Madeline Peltz

Author ››› Madeline Peltz
  • Seth Rich's family sends cease and desist to Fox News contributor behind evidence-free smears

    Rich family: “Your statements and actions have caused, and continue to cause, the Family severe mental anguish and emotional distress”

    Blog ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    According to NBC News, the family of murdered DNC employee Seth Rich sent a cease and desist order to Fox News contributor Rod Wheeler after his recent allegations led right wing media figures to smear Rich as the person responsible for providing WikiLeaks with DNC emails. Wheeler alleged that the murder was somehow related to a purported relationship between Rich and WikiLeaks, despite finding no evidence that Rich had ever been in contact with WikiLeaks. The Rich family previously demanded an apology but did not receive one.

    In a May 15 article and subsequent newscast, Fox 5 quoted Rod Wheeler as saying  “a source inside the police department” told him the department was “told to stand down on this case.” Wheeler also claimed it was “confirmed” that Rich had links to WikiLeaks. According to CNN, “no real evidence has been provided to support such claims and Washington's Metropolitan Police Department.”

    Right-wing media seized on this story with Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs smearing Rich as potentially being behind the WikiLeaks release of DNC emails.  The right-wing One America News Network has also fueled the conspiracy, even offering $100,000 for information about Rich’s death during a conspiracy-fueled report.

    Conservative media’s exploitation of the Seth Rich murder spurred the family to threaten Wheeler with legal action, saying, “Your statements and actions have caused, and continue to cause, the Family severe mental anguish and emotional distress. Your behavior appears to have been deliberate, intentional, outrageous and in patent disregard of the Agreement and the obvious damage and suffering it would cause the family.” From a May 19 NBC News report:

    The family of slain Democratic staffer Seth Rich is threatening legal action against a private investigator after his "outrageous behavior" has given fuel to right-wing conspiracy theories about the unsolved murder of their son.

    An attorney representing the family of Rich, who was 27 when he was killed last July, sent a cease and desist letter Friday to Rod Wheeler, a Fox News contributor and former Washington, D.C., homicide detective who was employed by the family and earlier this week told a Fox affiliate that he believed police were covering up details about the crime.

    "Your statements and actions have caused, and continue to cause, the Family severe mental anguish and emotional distress. Your behavior appears to have been deliberate, intentional, outrageous, and in patent disregard of the Agreement and the obvious damage and suffering it would cause the Family," wrote Joseph Ingrisano of the law firm Katuk Rock, according to a copy of the letter shared exclusively with NBC News.

    "Your improper and unauthorized statements, many of which are false and have no basis in fact, have also injured the memory and reputation of Seth Rich and have defamed and injured the reputation and standing of the members of the Family," Ingrisano continued.

    The letter demands Wheeler "immediately and permanently" cease and desist from making any comments about Seth Rich or his death and suggests he could face further legal action either way.

  • When Fox News Said That Public Officials Mishandling Classified Information Was A Big Deal

    ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    Reports that President Donald Trump shared highly classified information with Russian officials, potentially violating espionage norms, raise the question of whether anyone on Fox News will criticize the president. Several Fox personalities viciously attacked Hillary Clinton for her handling of classified information with her email server and, without evidence, claimed that she allowed foreign actors to obtain that information.

  • Media Figures Immediately Call Out McMaster's Statement As Bullshit

    ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    Journalists called out the White House’s attempt to spin a Washington Post report that President Donald Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. In a statement following the report, White House national security advisor H.R. McMaster gave a statement saying the president did not reveal “sources and methods” to the Russians, a claim that the media noted was not a part of the Post’s report.

  • Comey Firing Coverage Shows Right-Wing Media Has Lost Its Grip On Reality

    Fake News Purveyors Joined Conservatives In Lauding Comey's Firing

    ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    Right-wing media praised the Trump administration’s egregious decision to fire FBI director James Comey. Conservatives trumpeted the move as long overdue, while other media outlets lamented Trump’s move as “obstruction” and called his rationale for the firing “implausible.”

  • Sean Hannity's Desperate Attempt To Downplay Flynn Revelations From Sally Yates' Testimony

    Blog ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    Fox News host Sean Hannity downplayed the testimony given by former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who revealed that she warned President Donald Trump's administration on multiple occasions about then-national security adviser Michael Flynn and his contacts with Russian officials. Instead, Hannity tried to reinvigorate baseless claims that someone in former President Barack Obama’s administration unlawfully unmasked Flynn.

    Hannity's attempt to downplay negative information about the Trump administration goes hand in hand with his sycophantic coverage of the president. Throughout Trump's campaign, Hannity constantly defended Trump as experts and journalists criticized his "racist" comments and debunked claims. Additionally, Hannity and Trump have served as a sounding board for one another, with Hannity pushing for Trump's war on the press and Trump tweeting about conspiracies promoted on Hannity's show. 

    In testimony to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election on May 8, Yates said she warned the Trump administration in late January that Flynn was “compromised” in his ability to execute the responsibilities of his position in an independent fashion. Nearly three weeks after Yates warned the administration, Trump asked for Flynn’s resignation. The move came only after The Washington Post reported that Flynn had communicated with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak regarding sanctions put in place by the Obama administration -- “contrary to public assertions by Trump officials,” including Vice President Mike Pence. In her testimony, Yates said that “the Russians also knew that General Flynn had misled the vice president and others,” and that the indiscretion potentially exposed him to foreign blackmail. Yates added that when she brought her concerns to White House counsel Don McGahn, he reportedly asked her, “Why does it matter to DOJ if one White House official lies to another White House official?”

    Despite the details revealed during the hearing, Hannity downplayed the importance of Yates’ testimony during his three-hour radio show and nightly Fox News program on May 8. Instead, he and guest Sara Carter of Circa News speculated about whether the Obama administration was involved in improperly unmasking members of the Trump administration, as well as journalists, lawyers, doctors, and even Hannity himself. However, administration officials have said that unmasking -- revealing otherwise obscured identities in intelligence reports -- occurs commonly but to limited audiences when officials have a good reason for getting the information; Yates noted during her testimony that she had never asked for anyone to be unmasked but had seen reports generally where names were already unmasked. Hannity also suggested on his radio show that the alleged unmasking was “a violation of our Fourth Amendment rights,” adding, “We’re talking about criminal actions here:” 

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): I want to know if I was unmasked. Because you both saw those reports and I have no ability to corroborate independently whether or not it’s true, but Sara, what are you hearing on your end about the names? Is it Congress or these -- the 16 other presidential candidates, what?

    SARA CARTER: I don’t think it’s just limited to Congress, Sean. I don’t think it’s limited to Congress at all. I think that what John [Solomon] and I really want to find out goes far beyond Congress. Were there other members unmasked? And John and I had written about this early on in our first story. Were there journalists? Were there doctors? Who else was being unmasked? Lawyers, people with important jobs, judges? These are questions that need to be answered and nobody wants to give it up, right? They can hide under the classification of it, but eventually these answers have to come forward. And I think it’s a violation of civil liberties if we don’t have an answer to this.

    HANNITY: Isn’t it bigger than civil liberties, though? Isn’t that a violation of our Fourth Amendment rights? And aren’t we also discussing if the intelligence community is used for political [opposition] research and taking away people’s Fourth Amendment rights? We’re talking about criminal actions here.

    This is not the first time Hannity has downplayed the scandal surrounding Flynn. Following Flynn’s resignation, Hannity used his opening monologue to blame liberals for Flynn’s downfall, despite the administration’s own admission that Flynn had lied to the White House.

  • After 15-Year-Old Jordan Edwards Was Shot Dead By A Police Officer, Cable News Yawned

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN & MADELINE PELTZ

    Cable news devoted minimal coverage to the killing of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards by a police officer in the days after his death. At a time when President Donald Trump’s administration is taking steps to drastically reduce measures that hold police accountable, the media’s job as a watchdog is of utter importance. In this case, cable news all but abdicated that role.

    Edwards was shot by Officer Roy Oliver in a Dallas suburb on April 29. He died shortly after. A statement from the Balch Springs Police Department released on April 30 stated that Edwards was in “a vehicle backing down the street towards the Officers in an aggressive manner,” which led an officer to shoot at the vehicle. On May 1, however, police “changed their story on the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting,” according to CNN.com, after body camera footage “showed the car was driving forward, away from the officers, not reversing toward them." On May 2, the Balch Springs police chief announced that the department had fired Oliver.

    A Media Matters analysis found the story has barely broken through on cable news, if at all. In the four days after Edwards’ death, MSNBC has mentioned the fatal police shooting four times, while CNN has mentioned it two times. Fox News, however, did not mention the shooting at all. All of the mentions took place on May 2 and 3, meaning the cable networks did not cover the story until it was reported that the officer had lied about his account of the shooting.

    Media coverage of police brutality and abuses of power is especially important under President Trump. In April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memorandum to “cut back on federal oversight of local law enforcement,” USA Today reported. In the memo, Sessions wrote, “It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies.” As The Atlantic wrote, “When local governments violate the basic constitutional rights of citizens, Americans are supposed to be able to look to the federal government to protect those rights. Sessions has made clear that when it comes to police abuses, they’re now on their own.”

    With Sessions reducing federal oversight on local law enforcement, the press is one of the most prominent institutions left to hold police accountable for bad behavior. This new reality is worrisome, to say the least, as media outlets have repeatedly criminalized black and other non-white victims of police violence. Additionally, conservative media have repeatedly portrayed advocates calling for reforms to curb police brutality, including Black Lives Matter, as criminals and terrorists. The lack of coverage cable news devoted to Edwards’ death shows that, so far, media haven’t stepped up to the plate.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News on SnapStream for mentions of “Edward” or “Jordan” between April 30 and May 3 and coded for mentions of Jordan Edwards. Mentions were counted if they took place between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m.

  • Right-Wing Media Dishonestly Claim Carter Page FISA Warrant Is Evidence Of Trump Wiretap Lie

    ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    The Washington Post reported that the FBI obtained a FISA warrant to investigate Trump associate Carter Page during the summer of 2016. The warrant was legally obtained through the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court. Right-wing media outlets falsely claimed that the FBI investigation into Page is evidence that supports Donald Trump’s accusations that the Obama administration illegally wiretapped him, despite multiple intelligence experts and even GOP Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) calling Trump’s claim is false.

  • Bill O’Reilly Repeatedly Smeared Women Who Spoke Up About Sexual Harassment And Assault

    O’Reilly Has Barely Responded To Accusations Made Against Him

    ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ & JULIE ALDERMAN

    Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor has lost at least 20 advertisers since a New York Times report revealed that host Bill O’Reilly and Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, paid $13 million to five women who made sexual harassment allegations against O’Reilly. O’Reilly denied all wrongdoing in a brief statement on April 1, and he has refused to address the situation on air. In the past, O’Reilly has repeatedly smeared women who accused men of sexual harassment and assault and defended multiple men against a variety of such allegations.

  • Syndicated Radio Host Joe Walsh Says President Obama Was Held To A Lower Standard Than Trump Because He’s Black

    CNN Commentator Angela Rye Explains Why He Is Wrong

    Blog ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    CNN hosted Joe Walsh, a syndicated radio host, to defend his claim that former President Barack Obama was held to a lower standard by the media because he is black. Despite CNN commentator Angela Rye pointing out the racism in his comments, Walsh steadfastly argued his position that President Obama was held to a lower standard by the media because of his race and even doubled down on the claim after the CNN appearance.

    Walsh’s ongoing dispute with Rye made news on March 28, when Walsh claimed that the media “lowered the bar for Obama … cuz he was black”:

    Rye and Walsh were invited on the March 29 edition of CNN’s CNN Newsroom to discuss Walsh’s tweets. During the exchange Walsh claimed his comments were not racist, but reiterated that Obama was held to a “very low standard” and “coddled” by the media. Rye explained that Walsh’s bigoted comments ignore the fact that Trump became president despite his long history of racism and sexism. Watch:

    BROOKE BALDWIN (HOST): Do you agree? Do you think the original comments were either racist or sexist?

    JOE WALSH:  Hey, Brooke. No, I'm rolling my eyes right now. Because this is what the left always do, does. They always go to racism. Now, assume for a minute, Brooke, that Sean Spicer was a condescending jerk yesterday. And I think he probably was. But what does that have to do with race? And what does that have to do with sex? Brooke, Sean Spicer has been a condescending jerk to white male reporters a whole heck of a lot. And April is a great reporter, but doesn't she want to be treated equally? Why does this always have to do with race and sex? It's ridiculous. 

    BALDWIN: Angela, how do you feel about it?

    ANGELA RYE: I don't know if Sean Spicer is a racist. I don't know if Donald Trump is a racist. I don't know if the fallout that April experienced with Omarosa, who's a White House staffer, has challenges because of racial animus. What I do know is that April Ryan was disrespected yesterday and it was unwarranted. What I do know is that Sean Spicer is not April Ryan's father, so he should not tell her what she should and should not do. What I do know is that I'm sick and tired of this White House, as I was sick and tired of the campaign, treating people less than. Whether they're different because they are black or they're different because they cross the border, or they're different because they worship a different god or their god is known by a different name. I am tired of difference being disrespected and mistreated by this White House.

    [...]

    RYE: Sure, I think it speaks for itself. This president has been in turmoil since the campaign. He talked about grabbing women by their private parts. This is a man who -- let's put the shoe on the other foot. Barack Obama, a black man in this country running for president with not one, not two, but three baby mothers. Let's, you know, put the shoe on the other foot. Someone who took a loan from their father that they call a small loan of $1 million. Let's talk about all of those things. Someone who discriminated against people who were trying to just find spots in his housing facilities. Someone who took out full-page ads calling for the death of five young black and brown boys. If Barack Obama would have done any of that, Brooke, he would have never even made it to the general election. And that is the point. We're talking about a double standard. We're talking about lowering a bar. Barack Obama hurdled every bar that was put in front of him. When Michelle Obama talked about going high when they go low, they did it at every turn. This is a woman who was called an ape. Who -- they put pictures up of Barack Obama looking like a monkey. These are the people I'm talking about. They hurdled everything that came their way, every obstacle, and this man, it's asinine to even think that this man is now in the White House. Here we are in the middle of an investigation, but Hillary Clinton's e-mails. So, yeah, I mean, it's very frustrating and I'm tired of people telling me that black people are beneath a standard when we have to be twice as good all the time. And that is why I said, I'm not interested in having a dialogue with someone like Joe who has demonstrated a propensity towards bigotry. And he did that on Twitter yesterday in 140 characters or less.

    [...]

    BALDWIN: I want to understand why you had such a problem with what Angela said, and you took to Twitter and you let everyone know about it. I want to understand what your issue is with that. 

    WALSH: And Brooke, thanks. My disagreement had nothing to do with Trump. When Angela was making her case, she said that Barack Obama somehow had to live up to this perfect Jesus Christ standard that no other president had to live up to. My disagreement, Brooke, was about that. Because I find that laughable. And it's got nothing, again, to do with race. Never in our country's history have we had a president so like coddled and pampered and protected by the media like Barack Obama. You talk -- that's not a high standard, Brooke. He was held to a very low standard, because the media so loved him. 

    RYE: Did you or did you not say that you lowered the standard because he was black? Did you or did not say that the standard was lowered because he was black? Did you or did you not say that? 

    WALSH: Absolutely

    RYE: That is what makes you a bigot, Joe.

    After the CNN broadcast, Walsh repeated his racist claim on Twitter, writing, “Everyone made excuses for [Obama’s] inexperience simply because he’s black.” 

    Walsh has a history of making racist and discriminatory statements. After the July 2016 murders of five officers of the Dallas Police Department, Walsh tweeted that President Obama and “black lives matter punks” had better “watch out,” because “Real America is coming after you.” Walsh also told black people to “quit complaining about slavery & inequality,” insisted the media focus after Trayvon Martin’s murder should be “black-on-black crime,” and rewrote Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech to focus on his own “dream that black America will take responsibility for improving their own lives,” and “cease their dependency on the government plantation.” Walsh was suspended from his radio show in 2014 for repeatedly using racial slurs on air.

  • Report: Top Pence Adviser Is Partial Owner Of Independent Journal Review

    Blog ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    BuzzFeed News is reporting that a political adviser to Vice President Mike Pence is also a “major investor” in the conservative media outlet the Independent Journal Review (IJR), which has gained exclusive access to the administration as the only media outlet allowed to travel with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his trip to Asia. 

    The IJR is a conservative, pro-Trump outlet which recently faced criticism for publishing, then retracting, an article suggesting former President Barack Obama had the “timing and the opportunity” to influence the judge that halted President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban. The outlet also faced criticism after Tillerson’s “decision to bring only Erin McPike of Independent Journal Review” with him on his first trip to Asia. According to Politico:

    McPike has been with IJR for only a few weeks and doesn’t even cover the State Department: She’s its White House reporter and is often in the briefings. McPike won’t be acting as a pool reporter for the rest of the diplomatic press corps, meaning she won’t be sharing information about the trip with other reporters, which is what would normally happen if there were limited space for reporters and only a few were chosen.

    On March 17, BuzzFeed News reported that a “top strategist” for Vice President Pence, Nick Ayers, is a “major investor” in IJR. Ayers also works for America First Priorities, a political group that works to push Trump’s agenda. While the article notes that “there is no indication” that Ayers played a role in IJR receiving favorable treatment from Tillerson, the Ayers connection reinforces the “close ties between Trump’s orbit and a favored media outlet.” From BuzzFeed News:

    Nick Ayers, Pence’s top strategist outside of the White House, confirmed to BuzzFeed News that he owns part of IJR. He is also playing a major role in America First Priorities, a political group launched by Trump campaign advisers to trumpet the president’s message. He joined Trump’s campaign when Pence was tapped as the vice presidential nominee and later acted as a senior advisor for the vice president-elect during the transition. Ayers previously worked as a political consultant and as campaign manager for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s presidential bid in 2012.

    There’s no indication that Ayers was involved in this week’s controversial State Department decision to grant the sole press spot on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s trip to Asia to IJR’s White House correspondent. The move, a break from tradition, has enraged the State Department press corps as Tillerson makes big diplomatic news without a traditional pooler tagging along.

    Ayers’ investment in IJR is another example of close ties between Trump’s orbit and a favored media outlet. Steve Bannon, the president’s top strategist, ran Breitbart News for years and has brought with him to the administration a handful of ex-Breitbart staffers. The company has said that it no longer has financial and editorial ties to Bannon. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner transferred his ownership of The New York Observer to a family trust.

    There’s no sign that Ayers has had any editorial involvement with his investment, and a person involved in the company noted that IJR notably didn’t benefit from insider leaks during the campaign.