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John Whitehouse

Author ››› John Whitehouse
  • 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.”

  • Pro-Trump media are already accusing Santa Fe shooting survivors of being crisis actors

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    ABC13 interviewed Santa Fe High School student and shooting survivor Paige Curry. When asked if she was surprised by the shooting, Curry said, “It's been happening everywhere. I've always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here too."

    In response to a viral tweet showing Curry’s response, a pro-Trump Twitter account is already accusing Curry of being a crisis actor, saying she was looking down because she was reading from a script.

     

    https://cloudfront.mediamatters.org/static/uploader/image/2018/05/18/script-santafe-1.jpg

    Also:

    Pro-Trump media accused Parkland survivors of being crisis actors when they began speaking out following the mass shooting at their school in February.

    This post has been updated with additional examples.

  • Here are the conspiracy theories and hoaxes being spread about the Santa Fe shooting

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE & MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    A gunman has reportedly killed at least eight students at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, TX. The shooter is reportedly in custody. Conspiracy theories about the attack are already spreading on message boards and social media.

    This post was last updated at 2:56 pm EDT and will be updated throughout May 18.

    4chan: The shooter was “identified as Ant-awan Al-Kumiyya” and has “ties” to ISIS.

    4chan: “The suspect is a White male named Paulo Deninez.”

    The person who started the thread later posted a “correction” that the name they meant to post was “Paul Denino”:

    4chan: The shooting was designed to distract from Department of Justice inspector general report about investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

    Other posts in another thread made the same allegation.

    4chan: The government takes advantage of real shootings to desensitize people before taking their rights.

    4chan: The shooting might have been designed to “shift the narrative back to gun control” and/or distract from Israel killing Gazans.

    4chan: “Jewish false flag to distract from whatever is dropping tonight.”

    8chan: The shooting might have been a false flag.

    Reddit’s r/The_Donald: The shooting might have been a false flag.

    Twitter user: A fake account for “Laguna Beach Antifa” spread a false claim that the poster’s father is a janitor at Santa Fe High School who was shot. Another fake “Laguna Beach Antifa” account had previously pushed this same image.

    8chan: The shooting “was orchestrated to distract from the clearly LIBERAL EMBARRASSMENT that was the Trump golf club shooting?”

    Reddit’s r/Conspiracy: “Student tells CNN anchor there was a fire ‘drill’ at Sante Fe, TX school minutes before shots rang out.”

    Twitter user: A since-removed tweet falsely identified “neo-nazi ring leader Samuel Hyde” as the shooter.

    Laura Loomer: Santa Fe High School had a “mass casualty drill” before the shooting. “I’m sorry, but I can’t help but notice these ‘coincidences.’”

    Twitter user and 4chan: “Deep state” is “commission[ing]” the shooter.”

    Twitter user: The school had an "active shooter drill" just over a week ago. What a (((coincidence))).”

    Twitter user: The shooting was a planned distraction from news about Democrats.

    Twitter user: The shooting could be part of a New York Times cover-up of the release of the Justice Department inspector general report release.

    4chan: The shooter was bullied by teachers, and media are covering it up.

    Twitter users: Survivor Paige Curry is a crisis actor.

    Facebook: A now-removed fake profile was created of the alleged shooter as a Clinton and antifa supporter.

    Mike Cernovich: The alleged shooter may be antifa because he wore the same outfit "which you see at every ANTIFA riot."

    Research contributed by Alex Kaplan, Cristina López G., Natalie Martinez, Grace Bennett, Dina Radtke, and Bobby Lewis. Also, h/t to Buzzfeed reporter Jane Lytvynenko for some of these.

  • Hannity says John Solomon deserves a Pulitzer. The Hill will now classify his writing as opinion.

    The Hill says that effective immediately, John Solomon will only be permitted to write opinion pieces

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    John Solomon, a favorite of Fox News’ Sean Hannity, will only be permitted to publish opinion pieces in The Hill from now on, per The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple.

    In February, Hannity claimed that Solomon, among others, deserved a Pulitzer Prize for his work defending Donald Trump from “the phony Russia Trump narrative.”

    It’s clear that Hannity loves Solomon’s work, as Solomon is a fixture on his Fox News show, having appeared 25 times since August, per a review of Media Matters data. He has also appeared four times on The Ingraham Angle, four times on Fox & Friends, and once on Tucker Carlson Tonight.

    While Solomon’s reporting at The Hill has gotten significant attention and praise from conservative media, it has also repeatedly fallen apart amid the slightest scrutiny. He was a main driver of the Uranium One pseudo-scandal, which alleged that the real Russia scandal was former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton selling a large amount of America’s uranium to Russia. At one point, Trump tweeted about a Fox & Friends segment on a Solomon story, saying “Uranium deal to Russia, with Clinton help and Obama Administration knowledge, is the biggest story that Fake Media doesn’t want to follow!”

    After getting huge coverage, the story quickly fell apart. As Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler noted, the “fatal flaw in this allegation is Hillary Clinton, by all accounts, did not participate in any discussions regarding the Uranium One sale.” Solomon first reported on the existence of an Uranium One informant whom Justice Department officials reportedly deemed not credible. Hannity hosted the informant anyway.

    Solomon also furthered a wild conspiracy theory about FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page secretly influencing the 2016 election in favor of Hillary Clinton. Here is how HuffPost’s Ryan Reilly and Nick Baumann described Solomon’s report:

    When Solomon — a longtime Washington journalist and frequent guest on Hannity’s program — reported last week that Congress was looking into whether Strzok and Page had leaked to the news media, those working to undermine the Mueller probe lapped it up.

    Solomon’s Tuesday report appeared to show that Strzok and Page had advance knowledge of an Oct. 24, 2016 Wall Street Journal article. He didn’t identify the Wall Street Journal article in question, and it is not clear whether he knew which piece triggered the couple’s texts. Although Solomon never wrote that Strzok and Page were definitively behind any anti-Trump leaks, the news that Congress was investigating them and that they had advance knowledge of an article was enough for pundits in the conservative media to jump to conclusions.

    The Hill report was used as fodder for a narrative that Trump-hating FBI agents had leaked information to hurt the then-Republican candidate. Front Page Mag and One America News used sensational headlines, referencing “Hillary’s FBI allies” and the “deep state’s” efforts to undermine Trump. Rush Limbaugh told his listeners that “Peter Strzok and Lisa Page are two of the deep state sources planting lies and false stories in the Wall Street Journal and other places.”

    Reilly and Baumann subsequently found “no evidence that Page and Strzok were leaking information to undermine Trump.” Instead, they found evidence that “cast serious doubt” on Solomon’s claims.

    In December, Solomon, along with Alison Spann, alleged that attorney Lisa Bloom "sought donor cash" for women considering making sexual misconduct allegations against Donald Trump during the 2016 election. Wemple reported that “a group of newsroom staffers” at The Hill “complained to management” about Solomon’s work.

    In July, Solomon alleged in The Hill that Comey’s memos “contain classified information,” setting off a conservative media frenzy. Similar accusations resurfaced during Comey’s book tour, but as Philip Bump explained, there is still no evidence that Comey leaked classified information to the media.

    Solomon’s issues at The Hill are entirely within character. Before working at that publication, he worked at Circa, a subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcasting. What Solomon described as “straight news” for Circa was anything but; the website was explicitly a pro-Trump operation. In July 2017, Solomon appeared on Hannity’s show to discuss whether Donald Trump, Jr.’s meeting with Russians in Trump Tower before the election was possible a “setup” by outside groups. Solomon told Hannity that it was too early to assume that, but did not rule anything out.

    Before Circa, Solomon spent time at the helm at The Washington Times, where there were multiple ethical issues. His time as a Washington Post staff writer witnessed many similar instances. The same goes for his time at The Associated Press. As Mariah Blake wrote in 2012, “Solomon has a history of bending the truth to his storyline.”

  • CNN seemingly abandons its official policy banning Roger Stone from appearing as an on-air guest

    Despite its long-standing and publicly announced policy, CNN hosted Stone to promote his upcoming book

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE & MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CNN hosted President Donald Trump confidant and Infowars conspiracy theorist Roger Stone to promote his new book, reversing a decision the network made in 2016 to no longer host Stone on its airwaves.

    For years, Stone regularly leveled sexist and racist attacks (often via Twitter) against politicians and members of the media, including current and former CNN personalities. He called CNN political commentator Ana Navarro an "Entitled Diva Bitch," a "pompous shithead," "borderline retarded," and "a rabid Pekinese," and wrote, "Black beans and rice didn't miss her." Stone also attacked CNN analyst Roland Martin when Martin was still at CNN, referring to him as a “stupid negro," a "fat negro," and "CNN's racist moron--dumb, embarassing (sic), token," and asked him, "Who made you God, Fattass? Eat somemore Popeye's."

    By February 2016, Stone’s vile Twitter attacks on CNN personalities resulted in an indefinite suspension from the network, with a CNN spokesperson telling Politico, “He will no longer appear as a guest on CNN.” In April 2017, Twitter briefly locked Stone’s account after he threatened a Media Matters employee. And in October 2017, Twitter permanently suspended Stone’s account “following a series of derogatory and threatening tweets from Stone to CNN personalities.”

    Stone’s May 7 appearance on New Day suggests an apparent reversal of CNN’s 2016 decision, as the network not only chose to provide a platform for the prominent conspiracy theorist and Infowars host, but also gave him an opportunity to hawk his new book.

    Media Matters has asked CNN for comment on this and will update with any response.

  • Facebook caves to debunked claims of right-wing censorship

    Facebook will get advice about supposed bias from a Republican lobbyist who in 2008 alleged a connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Axios reported on May 2 that Facebook will bring on lobbyist and former Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl to advise the company regarding claims of conservative bias on its platform -- even though the allegations have been repeatedly debunked using Facebook’s own data. As Thinkprogress noted, the effort will not include any liberals. Additionally, Facebook executives will be receiving advice from the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation on the supposed anti-conservative bias, according to the Axios report

    Conservatives have been complaining about Facebook censoring them for years, and Facebook, in turn, gave in to that pressure in ways that immediately made things worse.

    In May 2016, a flimsy report claimed that Facebook employees had “blacklisted” conservative outlets and stories from the platform’s Trending Topics news section. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg quickly met with conservatives, including a representative from Donald Trump's campaign, to promise that Facebook would be good to them. A subsequent internal investigation revealed “no evidence of systematic political bias” in the trending topics, but Facebook soon gave in to right-wing pressure anyway. The company fired the “news curators” of the section, instead opting to use an algorithm that routinely promoted fabricated stories from bogus sources.

    After that change in 2016, fake news increasingly flooded the site. It was only after the 2016 election that Zuckerberg committed to doing something about the problem. One of the first solutions the company implemented was to add fact checks to disputed stories. When conservatives started wrongly complaining that fact-checkers were liberal, Facebook added right-wing publication The Weekly Standard -- which has a long history of pushing debunked lies -- as a fact-checker. (Facebook has since moved away from this fact-check feature as originally conceived.)

    The conservative complaints against Facebook have grown into a fever pitch since Facebook tweaked its news feed algorithm again in January 2018. Pro-Trump personalities Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, who go by the moniker Diamond and Silk, repeatedly appeared on Fox News in April to complain about Facebook’s supposed censorship of their page and said the company never reached out to them to address their concern.

    Zuckerberg testified before Congress in April, and right-wing sites were thrilled when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) confronted him about this alleged bias against conservatives -- and downright giddy when Zuckerberg said in response that Silicon Valley is an “extremely left-leaning” place. House Republicans repeatedly asked Zuckerberg about supposed censorship of Diamond and Silk instead of asking pressing questions about Facebook’s monopolistic role in global information and violence.

    Shortly after Zuckerberg’s testimony, the entire narrative about Diamond and Silk was debunked. Judd Legum reviewed data from CrowdTangle showing that Diamond and Silk were never suppressed on Facebook and that the pair “get more video views on Facebook than Rachel Maddow, even though Maddow’s show has a much larger page and is the most popular cable news program in the country.” Erick Erickson and Andrew Kirell revealed emails from Facebook showing that contrary to Diamond and Silk’s public allegations, Facebook had tried to reach out to them regarding monetization of their videos.

    None of this made any difference in the right-wing bubble. The day after their claims were debunked, the pair appeared on Fox News and restated their claims. While hosting the duo, host Neil Cavuto gave no impression that the claims had been debunked, and indeed he once even implied their page had been taken down by Facebook, which was never the case nor was it even alleged.

    Conservatives also rallied around Diamond and Silk, ignoring the fact that their claims have been proved untrue. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) invited the pair to testify during an April 26 congressional hearing where they made a number of demonstrably false claims while under oath. They have since continued to appear on Fox News and are scheduled to appear at a “leadership forum” during the NRA annual meeting this week.

    And right-wing claims of suppression are only growing. During a conversation with Facebook’s head of global policy management, Monika Bickert, that was hosted by the Heritage Foundation, a representative from hyperpartisan and anti-Muslim conglomerate Liftable Media asked about supposed suppression of its site Western Journalism under the new algorithm. Bickert was noncommittal, but more and more conservatives are pressing Facebook for mass distribution. Allen West, Tomi Lahren, Dan Bongino, and others have also complained on Fox News in recent days about Facebook censoring conservatives.

    None of these accusations are reflected in the data. A 2017 Newswhip report found that conservative publishers receive 2.5 times the engagement that liberal sites got. (The finding mirrors internal data that Media Matters has collected.) Newswhip data for February and March 2018 show that a number of right-wing sites are among the biggest publishers on Facebook. Newswhip also noted that the top reporters on Facebook were almost all right-wing media figures.

    This right-wing complaining should sound familiar. It’s the same model that conservatives have used to take on the media for decades.

    Media Matters senior fellow Matt Gertz has previously examined the origins of right-wing animus toward the media:

    Those attacks first boiled over at the Republican National Convention in 1964, which followed weeks of vitriolic criticism against the press by Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) and his supporters. Goldwater had been widely castigated by columnists and commentators for his opposition to the Civil Rights Act, generating a backlash from activists who believed (quite accurately) that reporters had taken sides against segregation over the previous decade.

    As conservatives triumphed over the moderates who had controlled the party for decades and installed the Arizona senator as the party’s nominee, activists raged at and even assaulted the purportedly liberal press. Former President Dwight Eisenhower’s exhortation from the podium to “scorn the divisive efforts of those outside our family, including sensation-seeking columnists and commentators” drew wild applause and jeers from the crowd.

    This anti-press animus would enter the White House with Richard Nixon’s election in 1968.

    The line from the Nixon administration to modern right-wing media goes directly through Roger Ailes. Ailes produced Rush Limbaugh’s short-lived television show and later co-founded Fox News, before being given $40 million to leave following an investigation into reported sexual misconduct. The right-wing architecture that Ailes constructed and inspired was built on and dominated by attacks on the media. This culminated in Trump’s candidacy for president. Trump has constantly railed against the media, both on the campaign trail and in the White House, in unprecedented ways.

    This pressure campaign by conservatives against the media has worked. The media take conservative criticism far more seriously than they do left-wing criticism. This is reflected in the data as well: Conservatives are far more likely to be invited onto the most prominent political talk shows. The media ignore topics like climate change until Trump brings it up. Speaking truth to conservatives just makes the media think that conservatives are being bullied, even if the conservatives in question are some of the most powerful people in the world.

    Charlie Brown kept falling for Lucy’s football routine, and the media keep falling for right-wing complaints about the fake news media. We know appeasement will not work because it never has. In fact, many of the criticisms are not even made in good faith. They’re merely a strategy to assume permanent power for the far right.

    And so now, by hiring Kyl, Facebook is building its own apparatus to appease conservatives. Kyl has been working at Washington lobbying firm Covington and Burling, where one of his clients is a former member of Facebook’s board, Donald E. Graham. (Graham, the former publisher of The Washington Post, in March published an op-ed in the paper decrying attempts to regulate Facebook, worrying about potential censorship of newspapers.)

    It’s unclear what advice from Kyl will look like. Kyl has a track record of bigotry toward Muslims and once even gave an award to an anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist. Gizmodo has also noted that Kyl spread lies about Planned Parenthood while in the Senate. Kyl’s comments about the 2010 New START treaty between Russia and the U.S. to reduce nuclear arms were also “thoroughly debunked.” In 2008, Kyl even wrote a letter to The Washington Post asserting a connection between former Iraq President Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. This myth, which had long been debunked, was also the subject of the book The Connection: How al Qaeda’s Collaboration With Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America by Weekly Standard editor Stephen F. Hayes.

    But whatever Kyl’s advice is, it won’t work. The complaints are the point. The goal is to discredit any potential news source that undermines the right-wing narrative. If Facebook gives in to this pressure and further helps out right-wing outlets, that’s a win. If Facebook does not give in, these conservatives will threaten to push right-wing audiences to other platforms, and they'll use that threat to push for more concessions from Facebook. Nothing will ever stop the complaints. Mainstream media figures have refused to learn that lesson, but it’s not too late for Facebook.

    As America worries about whether the post-truth era it has found itself in can be reversed, Facebook should stop playing games with liars.

  • YouTube removed a compilation of Alex Jones’ Sandy Hook lies due to “harassment." His own videos are still up.

    Why does YouTube hold Alex Jones to a lower standard than other users?

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    Update (1/8/2019): On January 8, 2019, YouTube again issued Media Matters’ YouTube account a Community Guidelines strike for our “What Alex Jones said about the Sandy Hook shooting” video, writing that “Upon review, we’ve determined that it violates our guidelines.” In addition to the strike, YouTube claimed they have removed the video from the platform. However, as of 3:18 p.m. EST, the video is still live on YouTube.

    Update (4/23/2018): As of 1:50 p.m. ET, the video has been restored to YouTube. 

    On April 17, two Sandy Hook families announced defamation lawsuits against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. While Media Matters has long documented Jones’ claims that the 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, CT, was staged, upon hearing the news of the legal action, my colleague Leanne Naramore made a compilation video of some of Jones’ attacks, which a cursory search showed no one had done before. Watch:

    At some point over the next five days, though, YouTube removed the video from its website. If you go to the link now, this is all you see:

    Upon logging into the YouTube account, we were greeted with this message:

    Yet here is a sampling of the Sandy Hook videos still live on Jones’ YouTube page, a number of which were used in making the compilation:

    In February, Jones’ YouTube page was reportedly one strike away from being banned. Shortly thereafter, a large number of advertisers pulled their ads from his channel; President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee kept airing ads on it, though.

    It is not clear why YouTube holds Alex Jones to a lower standard than it does other users. The Sandy Hook hoaxes are not the only example of harassment on his channel. It’s pervasive -- part of Jones’ entire brand.

    Meanwhile, research shows that YouTube’s algorithm directs users towards videos like the ones Jones posts, which the site then profits from. And while Facebook has undergone significant scrutiny in recent weeks, YouTube has thus far escaped significant criticism. There’s no better time than the present to change that.