enter into any decisions made about them later in life?

    KAVANAUGH: What I’m here to do is tell you the truth, and this allegation from 36 years ago is not –

    MACCALLUM: But separately from what you’re being accused of just as a judge, if you were looking at this case as a part of what you’re going through and someone said, “This person did that at 17-years-old,” is it fair to judge them on something that when they’re in their 50s, 60s year old?

    KAVANAUGH: I think everyone is judged on their whole life. I’m a good person. I’ve led a good life. I’ve tried to a lot of good for a lot of people. I am not perfect, I know that. None of us is perfect. I’m not perfect, but I’ve never, never done anything like this.

    According to the transcript, Kavanaugh mentioned “fair process” 17  times. And yet thanks to Fox News, we still don’t have a clue what he thinks a fair process would look like, given that he seems to have dismissed the fairest procedure available out of hand.

    At least he’s not up for a job that oversees the entire United States’ justice system.

    The idea that being a virgin in high school would in any way exculpate Kavanaugh

    The weirdest part of the interview was also a non sequitur.

    MacCallum failed to clarify that being a virgin or not has no bearing on whether one attempted sexual assault. Any journalist for a real news network would, at least.

    Some have defended the relevance of the answer by noting that this answer was in response to the account raised by attorney Michael Avenatti. But subsequent discussion between Kavanaugh and MacCallum implies that this is relevant to all of these accounts. At the very least, MacCallum had a responsibility to clear things up. That did not happen.

    The corroborating evidence for Christine Blasey Ford’s report

    MacCallum alleged that there is no corroboration of Ford’s account. That is simply not true.

    The Washington Post reviewed notes from Ford’s therapy sessions and spoke with her husband who also noted that Ford had shared her account in couples therapy in 2012. On the advice of her attorney, Ford also took a polygraph test in August; the results showed she was being truthful in relaying her account of the incident.

    MacCallum disappeared that evidence, saying, “And to this date, no one has corroborated the story that she has told.”

    The interview was a stilted, overproduced sham, and you have Bill Shine to thank.

  • 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

    Sarah Wasko / 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.