Author Page | Media Matters for America

Nick Fernandez

Author ››› Nick Fernandez
  • Fox Business segment warns against strong response to alleged Saudi murder of a journalist because it could “jeopardize the containment of Iran”

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    On October 16, Fox Business’ Varney & Co. hosted the Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano to discuss the alleged assassination of Washington Post columnist and permanent U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi, purportedly carried out at the direction of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

    Carafano is currently the vice president of the Heritage Foundation and served as a State Department adviser for President Donald Trump’s transition team. In his role at the Heritage Foundation, he has written obsessively about containing Iran, which he considers vital to American national security interests; endorsed Trump’s association with strongmen; advocated for American mercenaries conducting operations in Afghanistan in place of regular U.S. military personnel; referred to Trump’s absurd and ineffective travel ban as “reasonable”; argued that, without the U.S. assisting Saudi Arabia in the brutal war in Yemen, the “region” may fall apart; and fearmongered about a favorite right-wing claim about “terrorists trying to cross from Mexico to the U.S.”

    During the appearance, both host Stuart Varney and Carafano framed the major concern surrounding the alleged attack on Khashoggi as potentially jeopardizing the "containment of Iran," and Carafano insisted that the United States government not act until officials “get the facts” of the alleged murder “right.” Varney even floated the idea that the United States could simply slow-walk an investigation and any action on the matter "so the days spread to a week or so, which delays any response from us. ... if I say, can we get away with that, that sounds pejorative, but do you think that's what's going to happen?"

    According to The Wrap, Fox Business remains “one of only two media organizations” sponsoring a planned Saudi Arabian business conference called the Future Investment Initiative, while the “other sponsor, Al Arabiya, is a Saudi-owned operation.” According to the report, “Over the last week, The New York Times, CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg, Nikkei and the Financial Times all pulled out of the event amid growing questions about the kingdom’s involvement in the” alleged assassination of Khashoggi.

    From the October 16 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co.:

    STUART VARNEY (HOST): CNN reports that the Saudis are preparing to admit they killed the columnist Jamal Khashoggi in an interrogation gone wrong. ... James, we've got to get the response to this -- America's got to get the response right because we do not want to jeopardize the containment of Iran. Am I right

    JAMES CARAFANO (HERITAGE FOUNDATION): So, I'm going to say some words on this show you've never heard before. President Trump is the calm, responsible guy here. From the beginning he said, we've got to get the facts right, and he is exactly right. Look, we're going to have a strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia a year from now. We're going to have a strategic relationship with Turkey a year from now. That's not going to change because the world hasn't changed. But we have to go forward operating on what actually happened, because these relationships are too important to just fly off the handle, and we have to deal with the reality of what happened. So, we have to wait for the facts to come in. So, even though we've heard this CNN report, until the government of Saudi Arabia actually come out and says something, I think we have to be very careful. And the president's right. And you are right. The -- what the greatest destabilizing force in the region that's getting people killed, that's spreading misery by the hundreds of thousands is Iran, and that is the big ticket we have to deal with.

    VARNEY: Do you think we'll try to spin this out, demanding the facts, demanding to know what happened, and so the days spread to a week or so, which delays any response from us. Do you think we'll -- if I say, can we get away with that, that sounds pejorative, but do you think that's what's going to happen?

    CARAFANO: Well, I think we have to get the facts right, and then we have to go --

    VARNEY: That'll take time.

    CARAFANO: -- through the legal process that's required to do that. So, this is a U.S. person, so we might have an issue here where we might want to extradite something. We've got joint investigations between the Saudis and the Turks. We have the U.S. offer -- we should have learned something from the Kavanaugh hearing, which is we shouldn't declare guilt and innocence and then just pontificate our politics. We should let the facts decide what the U.S. response is, and it may take time for the real, concrete facts to come out.

  • After Elizabeth Warren published DNA test results, right-wing media move the goal posts

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    After years of accusing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) of misrepresenting her heritage, right-wing media are digging in their heels now that she has publicly released DNA test results that revealed “strong evidence” that she has Native American ancestry. Reporting surrounding the release also noted that Harvard Law School, where she has taught, did not consider her claim of Native American ancestry in deciding to hire her. But the “strong evidence” for her heritage is only causing right-wing media to move the goal posts.

    Since 2012, conservative media have been strangely obsessed with Warren and her family heritage. Originally popularized by Boston talk radio personality/columnist Howie Carr and the Scott Brown for Senate campaign in 2012, the attacks against Warren’s ancestry reached national audiences during the 2016 campaign. Then-candidate Donald Trump picked up the assertion that Warren had misrepresented her heritage, making it a regular theme at his campaign rallies. The fixation on her heritage eventually reached Fox News, with the hosts of Fox & Friends Weekends pushing a challenge for Warren to take a DNA test to “prove, once and for all, her Native American ancestry.”

    On October 15, The Boston Globe reported that Warren had taken a DNA test “that provides ‘strong evidence’ she had a Native American in her family tree dating back 6 to 10 generations.” More importantly, even though Warren marked “Native American” on her Harvard University employment application -- which has been central to the absurd and racist claims about her family that have dogged her since her 2012 Senate campaign -- the Globe noted that there was “clear evidence, in documents and interviews, that her claim to Native American ethnicity was never considered by the Harvard Law faculty, which voted resoundingly to hire her, or by those who hired her to four prior positions at other law schools.”

    But now, the problem for conservative media is not that Warren may have misrepresented her heritage or that it played a role in her hiring, it is that she doesn’t have enough Native American ancestry.

    Now that every angle of their stupid argument has been debunked, right-wing media are simply digging in their heels. The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro ditched any argument about Warren’s employment at Harvard or the veracity of the DNA results and simply referred to those who trust Warren’s word about her family and the Globe’s “exhaustive review” as the “real bitter clingers.” The immensely credible and not-racist Daily Caller tweeted that Warren is “Like between .09 and 3 percent cherokinda.” And CRTV’s Michelle Malkin posted an incomprehensible tweet calling Warren “#Fauxcahontas.”

  • Trump’s lie-filled Medicare for All op-ed

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    For some misguided reason, USA Today published an op-ed -- supposedly written by President Donald Trump -- attacking a proposed “Medicare for All” plan cosponsored by a number of Senate Democrats. The piece is a collection of baldfaced lies and distorted facts which do not hold up to even the slightest scrutiny.

  • Fox & Friends hosts founder of astroturfed #WalkAway “movement” who has appeared on Infowars

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox & Friends is promoting an astroturfed social media “movement,” the #WalkAway campaign, that has been hyped on The Alex Jones Show and promoted by social media bots.

    On the October 2 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Ainsley Earhardt interviewed Brandon Straka, the supposed founder of the #WalkAway campaign, which encourages voters to “walk away” from the Democratic Party. During the appearance, Straka complained of an apparent “dishonesty” within the “liberal media,” promoting his hashtag, website, and an upcoming “march on Washington” in the process.

    Straka’s “movement” is really an astroturfed social media campaign that has been amplified by both Infowars and Russian bots. Since early July, when the hashtag began to trend on Twitter, Straka himself has appeared on multiple Infowars shows to promote his so-called movement, and an analysis of the hashtag on Twitter found it to be a “psychological operation” aimed at shaping conversations in cable news segments, such as his appearance on Fox & Friends. According to multiple analyses, the hashtag's spread was largely driven by non-human activity, and accounts that tweeted in support of the “movement” had used pro-Trump hashtags such as #maga, #fakenews, and #qanon before they “walked away” from the Democratic Party. Moreover, according to Snopes, the campaign’s supporters have promoted the hashtag with misleading stock photos of people who had supposedly “walked away” from the Democratic Party, though Straka claims the photos were not actually created by the campaign itself.

    From the October 2 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): We see your t-shirt. How did you become a conservative? You were a liberal and now you are a conservative activist?

    BRANDON STRAKA (FOUNDER, #WALKAWAY CAMPAIGN): Nice. Well, it's a bit of a long story. But, in general, what it was was, I really came to the realization that the liberal media was incredibly dishonest throughout the campaign of Donald Trump, creating a narrative about who he was and who his followers were. And that really opened my eyes to their dishonesty. I actually think he is a really amazing president, and I think that the people in this country who support him are really good people, but they have gotten a really bad shake from the liberal media.

    EARHARDT: Do you think that there are other people that feel the way do you and they’re just being quiet about it? Because we saw in the election, a lot of people were too afraid to say that they were supporting the president.

    STRAKA: Right, well, this is what I say all the time in the campaign is that it is time for the silent majority to become un-silent, and that's really what's happening, I think, with the #WalkAway campaign. It's a testimonial campaign, and people are creating their testimonials, and they're finding the courage to speak their truth for the first time. It's really created a network of support. In fact, we have a #WalkAway march on Washington next month, which is really going to be a massive demonstration of solidarity.

    EARHARDT: So it's walk away from the Democratic Party and support us?

    STRAKA: Absolutely.

  • Broadcast morning shows and newspapers left out crucial information when reporting on Kavanaugh’s contrived Fox News interview

    Media failed to mention details of Kavanaugh’s formative years that lend credence to accusations against him

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his wife, Ashley Kavanaugh, gave an interview to Fox News in an effort to clean up his image after two women reported him for sexual misconduct in the last two weeks. Coverage of the interview from broadcast morning shows and major newspapers has aided Kavanaugh’s public relations effort by parroting his weak defenses while omitting critical information about his background.

    On September 16, The Washington Post published an interview with Christine Blasey Ford, a California college professor who said Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were high school students in the 1980s. On September 23, The New Yorker published a story detailing a separate allegation from Deborah Ramirez, one of Kavanaugh’s classmates at Yale University, who said, as The New Yorker described it, that Kavanaugh “exposed himself” and “thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away” at “a drunken dormitory party” during the 1983-84 school year.

    On September 24, Kavanaugh and his wife took to Fox News to respond to the allegations. ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS’s CBS This Morning, and NBC’s Today, as well as newspapers including The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Postuncritically echoed Kavanaugh’s responses, while neglecting to mention important details and follow-up reporting that seem to lend credibility to the allegations against him. Specifically, media described the interview as “deeply personal” and Kavanaugh as “emotional,” and fixated on details like his claim that he “did not have sexual intercourse” during the years in question without ever acknowledging a difference between sexual intercourse and sexual assault.

    Moreover, in their one-sided reporting on Kavanaugh’s unprecedented interview, media largely omitted relevant background reporting on his actions and environment as a young man. While a few reports included quotes from Kavanaugh’s freshman roommate at Yale which characterized the nominee as “a heavy drinker” who was “aggressive and belligerent” when drunk, media largely failed to highlight the misogynistic and boorish culture that Kavanaugh reportedly participated in at Georgetown Prep. A “former student” who attended the school with Kavanaugh told HuffPost:

    That was just normal then. It was an attitude where “No” didn’t necessarily mean “I’m going to stop.” It meant “I’m going to keep going,” and “I’m going to keep going because I’m privileged and I’m allowed to and I’m not going to get in trouble for it.”

    Kavanaugh joked about the school’s reputation during a 2015 speech, saying, “What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep.” Moreover, almost every report on Kavanaugh’s interview failed to include details about Mark Judge -- the only alleged witness to Ford’s assault and Kavanaugh’s friend from Prep with a history of disturbing views about women -- or about Kavanaugh’s time at Yale, where the Supreme Court nominee was a member of the notoriously misogynistic Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity.

    Media’s failure to include these critical details in their reporting on Kavanaugh’s sham of an interview not only boosts Fox’s one-sided messaging, but it also assists Kavanaugh in rehabilitating his reputation and leaves audiences in the dark, denying them relevant information that lends credibility to Ford and Ramirez’s accounts.

  • Trump ordered the unprecedented release of classified material after a push from Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    On September 17, President Donald Trump ordered the declassification and public release of sensitive classified documents and text messages related to the origin of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. For weeks leading up to the president’s decision, two of his informal and most-trusted cable television advisers, Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs, clamored for the release of the material. Hannity even appeared to have gotten some early notice of the move, saying just days before Trump’s decision to declassify the material, “We expect next week, we might get those unredacted FISA warrants.”

  • “It seemed pretty dangerous”: Right-wing and pro-Trump media lash out at Kavanaugh confirmation hearing protesters

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Members of the right-wing and pro-Trump media -- typically the self-proclaimed vanguards of “free of speech” -- are lining up to attack protesters who are exercising their First Amendment rights by voicing their opposition to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. They’ve attacked protesters as “venomous” and “dangerous” and even leveled sexist digs at female protesters, saying that they “are showing how truly ugly women can be.”

  • Paris Dennard’s history of commentary on sexual misconduct on CNN

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    CNN has suspended political commentator Paris Dennard after a Washington Post report detailed allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior during his tenure as the events director for Arizona State University’s McCain Institute for International Leadership. During Dennard’s time as a political commentator at CNN, he staunchly defended President Donald Trump against reports that Trump sexually harassed and assaulted several women, attacking the reporting and complaining that such stories “destroy[s] people’s credibility” and “tear people down” using “unsubstantiated facts.”

  • Trump's favorite Fox News stooges didn't even try to cover the Manafort bank and tax fraud trial seriously

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Update (8/21): A jury found Manafort guilty on eight counts of federal tax evasion and bank fraud. The judge declared a mistrial on the remaining 10 charges.

    Original article below.

    The first trial of President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort has garnered a great deal of media attention and scrutiny since it began on July 31. But, predictably, Trump’s favorite Fox News propagandists on Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine have not even attempted to cover the trial in a serious manner.

    Manafort, a longtime (and self-described) foreign influence peddler, is awaiting a verdict on an 18 count indictment related to various financial crimes, including federal tax and bank fraud. Much of the evidence against Manafort consists of documents and testimony regarding income from his political work in Ukraine and other activity in the years before he joined the Trump campaign in March of 2016. The judge in the case, Judge T.S. Ellis III, has forbidden any mention of the special counsel’s investigation, the Trump campaign, or Russia during the course of the trial.

    But the judge has also ruled that the special counsel’s case against Manafort could move forward, rejecting arguments from the defense that the charges are outside the special counsel's mandate to, according to The New York Times, "investigate 'any links' between the Trump campaign and the Russian government." In his ruling, Ellis affirmed that the special counsel mandate "covered the payments to Mr. Manafort from Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor F. Yanukovych." Moreover, when the defense asked a question about Manafort’s ex-business partner Rick Gates’ involvement with the Trump campaign, the prosecution requested that Judge Ellis seal a “limited portion” of a subsequent sidebar conference that apparently was “pertaining to an ongoing investigation,” ostensibly having to do with another aspect of the special counsel’s inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

    Furthermore, as some have pointed out, Manafort’s spending habits and close ties to Russian oligarchs are relevant to the 2016 election considering that Manafort volunteered to work for Trump for free.

    But you wouldn’t know all that if you’re getting your news from the president’s favorite propagandists on Fox News. Continuing a trend of keeping their audience ignorant regarding one of the key players in the special counsel’s investigation, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine have all but given up on presenting a serious or informative picture of the case:

    Fox & Friends

    Fox & Friends’ coverage at the start of the trial consisted of extended discussions of the case, albeit skewed to emphasize the idea that Manafort’s bank and tax fraud trial “is nothing about Russia” or “collusion,” and focused on the judge’s combativeness with the prosecution. Yet, according to a Media Matters review of videos and transcripts, Fox & Friends effectively gave up on providing viewers detailed updates on the trial after Rick Gates -- Manafort’s longtime business partner, the deputy Trump campaign manager, and the prosecution’s so-called “star witness” -- testified and corroborated significant documentary evidence against Manafort. At that point the show began discussing the trial only in short, roughly 20- to 25-secondheadlinesreports. Fox & Friends did not provide any updates on the mornings of August 9 and 10, days eight and nine of the trial.

    Hannity

    Since the start of the trial, host Sean Hannity has used his show to incessantly mock the case against Manafort and misinform Fox’s prime-time audience regarding its details. According to a Media Matters review, Hannity has discussed the trial nearly every evening since its outset on July 31, but in those segments he defaulted to insisting that the case has “nothing to do with President Trump or Russia or collusion.” Hannity has also persistently mischaracterized the case against Manafort as “a 2005 tax case,” willfully ignoring reams of evidence presented in the trial, including an email that suggests Manafort was conspiring to commit bank fraud with Gates as late as October 2016, while Gates was still serving as Trump’s deputy campaign chairman. Nevertheless, Hannity has taken a page directly out of Manafort’s defense playbook and attacked Gates’ credibility, seized on Judge Ellis’s outbursts at the prosecution, and whined about the special counsel’s mandate supposedly being too broad.

    Justice with Judge Jeanine

    The two editions of Justice with Judge Jeanine that have aired since the trial’s start largely ignored the bank and tax fraud case against Manafort. According to a Media Matters review, since the start of the trial, host Jeanine Pirro has mentioned the trial only three times: in an angry and conspiratorial screed against the special counsel, quickly in an interview with counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, and in a discussion with Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. In the interviews with Trump’s surrogates, Conway falsely asserted that the charges stemming from the special counsel’s investigation have nothing to do with Trump or Russian interference in the 2016 election, and Giuliani complained about the conditions Manafort has been detained in.

    The president’s Fox News stooges are not even attempting to present details and facts that have emerged in the case against Trump’s former campaign manager. Instead, they are choosing to run a public relations campaign on behalf of the president; the nonsensical coverage will ultimately have no bearing on the jury’s decision, but it could impact public opinion of the ruling. And their willful ignorance is simply the latest example of Fox ignoring or downplaying consequential reporting on the special counsel’s investigation. And given recent polling showing that a solid majority of Republicans did not pay close attention to the Manafort trial proceedings, the lacking and skewed coverage of the trial coming from some of Trump’s most well-known propagandists has the potential to drastically shape opinions among Fox’s audience, something the president’s personal legal team seems to understand. Now they just have to gear up for round two on September 17.

  • Fox & Friends gives Trump administration credit for “cracking down on Russia” after it belatedly implements legally required sanctions

    New sanctions were mandated by US and international law for Russia’s nerve agent assassination attempt in the UK

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox & Friends is, yet again, pointing to congressionally-mandated sanctions the Trump administration is (belatedly) implementing to claim the president is “cracking down on Russia.”

    On August 8, the State Department announced a new round of sanctions against the Russian government and affiliated entities in response to the use of a Soviet-era nerve agent in the attempted assassination of a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil in March. Months later, in July, two British civilians also came into contact with the nerve agent, which killed one of them.

    Now, Fox & Friends is pointing to the newest round of sanctions to claim the president is “holding Russia accountable” and “screwing this collusion thing up,” even though the sanctions are mandated by Congress and international law, and the administration has been late in implementing them.

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): The Trump administration holding Russia accountable.

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Again. The U.S. is issuing brand new sanctions, and this, after the attempted assassination of a former Russian spy and his daughter. They've been investigating since, and they don't like what they've found.

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Griff Jenkins live in Washington, D.C. with the details on how the U.S. of A is cracking down on Russia.

    ...

    DOOCY: It looks as if the president is screwing this collusion thing up because I've been watching on the other channels, "He's been colluding with Russia." And yet, once again, they're cracking down on Russia.

    EARHARDT: Slapping sanctions.

    DOOCY: Flying in the face of that narrative with new sanctions.

    ...

    KILMEADE: Every step of the way the president's done this, but he doesn't trumpet it. He doesn't say, "Hey, I've got a press conference, here are the sanctions." He just puts them on, and the next thing you know, they're mounting and I think they are significant. Especially they still focus on the Maginsky (sic) Act, and what he did to certain oligarchs surrounding Vladimir Putin, because it's really throttled their individual banking ability and investment ability.