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John Whitehouse

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  • 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"

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

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    Update (3/29/2019): YouTube has again taken the video down.

    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.

  • After the Michael Cohen reveal, revisiting the time Hannity bragged about the dirt he was gathering on Media Matters

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    After news broke that President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen provided legal advice to Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Vanity Fair reporter Gabriel Sherman reported: “Hannity hired Michael Cohen to help defend him against left-wing groups that were calling for boycotts.” This is a clear reference to Media Matters’ efforts to hold Sean Hannity accountable.

    Hannity’s appearance on Mark Levin’s radio show on May 30, 2017, gives some relevant context. The Fox host talked at length about a secret investigation on Media Matters that would later be revealed.

    MARK LEVIN (HOST): And as these things develop, we see it more and more and more. Well, of a sudden, I was a conspiracy nut, Media Matters put out this -- this grotesque smear job, where they try and destroy who you are, they cherry-pick things you’ve said out of context, things -- and they sent it to all the media, and the media were regurgitating it. Here’s my question to you --

    SEAN HANNITY: Mark, let me -- let me say something --

    LEVIN: -- among other things. Yeah, go ahead.

    HANNITY: We’ve done a very deep dive, and I don’t know when I’m going to release it, but I’m coming out with it.

    Number one, where the money’s coming from, number two, you want to talk about outrageous, insane, incendiary, over the top, vicious, vile hatred of -- and things that have been done and said?

    Oh, this guy that’s been on TV all week, I don’t even know his name, Carusone or something -- oh, you should see the things that I have on him, and what he’s said, and what this group is, and who funds -- remember, Hillary helped found this group, this Soros-Clinton group --

    LEVIN: Media Matters.

    HANNITY: Soros, and all these other people, it’s -- this is a concerted effort to silence talk radio, they want to destroy now the Fox News channel.

    The next day, Hannity talked with Melanie Morgan about Media Matters, saying he had talked to Media Matters’ President Angelo Carusone’s high school teacher.

  • Hannity denies that he gave Trump questions in advance. Here are the questions he asked.

    Tldr: Hannity’s questions didn’t need to be provided in advance for it to be a bullshit propaganda show.

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE & JOHN KERR

    On November 4, The Hollywood Reporter published an “extracted column” by Michael Wolff based on reporting from his new book Fire and Fury in which Wolff claims that White House officials gave an interview to Sean Hannity because Hannity “was willing to supply the questions beforehand.”

    [Hope] Hicks' primary function was to tend to the Trump ego, to reassure him, to protect him, to buffer him, to soothe him. It was Hicks who, attentive to his lapses and repetitions, urged him to forgo an interview that was set to open the 60 Minutes fall season. Instead, the interview went to Fox News' Sean Hannity who, White House insiders happily explained, was willing to supply the questions beforehand. Indeed, the plan was to have all interviewers going forward provide the questions.

    The interview in question took place October 11. Matt Gertz described it at the time as “a lovefest” that was “a perfect marriage of burgeoning authoritarian leader and propagandist.” If anything, most of Hannity’s questions were barely questions at all. Instead, Hannity just prompted Trump to talk about how great he is and how bad he thinks the media is.

    Hannity issued a statement in response to Wolff’s column, denying his claims. On reviewing the questions, it seems less likely that Hannity actually provided them to Trump and more likely that Hannity, Trump, and White House advisers had a shared understanding that the interview topics would be the Fox News staples that Trump regularly tweets about anyway.

    Legitimate questions have been raised about Wolff’s past reporting practices; Wolff says that he has hours of tape to back up what is in the book. And yet it’s hard to disagree with this prediction by Julian Sanchez.

    Or, to put a finer point on it, this from Brian Beutler on Wolff and Breitbart chairman Stephen Bannon:

    One of Bannon’s former subordinates, Ben Shapiro, likes to say that Bannon’s “priority” has always been “narrative truth…rather than factual truth.” This is a delicate way of saying Bannon is a propagandist, always tugging at his audience’s sense of what is emotionally correct in their hearts, rather than what is empirically accurate. But it is a useful euphemism for the purposes of discussing Wolff’s book because it captures the karmic nature of this new reporting so perfectly: An unreliable reporter and a propagandist have sent Trump world into a state of upheaval by harnessing the power of “narrative truth” and turning it inward.

    The joke here, then, is that an unreliable narrator is calling into question Trump’s relationship with his chief propagandist. So begins 2018.

  • Video: The conspiracy theories of Alex Jones and Infowars

    Donald Trump praised Alex Jones’ “amazing” reputation when he appeared on his show

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR & JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    Alex Jones and Infowars have pushed numerous conspiracy theories over the years. Media Matters has compiled a vast number of them into one video:

    Some of the conspiracy theories in the video that Jones, his coworkers, and guests have pushed:

    • Jones claims that “Pizzagate” (that hacked Clinton emails referring to pizza orders were secretly about an underground child molestation ring) is real.

    • Jones claims that the Oklahoma City and 9/11 terror attacks were false flag attacks. Flight 93 was shot down by someone who refused to go along with the false flag attack; (Jones also claims that the person who disclosed that to him was subsequently murdered.)

    • Jones claims that mass shootings in Newtown, Las Vegas, and Orlando were either faked or part of elaborately covered-up conspiracies.

    • Jones claims that though American astronauts did go to the moon, there is secret technology there that has never been disclosed. Jones also agrees with his guest that the real moon landing was never shown to the public.

    • Jones claims that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both smell like sulfur.

    • Jones claims that the Rockefeller Foundation is secretly poisoning America through vaccines.

    • Jones claims that young women get breast cancer from being hyper feminized by artificial chemicals in the food and water.

    • Jones claims that Charles Manson was part of a secret CIA mind control program.

    • Jones claims that Donald Trump is being secretly drugged at night (and that he is risking his life by saying so).

    • Jones amplifies Chuck Norris’ claim in WND that “sky criminals” are using chemtrails to wage war on Americans.

    • Infowars’ Owen Shroyer claims that Adolf Hitler is still alive.

    • Jones claims that Democrats are going to kill people; he also claims that liberals want to put people in dungeons, cut skulls open, and eat their brains.

    • Jones claims that Google is going to force Americans into “self-contained bubble cities.”

    • Jones claims that “there is a signal being sent by women that is controlling men.”

    • Jones claims that Al Gore flies around with a refrigerator full of blood.

    • Jones claims that there are humans crossed with fish; he further claims that there are humanoids that are 80% gorilla, 80% pig and are talking.

    • Infowars contributor Mike Cernovich claims that we are approaching the singularity because time is becoming dilated.

    • Jones claims that the government has secret weather weapons that can cause natural disasters like hurricanes. He also claims that there is a secret volcano/earthquake weapon.

    • Jones claims that top Democrats are “into black magic.”

    • Jones claims that the Obama White House chiefs and chefs used satanic rituals.

    • Jones claims that the Canadian Parliament building was built to carry out Satanic rituals.

    • Jones claims that the Vatican is anti-Christian, and Pope Francis is “an upside down cross.”

    • Jones claims that the “black pope, the Jesuit general” is now in control.

    • An Infowars guest claims that the Rothschilds, the Jesuit black pope, the city of London, and Wall Street -- as part of the deep state -- use pedophilia and mind control to control the Free Masons, the Knights of Malta, and other secret societies.

    • Jones claims that Ted Cruz’s father is linked to the JFK assassination.

    • Jones claims that there is an alien force attacking humanity. He further says that while he does not bash those who do endorse UFOs, he personally sees it as an interdimensional force telling everyone to kill themselves.

    • Jones claims that what many people think are flying saucers are actually three jumbo jets projecting an image downwards to the ground.

    • Jones claims that Michelle Obama is actually a man and that Joan Rivers may have been murdered for revealing it.

    • Jones claims that there are secret death panels for veterans.

    • Jones claims that U.N. wants to bring back human sacrifice.

    • Jones and Infowars guest Billy Corgan allege that elites and mega-wealthy are preparing to secretly go off world.

    • An Infowars guest claims that children are kidnapped from Earth, transported secretly to Mars where they are enslaved in a Martian colony.

    • Jones and an Infowars guest allege that stargates are being built, including at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland (and that it is dedicated to Shiva).

    • Jones claims that exposure to artificial chemicals are turning people gay.

    • Jones claims that the Pentagon successfully developed a gay bomb.

    • An Infowars guest claims that a race of part-human, part-robots will replace humans and feed on human corpses.

    • Jones claims that pedophiles and psychic vampires are in control of an AI system.

    • Jones claims that outfits worn on MSNBC are uniforms meant to fool the public as MSNBC officials meet with the CIA and top government psychiatrists.

    • Jones claims that Katy Perry’s Super Bowl performance was part of an Illuminati ritual.

    • Jones claims that Beyoncé invoked urban terrorism in her video.

    • An Infowars guest claims that the government secretly has teleportation and time travel technology.

    • Jones claims that Satan is stealing the promised ability to travel through dimensions.

    • Jones claims that Russian sex operatives were sent to him whom he heroically declined even though they know that Marilyn Monroe look-alikes are what is in his mind’s eye.

    Donald Trump praised Alex Jones’ “amazing” reputation when he appeared on his show.

  • What the Seth Rich conspiracy theory is, why it matters, and why Sean Hannity must be the one to pay the price

    Enough with the bullshit

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE


    Media Matters

    Political operatives have dishonestly seized on a murder to undercut the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election -- and Sean Hannity has been the point person for that cynical campaign, a lead steer for the nonsense.

    Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer, was murdered July 10, 2016. Within days, initially at the behest of anonymous users on Reddit and 4chan, his murder would be used as the basis for a massive right-wing conspiracy theory, with the eventual purpose of undermining and discrediting the notion that Russia illicitly interfered in the 2016 presidential election in part by hacking DNC, DCCC, and John Podesta emails that WikiLeaks later published. And no one has done more to push this conspiracy theory than Fox News host Sean Hannity -- even after Fox News retracted a story about it that was published on its website.

    Hannity had long dabbled in conspiracy theories about Seth Rich’s murder, but he went into overdrive when, on May 15, Fox 5 DC and FoxNews.com ran stories linking Rich to WikiLeaks based largely on the statements of then-Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler. This was just days after former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified to Congress about Russian interference.

    In the week after that story was published (and quickly fell apart), Hannity repeatedly pushed the conspiracy theory on his television show, his radio show, and his Twitter account. Rich was referenced numerous times on his Fox News television show, and the story was hinted at in countless others.

    Hannity’s coverage was so relentless that he was condemned by some of his coworkers, who reportedly told The Daily Beast that the host was “‘embarrassing’ the network, and the promotion of the Rich conspiracy theory is senselessly cruel to a grieving family.” Rich’s brother personally asked Hannity to stop pushing the conspiracy theories.

    During all this, Hannity repeatedly made clear that he was pushing the story because it undermined the Trump/Russian narrative. (In fact, Hannity went back to the story in June and made the same point.)

    After more than a week of flogging this nonsense, Hannity said on his television show that he would stop talking about Rich “for now.” Minutes later, he promised on Twitter to keep going:

    All this unfolded in the public sphere and proves Sean Hannity’s volatility. And look: Sean Hannity has long been a serial misinformer who has pushed lies and dishonest smears. He has been completely shameless in shilling for the far-right. Hannity has toyed around with basically every conspiracy theory that the far-right has proffered.

    But now we have evidence that the deceit goes even deeper. And while Hannity is not named as a defendant, his story is inseparable from the story at hand.

    We know that political operative Ed Butowsky played a key role in the retracted Fox story that set Hannity off on his conspiracy crusade in May. According to a lawsuit filed by Wheeler -- the Fox News contributor who served as a key source for the claims connecting Wikileaks to Rich in the May 15 Fox story -- that story was the product of a cynical attempt by Ed Butowsky, Fox News, and the White House “to deflect public attention from growing concern about the administration's ties to the Russian government.” And once that story was published, Hannity was its chief promoter.

    We know that Butowsky coordinated for him and Wheeler to meet then-press secretary Sean Spicer in the White House. We know that Butowsky sent talking points to Fox News hosts and producers detailing how to talk about the conspiracy theory in a way that undermined the reporting from credible outlets about Russian interference in the election. We know that in the days after Butowsky sent that message, his words were repeated once on Fox & Friends and multiple times on Hannity.

    In short, we know that Hannity is not just a dishonest, volatile pro-Trump hack, but that he is a dangerous propagandist willing to do or say anything to shore up Trump support with his audience on a daily basis. Nothing Hannity says, to his audience or advertisers, can ever be trusted. He is both post-factual and post-ethical. There is nowhere that Sean Hannity will not go for political convenience. When Hannity takes to the air, there is nothing that he will not aid or abet to help Trump.

    Journalism, regardless of its political consequences, deserves extensive protection from financial retaliation. Propaganda does not. And Sean Hannity is a rank propagandist. As Angelo Carusone wrote, if Fox News executives choose to not do the right thing and fire Sean Hannity, the obligation is on sponsors and the people at large to force their hand.

    Enough is enough.

  • Bret Stephens and MSNBC’s hiring spree: The network keeps moving right

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Update: MSNBC and Greta Van Susteren have agreed to part ways.

    MSNBC is now a pasture for pseudo-intellectual conservatives. Climate denier and Iraq War booster Bret Stephens is just the latest right-wing hire at the network.

    In recent months NBC News Chairman Andy Lack has overseen a hiring spree of right-wing pundits and former Fox News personalities. The stable includes Hugh Hewitt, Megyn Kelly, Charlie Sykes, Greta Van Susteren, and George Will. They join other conservatives at the network: Elise Jordan, Steve Schmidt, Michael Steele, Rick Tyler, Nicolle Wallace, and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough. This is to say nothing of NBC News contributor and Trump apologist Mark Halperin; and given their frequent appearances, it may be just a matter of time until David Frum, a speechwriter for then-President George W. Bush, former George W. Bush chief of staff Andy Card, and neocon Bill Kristol join the network as well.

    Compared to CNN’s boorish Trumpists or the state media apparatchiks at Fox News, the common thread among MSNBC conservatives is a certain pretentious shine. They’re frequently just arguing that President Donald Trump is the wrong type of conservative, when in fact Trump is the apotheosis of everything conservatism has been careening toward for some time. (The exception is Hugh Hewitt, who is now just a huge Trump booster after vacillating during the campaign.) 

    Many of these hires have direct, intimate connections to Bush, the most disastrous president in decades. Card, Frum, Jordan, and Wallace worked in the Bush administration, and Stephens, Kristol, Will, Scarborough, and Hewitt were all huge cheerleaders for the Iraq War. And that history matters. Two major media institutions, including a newspaper of record, are now paying Stephens essentially just to troll liberals with climate denial and to push America towards a war with Iran.

    You can separate Lack’s hiring spree into two buckets: pundits and brands. Neither offer much value in the long run. In this media environment, opinions are cheap (including mine!). Everyone has one and most of them stink. There’s no long-term return on opinions (and no lack of people wanting to get on TV to share theirs).

    Adding brands like Megyn Kelly or Greta Van Susteren is equally pointless. It’s no wonder that both of these shows have failed. There’s simply no audience for them outside the Fox News bubble. Particularly with Kelly, NBC News executives seem completely unaware that her entire show at Fox News was built around racial dog-whistling (with occasional moments of bucking the party line).

    Also, as Ryan Grim noted, it is the progressive shows that Lack hasn’t touched that are succeeding the most.

    Rather than spending all this money on right-wing pundits and big names, the true value-add for news networks now is reliable and aggressive journalism. That’s hard to do. It’s expensive. It’s time-consuming. But it’s ultimately what will define NBC News and MSNBC.