Pam Vogel

Author ››› Pam Vogel
  • Don’t be fooled: Sinclair is trying to bring the Fox News model to your local news station 

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    According to Sinclair Broadcasting Group, it's doing a service to its viewers by requiring the many local TV news stations it owns to air unabashedly pro-Trump propaganda on a regular basis.  

    The local TV news giant has been pushing a right-wing slant on local television stations across the country for years. Owned by the Smiths, a family of longtime Republican donors who have all the ambition of News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch but a much lower profile, Sinclair has mostly flown under the radar. But following the election of President Donald Trump, the network has begun adopting the playbook Roger Ailes used to turn Fox News into a conservative media goliath.

    Over the last few months, Sinclair has been requiring its stations to run more commentaries from pro-Trump personalities and expanding its reach to greater numbers of unassuming viewers in new local media markets. Now it's defending these clear moves to mimic the aspiring state media over at Fox with warped, brainwash-y logic: The conservative propaganda it pushes on its viewers is necessary because the rest of the media is biased.

    Politico’s Hadas Gold obtained a new internal memo from Sinclair executive Scott Livingston declaring that much of the recent reporting about Sinclair’s moves to expand right-wing local news is “false.”

    In the memo, Livingston said the network’s right-wing commentary segments “provide a viewpoint that often gets lost in the typical national broadcast media dialogue.” His memo closed with an attempt to cast recent criticism of Sinclair as illegitimate and perpetrated by "biased" reporters seeking to "destroy our reputation." On and off-screen, it's Sinclair vs. the world:

    "What we find most troubling in the reporting about our company, by major media outlets (like the New York Times and Washington Post), is the omission of key facts in their stories,” Livingston wrote. "Such omissions suggest the existence of either journalistic incompetency or editorial bias. We do not believe these journalists are incompetent, so we are left to conclude that they are biased.

    "We are proud to offer a range of perspectives, both conservative and liberal --- to our consumers -- -on our Sinclair broadcast stations each day. It is unfortunate that so many of our competitors do not provide the same marketplace of ideas,” he continued. "Our commitment is to tracking the truth, providing context and perspective in our reporting and serving our communities with valuable and, at times, life-saving information. We value our viewers and our journalists who work hard each day to serve the communities in which they live -- -all across this great country. It’s concerning and troubling that so many once trusted news organizations continue to push false narratives with an agenda to destroy our reputation and discredit the great journalism across our company.”

    Like Ailes before him, Livingston hopes that he can garner ratings by presenting his network as “fair and balanced” in opposition to the mainstream press. But here are the undeniable, troubling facts about the direction Sinclair is taking:

    • Months after hiring former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn as its chief political analyst, Sinclair announced it would be increasing the number of times per week that Epshteyn’s right-wing commentary segment, “Bottom Line with Boris,” must air on its local stations. Media critic David Zurawik has described these segments as “as close to classic propaganda as I think I have seen” over his 30-year career.
    • “Bottom Line with Boris” is one of three regular Sinclair segments considered to be “must run” content, meaning that all Sinclair stations are required to air them. The other two segments are “Behind the Headlines” with conservative commentator Mark Hyman and a fearmongering “terrorism alert desk.” The practice has raised concerns from experts and employees at local Sinclair stations.
    • Sinclair is currently seeking to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, a move that would make Sinclair the largest provider of local television news in the country. The potential acquisition, by the way, is possible only because of a Trump administration move to roll back Obama-era consumer regulations.

    It’s clear that Sinclair is attempting to push an increasingly skewed view of the news to an ever-expanding audience in regions across the country. And this isn’t Livingston’s first time lashing out at non-Sinclair outlets. Back in March, Livingston set this tone by narrating a strange “must run” segment warning viewers about “biased and false news” from “members of the national media.”

    The “must run” segments are not just run-of-the-mill conservative “commentary”

    While Livingston is trying to pass off the must-run segments as merely conservative commentary, there’s no doubt that the Epshteyn and Hyman segments are straight-up propaganda. In recent weeks, neither commentator seems to have aired a segment touching on possible collusion between members of the Trump camp and Russia, despite frequent bombshells on the top story. (In June, Hyman's take on Russian meddling in the election was: "We do it. Russians do it. Everyone does it. Meddling in another nation's democratic elections is actually routine behavior.") They’ve also had little to say about the dangerously inept Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, a major news story and a Trump administration priority gone wrong. (Epshteyn’s most recent segment, as of publication, is a confused critique of net neutrality. Hyman’s is about why raising the minimum wage in Seattle is bad.)

    At its very worst, the Sinclair “must run” strategy also attempts to drive a wedge between local audiences and the facts. Both Epshteyn and Hyman have found time to produce several segments each since Trump’s inauguration attacking mainstream media outlets in a direct echo of both their employer’s rhetoric and Trump administration talking points. Epshteyn even cheered Trump’s threat to scale back White House press briefings last month, calling the briefings “a circus and a distraction.”

    And at its very, very worst, Sinclair is sneaking the very lowest in fringe, far-right commentary into the living rooms of unsuspecting Americans who did not sign up for it. The most devastating example is this must-run segment from April, in which Mark Hyman alludes to the heinous far-right conspiracy theory about the death of DNC staffer Seth Rich.

    The Hyman and Epshteyn segments are doing the dirty work of pushing Sinclair’s openly pro-Trump agenda and anti-media propaganda efforts to unknowing local television viewers on the regular.

  • Trump’s shallow, congratulatory 700 Club interview is exactly what he wishes all interviews could be

    The president only wants to talk to people who will make him feel smart

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    President Donald Trump broke his streak of granting interviews exclusively to his friends at Fox to delve into an even safer space: talking about windmills with an octogenarian who hangs on his every word.

    This morning, the president’s interview with kooky bigot Pat Robertson aired on the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN)'s The 700 Club.

    Trump’s sit-down with Robertson is the first televised interview he’s granted to an outlet other than Fox News in two months. (He also gave an interview to Reuters’ Steve Holland on the same day.) With this interview, Trump has now granted more on-camera interviews to the Christian Broadcasting Network (two) than he has to any other network besides Fox (11) since his inauguration.

    It’s telling that the president would turn to Robertson for a friendly media face as his administration continues to stifle press access in unprecedented ways -- he thinks critics of Trump are defying “God’s plan for America.” Robertson is also a deeply anti-LGBTQ figure on the evangelical right who has blamed feminists and the ACLU for 9/11 and thinks the Hurricane Katrina devastation was “connected” to abortion.

    Trump talked to Robertson because he knew the unabashed Trump fan wouldn't press him on any of the many scandals engulfing his administration, and Robertson didn't disappoint. Here are the highlights, speaking for themselves.

    Here’s Robertson opening the interview by telling Trump he’s “so proud of everything you’re doing”:

    Here is Trump showing off to Robertson that he knows how to pronounce Qatar:

    Here is Trump explaining to Robertson that the G20 Summit was a success because there were 20 countries represented there, and he got along well with everyone:

    Here is a hard-hitting exchange about Trump’s “good” and “not bad” meeting with Putin:

    Here is Trump sneaking in a little reference to windmills, one of his very favorite topics:

    Here’s Trump and Robertson talking about “thousands” of regulations Trump has purportedly lifted:

    Here’s the very in-depth answer Robertson got when he asked about the potential failure of the Republican health care bill:

    This one is just fun:

    And here’s Robertson predicting Trump will be re-elected and telling him that the “evangelicals of America” are praying for him: 

    There is no video of Trump talking about the ongoing investigations into his presidential campaign’s possible collusion with Russia, because it just never came up!

    The interview ended with Trump explaining, to Robertson’s visible delight, that he gave an interview to the host because he’s “treated very unfairly by the press” but Robertson has “people that I love.” “You will be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again very soon,” Trump assured him.

    Robertson then spent more time reflecting on his delightful time with the president and his staff and praising Trump’s “vision.” The televangelist also congratulated himself on not asking the president about any Russia “garbage.” Good job, Pat.

  • Fox executives will only protect women when the public is watching

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    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Another day, another report of workplace sexual harassment perpetrated by a 21st Century Fox employee. Horrifyingly, this will probably keep happening -- because Fox has proven time and again that it only takes measures to protect women when others are watching.

    Fox Business host Charles Payne has been suspended from the network after a frequent Fox guest reported that Payne had coerced her into a years-long relationship “under threat of reprisals.” The Los Angeles Times reported on July 6 that the Fox guest (whom the Times did not identify) reported sexual misconduct to Fox’s law firm in June, stating that “she believed she was eventually blackballed from the network after she ended the affair in 2015 and tried to report Payne to top executives at Fox News.” HuffPost reported that the woman who came forward is political analyst Scottie Nell Hughes, and that Hughes believes that not only did Payne retaliate against her for ending the relationship, but that then-Fox News and Fox Business co-President Bill Shine and the network itself were involved. (Payne is denying the report.) 

    Payne’s suspension was announced one year to the day after former Fox News personality Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against former Fox chief Roger Ailes, who died in May, for serial sexual harassment. At least 25 women came forward to report similar harassment by Ailes in the aftermath of the Carlson lawsuit, citing incidents that spanned decades. Carlson’s lawsuit helped to expose a hostile work culture of silence and harassment at 21st Century Fox that has undoubtedly persisted since Ailes was forced out.

    In the year since Ailes resigned, Fox fired former host Bill O’Reilly (and paid him tens of millions on the way out) after news broke that five women had reported him for sexual harassment. On the same day that O’Reilly’s firing was announced, Fox News co-host Greg Gutfeld sexually harassed his fellow co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle on-air. Soon after, Ailes’ “right-hand man” Bill Shine was fired from his top executive spot at Fox amid reports that he had attempted to silence and retaliate against women who came forward to report harassment at the network.

    In March, former Fox News contributor Tamara Holder reached a legal settlement with 21st Century Fox after she reported sexual assault by Fox News Latino executive Francisco Cortes at company headquarters in 2015. The company subsequently fired Cortes. Just days ago, Fox Sports fired Jamie Horowitz, its head of sports programming, amid an investigation into sexual harassment reports.

    The common thread in this series of high-profile firings is that they were exactly that -- high-profile. Fox’s response to a systematic, decades-long workplace culture problem that transcends time, a single perpetrator, a single survivor, or any sort of isolating detail, has been to do the absolute bare minimum to make immediate criticism go away.

    21st Century Fox has proven that it only cares about its women employees when the public -- or its bottom line -- forces the issue. It will continue to treat each report of workplace harassment as a singular incident, offering a response that categorically hinges on the number of bad headlines, threats of advertiser boycotts, dollar amounts of lawsuits, or persistence of public outcry a story has garnered.

    O’Reilly was fired amid an activist-driven advertiser boycott, as hundreds of sexual harassment survivors publicly asked Fox to do better. The network has fired Cortes and Horowitz and suspended Payne as it faces intense scrutiny from British regulators who are weighing whether to approve its bid to acquire the Sky PLC television company (and thus allow Fox to expand its toxic workplace culture).

    Shine was replaced by two longtime Fox executives from the Ailes era, one of whom, Suzanne Scott, was reportedly also involved in silencing, ignoring, and retaliating against women who reported harassment at the network. And it took Fox nearly a year to fire Shine, even after former Fox News personality Andrea Tantaros named him in a sexual harassment lawsuit last August; it took more pressure from advertisers and the public before Fox would start to hold Shine accountable.

    To add insult to injury, Fox’s shallow attempt to address systemic culture issues in its office appears to have been a sham. After Carlson filed her lawsuit, Fox retained the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to lead an internal investigation into the claims. The agreement between Fox and the law firm allowed for both an investigation and for the firm to give “legal advice” to the company, leading some to doubt its true independence. And after the Carlson lawsuit was settled in September, Vanity Fair reported that the so-called investigation “never officially expanded to examine the broader culture of Fox News” but instead “simply got a revenue machine back on track.”

    Paul, Weiss was also the law firm Fox retained in April to investigate at least one report of sexual harassment against O’Reilly. And Paul, Weiss is where Hughes went last month with her account of Payne’s misconduct -- around the same time Fox renewed Payne’s contract for multiple years. HuffPost reported the firm will lead another internal investigation into Hughes’ report. 

    If past behavior is any indication, this investigation, too, will end with some public lip service until the news cycle passes, maybe a high-profile firing, and little concrete action to actually protect the women who work at Fox. Have executives and on-air personalities begun to treat women and people of color with more respect yet? The results are inconclusive.

    Here’s what is clear: Fox seems hellbent on only doing what is asked of them and nothing more. So don’t stop asking.

  • Trump is staking his presidency on his war on the press

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    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    While people across the United States celebrated Independence Day weekend with barbecues and fireworks, President Donald Trump spent the holiday threatening reporters on Twitter.

    Trump tweeted a video of him wrestling and punching a man with the CNN logo superimposed on the man's face, and used a hashtag to call the news network a "fraud." The video originated in a GIF format from an anonymous Reddit user who, the Anti-Defamation League says, has “an 18-month record of vile comments and memes against Muslims, African-Americans, Jews and others.” Days earlier, the president had posted several revoltingly sexist tweets about MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski.

    Trump’s recent Twitter behavior and the rapidly fading long-held norms for White House relations with the press signal that the president’s two-pronged campaign against an informed public is ramping up. We warned about this the week Trump was sworn into office and it’s truer than ever now: Trump is waging both a war against facts, and a war against those who report them.

    Trump has been in office for nearly six months, and his major presidential message to the American public is dangerously clear: Only trust information that comes directly from him or the swath of fringe propaganda outlets that do his bidding. 

    Trump’s actions are straight out of the authoritarian playbook, and their goal is to denigrate and delegitimize the news media while simultaneously building an alternative media of sycophants. He has been threatening the press since before he took office -- and these attacks will only get more intense. We can’t let him get away with making journalists the enemy because someone will get hurt. 

    On and off Twitter, Trump is elevating his own propagandists as he attempts to delegitimize actual journalism. Some of these fringe outlets have even ended up in the White House press briefing room (when the briefing room is used at all). Here, too, Trump’s war against facts has taken a more overtly sinister and violent tone. Some of the most sycophantic members of the pro-Trump media have a history of hateful rhetoric and ties to white nationalism, just like the anonymous Redditor Trump borrowed from this weekend.

    It’s a sign of the times: Press freedom groups that have detailed threats against the media in other countries for decades are now beginning to document threats against reporters in the United States.

    Trump is ramping up his personal attacks against the news media in an obvious effort to discredit its members. At the same time his administration is cutting off press access of legitimate outlets in unprecedented ways.

    And Trump needs it to work. His legislative agenda is stalling, his approval ratings are tanking, and several investigations are tightening around him. In the face of these failures, the Trump administration is borrowing from a despotic playbook to push -- more forcefully than ever -- a set of “alternative facts” about his accomplishments and views.

    As Columbia Journalism Review Editor-in-Chief Kyle Pope noted this morning, reporters “aren’t obligated to cede the media agenda to this or any other administration.” While documenting Trump’s frequent (and disturbing) attacks on the press is important, it can be counterproductive when the attention devoted to the president’s temper tantrums completely overwhelms reporting on vitally important policy issues. One way journalists can help fight back is to make sure Trump can't count on his attacks on the press to drown out coverage of the implications of his policy priorities, like the Republicans' health care bill.

    In the earliest days of the Trump administration, facts were inconvenient. Now, they are the enemy. And if the press doesn’t stand up to these clear attempts at mimicking the media environment of an authoritarian state, facts will soon become indistinguishable from lies. The White House Correspondents’ Association has repeatedly fallen short in its efforts to protect a fiercely independent free press from this president’s attacks. Will its duty to report what’s in the public interest extend to protecting itself, in the same interest, from a devolution into full-blown state-controlled media?

    Will the war only end when Trump’s dangerous sycophants occupy the entire press briefing room, or when the briefing room no longer exists? And more importantly, will the casualties be a slew of American institutions that preserve and protect a free press, or something even worse? 

  • Trump's Mika Brzezinski tweets show that he hates women -- especially members of the press

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    This morning, the president of the United States used his favorite media platform for addressing the public to remind us of just how little respect he has for women -- especially women in the press.

    Shortly before 9 a.m., Trump posted two revoltingly sexist tweets attacking MSNBC’s Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski for her appearance and intellect. The leader of the free world called the morning show anchor “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” and alleged that she had attempted to visit him at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on New Year’s Eve and was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” at the time.

    This isn’t the first time Trump’s attacked women media figures -- it’s not even close -- and it’s also not the first time he’s done it on Twitter. In recent years, he has tweeted that:

    He and his campaign targeted reporter Michelle Fields (formerly of Breitbart.com and HuffPost) after then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was shown on camera manhandling her at a campaign event.

    Trump repeatedly lashed out at Megyn Kelly during the campaign season offline as well, at one point saying in an interview that she had “blood coming out of her wherever.” He also attacked Tur at rallies and in interviews, calling her “Little Katy, third-rate journalist” and “not a very good reporter” and singling her out at press events.

    After People’s Natasha Stoynoff reported that Trump had sexually assaulted her in 2005, Trump suggested at a campaign rally that the report was false because Stoynoff wasn’t attractive, saying, "You take a look. Look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don't think so.”

    Earlier this week, Trump was openly reducing another professional reporter to her body, pausing an official diplomatic call in the Oval Office to comment on Irish reporter Caitriona Perry’s smile.

    This post has been updated to reflect that Michelle Fields no longer works at HuffPost. 

  • James O’Keefe’s latest attempt to expose CNN is a sad, attention-seeking mess

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    The political media world is dissecting CNN’s Russia coverage right now, which means late last night was the perfect time for self-described “guerilla journalist” James O’Keefe to do what he does best. That included releasing an embarrassing letdown of an undercover sting video that does very little of what he says it does but is nominally related to the story of the day, claiming credit for the “bombshell” revelation nonetheless, and then watching as his friends on the far-right fringe used social media to vault his shitty video art project all the way up to the Trump camp.

    O’Keefe, a partisan activist who styles himself as a “citizen journalist,” has spent years hyping and releasing secretly recorded and heavily edited videos aimed at discrediting and attacking (almost exclusively) progressive organizers, leaders, and government officials. Since the election, O’Keefe has expanded his sights beyond progressive targets to “main stream media” and issued categorical threats of surveillance to CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, among other figures.

    O’Keefe’s videos often fall flat and rarely match their billings. He has had to issue public apologies, been arrested for trespassing, and foiled his own plots, yet his videos have been promoted by the president of the United States. O’Keefe also regularly incites his loyal internet followers to practice their own brand of “investigative journalism.”

    His latest attempt -- a nearly nine-minute video called “American Pravda: CNN Producer Says Russia Narrative “bullsh*t" -- is yet another sign that O’Keefe has no actual interest in reporting the truth, but instead produces video art projects for the sole purpose of getting attention from one of his biggest fans, President Donald Trump.

    O’Keefe’s CNN sting, part one (take two): Political commentary from a medical producer

    Today's video, which O'Keefe is billing as the first in a series, isn't actually the first time he's tried to sting CNN since the election. 

    “The media is a huge target of mine right now,” O’Keefe told CNN’s Brian Stelter as he previewed his new “CNN Leaks” project back in February. After days of hyping a so-called investigation into CNN then, O’Keefe released an absolute dud of a video that pieced together audio-only recordings from CNN in 2009 to reveal purported “bias” in its reporting. The smoking guns in this release included a clip of a producer explaining the overwhelming scientific consensus on human-caused climate change, and another clip of a CNN staffer explaining that journalists have a responsibility to question institutions. 

    Now, O’Keefe is back at it again, with a new “part one” of his media exposé series, now called “American Pravda.” This latest video does about as much damage as the last attempt. Its “bombshell” is a CNN senior producer for medical content saying casually that the network thus far has no "smoking gun" in terms of the possible Trump-Russia collusion and suggesting that the focus on the story is excessive.

    “You’re not going to believe what you’re about to hear. Or maybe you will,” O’Keefe says in his art project, following an ominous introduction segment complete with a signature Glenn Beckian conspiracy map.

    Viewers will probably believe what they hear, though: a CNN staffer with no involvement in CNN’s political coverage (this isn’t mentioned in the video) speculating casually about CNN’s reporting on Trump’s possible involvement with Russia. The video also showed the same CNN producer claiming CNN makes reporting decisions based on ratings, a shameful tactic that’s really no secret at all -- and one that doesn't account for warranted, extensive reporting on an undeniably important story.

    The lack of there there hasn’t stopped O’Keefe from shamelessly hyping his video alongside the legitimate news of a CNN reporting failure that’s been publicly addressed, thereby allowing him to claim credit for any and all public discussion of CNN’s reporting on Russia’s possible involvement with members of the Trump administration.

    It also hasn’t stopped O’Keefe’s friends in far-right media from hyping the video. And if Donald Trump Jr. and The Washington Times are to be believed, O’Keefe’s lackluster video was enough to warrant an erratic statement from the president. (Trump’s actual tweets do not explicitly indicate whether he is referring to CNN’s retraction of a report related to Russia, or to O’Keefe’s video.) This afternoon, in response to a question about CNN's story retraction, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders seemed to refer to the video during the White House press briefing when she urged people to watch "a video circulating now, whether it's accurate or not, I don't know." 

    It’s certainly believable that Trump (who gave thousands to O’Keefe about a month before declaring his presidential candidacy) would respond to the video too -- after all, it’s aimed perfectly to confirm his longheld anti-CNN and anti-media assertions. Trump apparently thought O’Keefe’s laughable February attempt at a CNN exposé was “so cool.”

    Once a hack, always a hack 

    Since 2009, O'Keefe has repeatedly pushed misleading and doctored “undercover” videos and embarrassed himself while attempting to launch sting operations targeting government agencies, media outlets, and liberal organizations and institutions. Here is Media Matters' compilation of O'Keefe's missteps over the years: 

    O’Keefe accidentally revealed plans to infiltrate a philanthropist’s organization on the targeted employee’s voicemail. In March 2016, O’Keefe accidentally detailed plans to send an “undercover” operative to secretly infiltrate the liberal philanthropist George Soros’ Open Society Foundations in a voicemail message for an Open Society employee. After calling the employee and posing as a “Hungarian-American who represents a, uh, foundation,” O’Keefe held “a meeting about how to perpetrate an elaborate sting on Soros,” unaware that his phone was still connected to the employee’s voicemail. Investigative journalist Jane Mayer detailed in The New Yorker that O’Keefe also inadvertently recorded himself narrating his attempts to access the employee’s LinkedIn page before realizing the individual would receive a notification he had viewed her profile. O’Keefe later acknowledged the botched attempt, saying, “Some of us just forget to hang up the phone.” [Media Matters, 5/20/16]

    O’Keefe and associates trolled college campuses dressed as the Constitution, but they “didn’t make much of a splash.” In the fall of 2015, Project Veritas released a video purporting to show officials at several colleges and universities “literally shredding” a copy of the Constitution in response to an undercover actor posing as a student upset by the document. The video also featured footage of O’Keefe, dressed in a Constitution costume with a tricorn hat and gloves, attempting to engage with students walking through the campuses as he asked female students for their phone numbers. In response, officials from several of the schools criticized O’Keefe’s attempts at “shoddy journalism,” and noted that the administrators featured in the videos were attempting to do their jobs by assisting a student who appeared to be experiencing a mental health crisis. Media writer and Vassar College professor Hua Hsu described O’Keefe’s stunt on his own campus, and its lackluster results, for The New Yorker:

    Earlier this year, James O’Keefe, the conservative activist famous for his hidden-camera exposés, visited Vassar College dressed in costume as the Constitution. Vassar, where I teach, is one of those campuses that seems to typify, for some, how wacky and permissive higher education has become—a readymade specimen for those seeking to depict the twenty-first-century American college at its most insular and navel-gazing. O’Keefe hoped to do this by handing out pocket-sized Constitutions outside the campus’ busiest building. One of his operatives, posing as a student, would then coax an administrator into destroying this replica of our nation’s founding document. A video edited down from the day’s footage shows an officer of the college awkwardly humoring the faux student, who is pitch-perfect in her recitation of how the offensively retrograde Constitution had “triggered” and traumatized her, helpfully suggesting that the officer use a nearby shredder.

    In a year when college campuses were particularly visible as hotbeds of political activity, O’Keefe’s stunt didn’t make much of a splash. The administrator in the clip seems confused and skeptical, like an actress flubbing her lines, while the real-life Vassar kids caught on camera look mildly inconvenienced rather than incensed. [The Oberlin Review, 11/6/15; The Cornell Sun, 11/10/15; The Vassar Miscellany News, 11/11/15; The New Yorker, 12/31/15]

    Reporter asked, “Is this a joke?” as O’Keefe targeted the Clinton campaign for selling T-shirts. In a September 2015 sting operation, O’Keefe baselessly accused Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign of money laundering after releasing a video in which an undercover operative with Project Veritas purchased a campaign T-shirt on behalf of a Canadian attending a campaign event. The money laundering accusation was widely ridiculed by political reporters, with one journalist reportedly asking O’Keefe at a press conference promoting the video, “Is this a joke?” O’Keefe later reportedly admitted that his group likely broke the law by facilitating the $30 to $40 purchase. [Media Matters, 9/1/15; Talking Points Memo, 9/1/15]

    After an Osama Bin Laden border crossing stunt, even Fox News suggested O’Keefe “give it a rest.” In August 2014, O’Keefe released a video in which he purportedly crossed the Rio Grande River while wearing an Osama Bin Laden costume, a stunt meant to suggest that terrorists could easily enter the U.S. at the Mexican border. Gawker immediately debunked the video in a post titled “James O’Keefe Is Getting Desperate as Hell, Part MCMXVII,” pointing to evidence O’Keefe grossly misrepresented the area he repeatedly crossed in his video. Even Fox News host Eric Bolling couldn’t defend O’Keefe’s antics, saying the video was “not helpful,” and that O’Keefe ought to “give it a rest.” [Media Matters, 8/11/14; Gawker, 8/11/14]

    O’Keefe’s attempt at a bombshell Hollywood fracking video ended with a target using his own secret recording to expose O’Keefe. In May 2014, O’Keefe released a video he said exposed “the darker side of how a lot of the feel-good environmentalist propaganda gets funded by international interests who jeopardize national security.” In the video, a Project Veritas actor posed as “Muhammed,” an oil tycoon from the Middle East who attempted to fund a documentary project on the harms of fracking. O’Keefe suggested that, based on an instance in which two filmmakers appeared to accept the funding, his tactics had “exposed the truth about the dark funding behind Hollywood’s anti-fracking messaging machine.” O’Keefe even “debuted” the edited video at “a ‘premiere’ in Cannes, France.” Media Matters found that O’Keefe’s claims were refuted by unedited footage O’Keefe himself released, and one target of Project Veritas, film director Josh Fox, revealed his own secret recordings of their interactions that "caught" O’Keefe "in total deception," "willfully portray[ing] it in the wrong light" with heavy editing. The director shared his own revealing recordings on MSNBC’s All In, where host Chris Hayes introduced the segment on “disgraced right-wing operative professional troll” O’Keefe:

    CHRIS HAYES (HOST): People-who-plead-guilty week continued on The Kelly File last night. Fresh off the heels of the blockbuster interview with Dinesh D’Souza, who recently pled guilty to campaign finance law violation, was James O’Keefe, the disgraced right-wing operative professional troll who has pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of entering federal property under false pretenses. On Fox News last night, O’Keefe was pushing his latest trolling enterprise in which he plays gotcha with environmentalists who are hypocritical because, well to be honest, I didn’t care enough about it to read about it. But it’s a James O’Keefe bombshell, you just wait a day for it to be debunked. [MSNBC.com, 5/22/14Media Matters, 5/21/14; The Daily Beast, 5/22/14]

    O’Keefe’s Battleground Texas video was declared “little more than a canard and political disinformation” by a state investigation. In February 2014, Project Veritas released a video purporting to show employees of the progressive voter registration group Battleground Texas using “potentially illegal methods to change elections.” Outraged Republican state officials pushed for an investigation into the video, ultimately resulting in two Texas special prosecutors disparaging O’Keefe’s tactics and the video itself. The special prosecutors concluded their investigation by asking that complaints against Battleground Texas be dismissed, calling the Veritas video “little more than a canard and political disinformation.” [Media Matters, 4/7/14]

    O’Keefe “confronted” a lawmaker about nonexistent language in “race hustler” voting rights legislation. In a March 2014 video, O’Keefe bizarrely attempted to “ambush” Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) about his bipartisan bill designed to reaffirm civil rights protections in the Voting Rights Act. After dancing to a New Order song while wearing camouflage, O’Keefe attempted to confront Sensenbrenner at several Wisconsin town hall meetings for so-called “racialist language” in his bill that “excludes whites,” which Sensenbrenner correctly noted the bill does not, in fact, do. Media reporter Dave Weigel described the bizarre video’s “strange” focus at Slate:

    [K]udos to James O'Keefe for going undercover, in hunting gear for some reason, and posing as a constituent. It's just confusing what he decided to do when he got in the room. O'Keefe insists that Sensenbrenner's attempt to restore some version of voting rights law pre-clearance is de facto racist.

    There is no mention of the "Voting Rights Act" in the intro. It's called "a part of federal law that gives Eric Holder the power to approve election law in 16 states," and Sensenbrenner's amendment is called "legislation to give Eric Holder back power over state elections."

    [...]

    In the room, asking questions, O'Keefe does use the law's name. He asks Sensenbrenner whether it's true that the bill "removes white people from the protections of the Voting Rights Act." Sensenbrenner says it isn't -- a red buzzer goes off. We're directed to language in Sec. III, subsection 4 of the bill, which defines "the term 'minority' as used throughout.

    This is strange. That's not the bill's only mention of race -- it's a pretty trivial one, actually.

    [...]

    But most people who covered the bill have been over this already. O'Keefe's claims just don't wash. [Slate, 3/5/14; Media Matters, 3/5/14]

    O’Keefe was forced to pay $100,000 and publicly apologize in a settlement related to his sham 2010 ACORN exposé. In March 2013, O’Keefe and conservative activist Hannah Giles settled a 2010 lawsuit after one of the videos they released in a series on the now-defunct group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), which fraudulently portrayed the role of a former ACORN employee, resulted in the employee’s termination. In the video, the employee was shown appearing to aid undercover actors in criminal activity, but an analysis of the heavily edited video revealed the employee had actually called the police immediately following the secretly recorded interaction. Pursuant to the court-approved deal, O’Keefe and Giles had to pay the employee a collective $150,000, and O’Keefe issued a public apology claiming he was unaware the employee had notified authorities. [Media Matters, 3/7/13]

    O’Keefe’s New York union boss “gotcha” attempt just showed local officials trying to be “courteous” in an absurd, O’Keefe-manufactured situation. In July 2012, Project Veritas released a video it claimed showed elected officials and union leaders in New York state helping undercover actors secure funding for a business “that literally does nothing but dig holes and then put the dirt back.” The raw footage of the video revealed that the officials featured in the video did not express support for the fake company or offer to help the actors find funding at all, but rather politely questioned the actors posing as their constituents about their clearly made-up operation. The officials later clarified they had assumed at the time that the discussion “must be a scam” but had “tried to be courteous.” [Media Matters, 7/18/12]

    O’Keefe’s “voter fraud” video showed a “dead” voter later found to be very much alive and “non-citizens” who were actually citizens. A May 2012 video O’Keefe claimed showed voter fraud in North Carolina, including “ballots being offered out in the name of the dead” and “non-citizens voting," was found to have edited out some important facts -- the “dead” voter from the video was not actually dead, and the “non-citizen” in the video had become a U.S. citizen decades earlier. Upon viewing the raw footage from the “voter fraud” video, Media Matters found that O’Keefe had edited out an important exchange in which the undercover operative clarified he was actually seeking the ballot of the deceased man’s living son, who was registered to vote at the same address and shared his late father’s name. ThinkProgress similarly debunked O’Keefe’s claims of “non-citizens” voting in the video, noting that “a simple Nexis search” of one man’s name showed that he and his wife were naturalized citizens, and that a second man, who was reportedly harassed with anonymous phone calls about his citizenship prior to the video, had become a naturalized citizen the previous year. ThinkProgress concluded that “the one instance in the video where O’Keefe purports to show that a non-citizen had actually voted, in fact shows that a citizen voted.” [ThinkProgress, 5/15/12, 5/16/12; Media Matters, 5/16/12]

    Yet another “voter fraud” video failed to show any actual voter fraud; it “just shows how limited O’Keefe’s talents are.” Over the course of several months in 2012, Project Veritas released videos O’Keefe claimed proved “widespread voter fraud” in several states and the District of Columbia. As several media outlets quickly pointed out in response to one of the videos in which an undercover actor appears to obtain a ballot posing as former Attorney General Eric Holder, the heavily edited videos do not, in fact, show any instances of voter fraud or voting at all. Instead, the videos showed actors almost committing a crime by attempting to falsely claim ballots, and illustrated how difficult it would be to commit actual voter fraud. As politics writer Alex Koppelman explained in The New Yorker (emphasis added):

    James O’Keefe and his supporters think that he’s scored big today. See, not long ago, Attorney General Eric Holder criticized laws that require people wishing to vote to bring photo I.D. with them; he called those laws “a solution in search of a problem,” and said “there is no statistical proof that vote fraud is a big concern in this country.” So one of O’Keefe’s colleagues—a white man who looks considerably younger than the Attorney General—went to went to Holder’s polling place for the recent primary in Washington, D.C., and claimed to be Holder. The punch line, of course, is that he was given no trouble, and welcomed to vote. (He never went through with it and actually committed the voter fraud, presumably because someone’s giving them legal advice not to.)

    It’s a cute little trick, and a lot of people on the right have gotten a nice little laugh at Eric Holder’s expense today. The Drudge Report has led with it all day. But it doesn’t prove anything—actually, if anything, it shows just how limited O’Keefe’s talents are, and how un-ambitious is the vision espoused by the right’s new investigative journalists and those who publish them.

    [...]

    [Ben] Shapiro and O’Keefe and the rest don’t know when voter fraud takes place, if indeed it does, because they don’t do the work necessary to find out. O’Keefe may be lionized as an investigative journalist, but he’s not one, and he never has been. He takes the easy, flashy way out: his videos don’t prove that malfeasance is happening; they prove that it could, maybe. (Taking the same trick and repeating it over and over again, which is basically what O’Keefe did with this latest video, part of a series of such work, doesn’t help.) [The New Yorker, 4/9/12Media Matters, 1/11/12, 1/11/12, 1/12/12, 4/9/12, 4/16/12]

    O’Keefe’s “pointless” “To Catch A Journalist” series was roundly mocked by experts. In a video series titled “To Catch a Journalist,” O’Keefe attempted to show journalists engaging in questionable or biased journalistic practices. Instead, a range of highly respected reporters and journalism experts immediately mocked his heavily edited videos. Even the Project Veritas website noted that the first video in the series had drawn criticism from “the media elite” and “a Pulitzer Prize winning professor from Columbia’s Journalism School.” The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple dismissed the first video as a “gotcha attempt” and “fishing expedition” against Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein. Reporter Jack Schafer wrote for Reuters, “The only thing O’Keefe has accomplished with this ‘To Catch a Journalist’ expose is to prove that Stein is a conventional journalist,” adding that the video “ends up making Stein look normal and O’Keefe slightly tetched.” The Poynter Institute’s Steve Myers discredited the second video in the series, noting it was “heavily edited” and pointing out that the video, which was supposed to target The New York Times, did not feature any Times employees or journalists at all. The Atlantic Wire concluded that O’Keefe “burns his own straw man” in the video. A Forbes reporter declared the series “a dumb idea,” condemning “the lameness of O’Keefe’s results,” “the dubiousness of his method,” and “the pointlessness of the enterprise itself.” In a later, also failed attempt, O’Keefe was reportedly filmed and then dismissed by an unfazed Columbia University journalism professor, who said O’Keefe also couldn’t figure out how to use the door to exit the professor’s office, writing, “Turns out they were pulling the door instead of pushing it.” As Gawker summarized:

    James O'Keefe has been lurking in journalism school hallways across the country in pursuit of his latest bombshell series "To Catch a Journalist." So far, he's blown the lid off the story that some college professors like Barack Obama and that sometimes journalists drink alcohol and use bad words. [Gawker, 11/10/11The Washington Post, 10/24/11; Project Veritas, 10/27/11; Poynter, 10/27/11; The Atlantic Wire, 10/27/11; Forbes, 10/28/11]

    “Medicaid fraud” videos actually just showed Medicaid workers doing their jobs. A series of heavily edited videos that O’Keefe said proved “widespread Medicaid fraud” in fact depicted no instances of fraud, but did show footage of Medicaid workers in Ohio, Indiana, and Maine correctly following Medicaid application procedures. The processes partially shown in O’Keefe’s videos, in which workers advise undercover actors about the rules and limitations for Medicaid eligibility and help them to accurately fill out applications, were the first in many steps necessary before any type of fraud could have been committed. [Media Matters, 7/18/11, 7/26/11, 8/11/11]

    Even Glenn Beck's website discredited O'Keefe's “bad reality show” NPR video. O’Keefe released a video in March 2011 that claimed to show two NPR executives making controversial remarks to two people posing as members of a "Muslim Brotherhood front group,” including statements alleging that members of the tea party were racist. Even Glenn Beck’s website TheBlaze concluded that the video was a smear. As Time magazine reported:

    In the video, NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller and a colleague met with two members of a fictional Muslim group dangling a $5 million donation. Prodded by the "donors," Schiller said liberals "might be more educated" than conservatives, described Republicans as "anti-intellectual" and said the GOP had been "hijacked" by the "racist" Tea Party.

    Or did he? After the tape became national news, and after NPR hastily sacrificed its CEO to appease critics, a video editor at the Blaze — a website founded by Fox News host Glenn Beck — compared the edited sting video and the two-hour original, also posted online.

    Schiller did say some bad things, the Blaze found. But the short video took them out of context, like a bad reality show, and made them sound worse. It transposed remarks from a different part of the meeting to make it seem as if Schiller were amused by the group's "goal" of spreading Shari'a law. It left examples of his complimenting Republicans on the cutting-room floor.

    And that Tea Party quote? Schiller was, for at least part of it, describing the views of some Republican friends. Somehow — oops! — O'Keefe left that bit out. [Time, 3/17/11; The Blaze, 3/10/11; Media Matters, 3/8/11, 3/14/11]

    A CNN reporter detailed O’Keefe’s botched plan to demonstrate media “hypocrisy” by “faux seducing” her with a boat full of sexual “props.” In September 2010, then-CNN investigative correspondent Abbie Boudreau described how O’Keefe had attempted a “failed punk” on her by staging what a former colleague of O’Keefe’s called a “bizarre sexual conversation” on a boat filled with sex toys. The “punk” was halted when the former employee of Project Veritas alerted Boudreau, who later obtained a document detailing the various “props” O’Keefe had requested for the stunt. According to an internal script, the plan was to have O’Keefe introduce the resulting footage by explaining that the reporter who was doing an investigative piece on conservative activists “has been trying to seduce me to use me, in order to spin a lie about me. So, I'm going to seduce her, on camera, to use her for a video. This bubble-headed-bleach-blonde who comes on at five will get a taste of her own medicine, she'll get seduced on camera and you'll get to see the awkwardness and the aftermath.” As reported by CNN’s Scott Zamost:

    "The plans appeared so outlandish and so juvenile in tone, I questioned whether it was part of a second attempted punk," Boudreau said.

    But in a phone conversation, [Project Veritas employee Izzy] Santa confirmed the document was authentic. Listed under "equipment needed," is "hidden cams on the boat," and a "tripod and overt recorder near the bed, an obvious sex tape machine."

    Among the props listed were a "condom jar, dildos, posters and paintings of naked women, fuzzy handcuffs" and a blindfold. [CNN.com, 9/29/10, 9/29/10]

    ABC used O’Keefe’s own footage to contradict him on live television. In a video posted on the late Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com in June 2010, O'Keefe stated that he had been hired as a U.S. Census worker and attended two days of training. He said, "What I found were census supervisors systematically encouraging employees to falsify information on their timesheets." The video includes clips of census employees who, according to O'Keefe, "didn't seem to have a problem with the discrepancy" of the hours recorded on his time sheet versus the hours he claimed to have worked. O'Keefe omitted a clip that was later aired by ABC during a Good Morning America interview with O’Keefe and Breitbart that showed a census supervisor emphasizing the importance of accurately reporting on miles driven by census enumerators. [Media Matters, 6/1/10; ABCNews.com, 6/1/10]

    O’Keefe pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor criminal charge of entering a Senate office under false pretenses. In January 2010, O’Keefe and three associates were arrested on criminal misdemeanor charges stemming from a botched attempt to tamper with the phones at the New Orleans office of then-Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). In May, the group pleaded guilty and O’Keefe faced probation, a fine, and community service for his illegal antics. As The Times-Picayune reported:

    The four defendants who were arrested in January in Sen. Mary Landrieu's office in the Hale Boggs federal complex in New Orleans pleaded guilty Wednesday morning in federal court to entering real property belonging to the United States under false pretenses.

    Magistrate Judge Daniel Knowles III sentenced Stan Dai, Joseph Basel and Robert Flanagan each to two years probation, a fine of $1,500 and 75 hours of community service during their first year of probation.

    James O'Keefe, as leader of the group and famous for posing as a pimp in ACORN office videos, received three years of probation, a fine of $1,500 and 100 hours of community service. [The Times-Picayune, 5/26/10; Media Matters, 1/29/10]

    O’Keefe’s heavily edited ACORN “pimp” hoax videos were investigated and widely discredited. O’Keefe’s brand of performance activism first made national headlines in 2009, with the release of several heavily edited videos that O’Keefe said showed staff from the nonprofit Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) engaging in criminal behavior. In the videos, O’Keefe and an associate are portrayed as if they had dressed as a “pimp” and a “prostitute” attempting to elicit help from ACORN staff in eight offices across several cities in supposedly setting up a child prostitution ring. It was later discovered that, among other misrepresentations in the edited videos, O’Keefe and his associate were not, in fact, dressed flamboyantly during their secretly recorded meetings at ACORN offices, and the audio of ACORN workers was muted and edited. An independent investigation, state-led investigations in California and New York, and a federal investigation through the Government Accountability Office all found no evidence of illegal activity from ACORN staff, and a Congressional Research Service report found no instances of ACORN violating the terms of its federal funding, but it did note that O’Keefe and his associates may have violated state bans on secret recording in California and Maryland. The California attorney general concluded that O’Keefe had engaged in “highly selective editing of reality.” An ACORN employee who was terminated because of the videos subsequently sued O’Keefe and his associate Hannah Giles, and O’Keefe had to settle the case and issue a public apology. [Media Matters, 10/21/09, 12/8/09, 2/17/10, 7/21/10, 3/7/13; CNN.com, 6/14/10]

  • Fox & Friends is Donald Trump's safe space

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko and Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump loves rallies, but he can't hold a rally every day. Sometimes he has to turn to Fox & Friends.

    Amid a series of moves closing off access to the administration for journalists -- including recent major changes to the frequency and format of official press briefings --  the president and first lady Melania Trump are taping an exclusive interview today with Fox News’ Ainsley Earhardt, his first televised, in-person interview in six weeks. (The interview is set to air Friday.) This move makes perfect sense for Trump, who is mired in countless major scandals and can expect to avoid being grilled about any of them on Fox & Friends, known more for its family-barbecue brand of casual, coded racism and xenophobia than for actual journalism.

    The interview also speaks to a larger trend in the president’s approach to the press, as he increasingly elevates and prioritizes loyal conservative sycophants over actual news outlets. After tomorrow’s Fox & Friends interview, Trump will have given as many interviews to Fox & Friends (three) during his presidency as he has to ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN combined.

    Since his inauguration, Trump has given 10 televised interviews in total to Fox News (and one to Fox Business), one each to CBS, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, and the Christian Broadcasting Network, and none to CNN. 

    Trump's decision to grant another sit-down interview to his friends at Fox & Friends comes 40 days after his last one-on-one interview with Fox’s Jeanine Pirro, who also asked him predictable softball questions. It is an ideal move for a president who wants to appear as if he’s granting media access without being accessible to any members of the media who might actually ask him a critical question. (The last time he allowed that to happen, he stepped on a James Comey-shaped rake courtesy of NBC’s Lester Holt.)

    Trump’s retreat to his friends at Fox is happening in the midst of his administration’s unprecedented war on the press at large. On the same day the president and first lady are sitting down with Earhardt, elsewhere in the White House, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders conducted yet another bizarre and pointless press briefing that barred video recordings. The frequency of the White House press briefings and gaggles -- recorded or otherwise -- has been sharply declining in recent months. The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers calculated that the total White House press briefing time for June will shrink to about a third of what it was in March.

    Trump also lags far behind his predecessors in holding solo presidential press conferences. So far, Trump has held just one press conference, in which he called CNN’s Jim Acosta “fake news”; at this point in previous administrations, President Barack Obama had held six, President George W. Bush had held three, and President Bill Clinton had held seven solo press conferences.

    Fox News (and Fox & Friends, in particular) is predictably the runaway favorite when Trump is compelled to branch out from public interaction via Twitter and rallies. As Politico’s Joanna Weiss wrote last month:

    Trump’s cozy relationship with “Fox & Friends” has become one of the great curiosities of his unusual presidency. A well-known cable TV devotee, Trump has found inspiration for his Twitter timeline in various programs—but none so much as Fox News Channel’s 6-9 a.m. talk show.

    […]

    It’s not hard to understand the show’s appeal. While the rest of the media frets and wails over Trump’s policies and sounds the alarm over his tweets, “Fox & Friends” remains unrelentingly positive. It’s pitched to the frequency of the Trump base, but it also feels intentionally designed for Trump himself—a three-hour, high-definition ego fix. For a president who no longer regularly receives adulation from screaming crowds at mega rallies, “Fox & Friends” offers daily affirmation that he is successful and adored, that his America is winning after all.

    On Twitter, his preferred mode of communication with the public, the president has repeatedly lavished Fox & Friends with praise since taking office. Trump routinely appeared on the show throughout his campaign, often calling in just to talk or complain about whatever was bothering him, including on Election Day. For years beforehand, he even had a weekly call-in segment on the show to share this thoughts about the news of the day. 

    The warm and familiar embrace of Fox & Friends is where Trump turns for unconditional support in furthering an alternate reality where his presidency is historically successful and his critics are merely unfair or needlessly mean. Perhaps that's why Ivanka Trump is also now frequenting the show -- her own one-on-one interview with Earhardt was pushed back to accomodate her father's, but it will air on Monday.  

    Rob Savillo contributed original research to this post. 

  • How To Remember Roger Ailes

    (As A Liar And Enabler Who Hurt Women)

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    “He went out in such a sad way, but who doesn't have sins? We all have our sins, we all have our cross to bear.”

    That’s how Fox News’ Ainsley Earhardt addressed the death of former Fox CEO Roger Ailes on Fox & Friends this morning. A few hours later, Fox News’ Happening Now co-anchor Jon Scott similarly said of Ailes, “Yes, he had his faults. We all do.” The “sins” and “faults” they’re referring to -- the ones “we all have” -- include Ailes’ serial sexual harassment of Fox News employees spanning decades. They also include the creation of a culture, on and off the air, that repeatedly told women that their bodies were not their own, but rather are subject to the sometimes-violent whims of men.

    Roger Ailes hurt women. A lot of women -- probably more than we know. And if those facts are lost in praise about the ways Ailes “forever changed the political and the media landscape,” or reduced to “kind of a sad ending to an incredible career,” it will be another message that those women don’t matter.

    In addition to the incalculable damage Ailes' signature creation has done to the political landscape in this country, his real legacy is the pain he caused for countless people: the 25 women who reported his sexual misconduct and harassment, the employees who were silenced or surveilled by Ailes and his cronies, the women and black employees who were serially harassed by others under Ailes’ watch, the surely many more Fox employees who went to work every day scared, the viewers who watched harassers deliver the news each day with Ailes’ stamp of approval, and the survivors who hear the stories about Ailes’ serial harassment and are reminded of their own pain.

    These are not “sins” that we all have committed; these are atrocities.

    Ailes’ real legacy is the message that if you’re a wealthy, powerful white man, you can hurt as many people as you want and probably get away with it. You can do it for decades, building up an environment where no one even talks about the pain you cause. And when women speak up, you can spy on them, dismiss them, and harass them.

    And when people listen to those women despite your best efforts to stop them, you can walk away with a “tarnished legacy” and an extra $40 million.

  • Kimberly Guilfoyle Has Been Auditioning On Fox News For White House Press Secretary

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Fox News’ Kimberly Guilfoyle is a front-runner for replacing White House press secretary Sean Spicer -- if, indeed, his replacement is imminent -- and that should surprise no one. If she gets the job, it won’t be much of a change from her current role at Fox: routinely praising President Donald Trump, defending him unquestioningly, and lashing out at media outlets daring to report critically on his actions.

    Guilfoyle, a co-host of the network’s The Five, told the San Jose Mercury News she’s in talks with the Trump administration about the press secretary position. The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers described Guilfoyle’s Mercury News interview by saying she’s “openly gunning for Sean Spicer’s job." He also noted that Guilfoyle certainly took the opportunity to tactfully criticize Spicer “as if he were already gone” and declare her patriotism, signaling loyalty to the president.

    Guilfoyle and Fox News both subsequently released brief statements attempting to walk back the Mercury News interview -- though neither actually denied that Guilfoyle was in communication with the White House (but Guilfoyle is under “long-term” contract at Fox). Both The New York Times and Trump ally and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ website have said that Trump is interested in bringing in Guilfoyle for the role; she was also considered for the job back in December before Spicer was ultimately hired. If Spicer is fired, all signs point to Guilfoyle as a serious contender. 

    Regular viewers of her Fox program might not be surprised by these developments -- in the last week, Guilfoyle has essentially tried out for the job on air. Her sycophantic praise for Trump, blatant critiques of the current White House communications staff, and attacks on reporters suggest she’d fit right into the Trump administration.

    Guilfoyle has also been lavishing Trump with unconditional praise.

    Just hours after The New York Times broke the news that former FBI Director James Comey had written a series of contemporaneous memos detailing his interactions with the president -- one of which included an account of Trump potentially engaging in obstruction of justice by asking Comey to “let go” a federal investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn -- Guilfoyle questioned the validity and timing of the memos:

    Last Friday on The Five, Guilfoyle and the other co-hosts discussed Trump’s statements about the White House communications team in an interview with Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro, and Guilfoyle’s contributions were essentially a five-minute-long job interview. Her assessment of the White House press shop included subtle implications she’d be more loyal and likeable than Spicer, and a joking reference to her earlier consideration for the role. She also agreed with her co-hosts that “the only person who communicated” effectively about the firing of FBI Director James Comey was Trump “himself.”

    Guilfoyle’s Twitter account also highlights her Trump praise. More than a third of the tweets and retweets Guilfoyle’s posted since May 11 are just Trump retweets. Another is a Twitter “moment” she shared of comedian Melissa McCarthy unflatteringly impersonating Spicer. And the Fox personality’s pinned tweet is a post-inauguration response thanking the president for promoting her book in an old tweet from 2015.

    Guilfoyle also seems to agree with her potential new boss on one key issue: She regards members of the media who are critical of Trump with contempt. She praised Trump’s media-bashing February press conference -- in which he mockingly called CNN “very fake news” and scolded reporters for writing critically about the White House -- as “wildly entertaining,” and celebrated that Trump “let the media have it for their bogus, dishonest reporting.” In March, Guilfoyle said Trump’s repeated attacks calling legitimate news organizations “fake news” were “pretty funny,” and that “he does have a pretty good delivery and inflection when he says it.”

    And in the last week, Guilfoyle has doubled down. On May 10, Guilfoyle responded to Trump’s firing of Comey by asserting she would “have done the same thing,” and mocking “mainstream media” for going into “full meltdown mode” over the highly unusual and newsworthy move.

    The next day, Guilfoyle again stood by Trump’s decision to fire Comey. She opened the May 11 episode of The Five with a lengthy, press-conference-ready defense of the firing -- but offered a brief and helpful critique of “what would have helped” the White House “in terms of the communications” to keep “detractors” from “trying to make something out of this.”

    And just last night, Guilfoyle delivered a diatribe about mainstream media’s “witch hunt” against Trump, arguing that CNN reporters are engaging in a “bloodsport” and “trying to do in the presidency of Donald Trump” by running “biased” stories that “effectuate that outcome.”

    She sounds ready for the Trump briefing room.

  • Women In Sports Media Discuss What’s Missing From Coverage Of Sexual Violence

    Jessica Luther: Imagine The “Conversations That Are Getting Lost Or Ignored Because Women Aren’t There”

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Reporters who cover sports media say major outlets like ESPN have a long way to go before they can claim to be reporting responsibly and accurately on sexual assault and harassment in the sports world.

    A recent Media Matters analysis found that during the first quarter of 2017, ESPN networks relied disproportionately on male guests (74 percent) to discuss domestic violence and sexual assault.

    ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, and ESPN News together aired about 30 hours and 40 minutes of coverage on sexual assault and domestic violence -- out of more than 8,600 hours of airtime. And about one-third of the minimal coverage across ESPN networks on the topic was the re-airing of an ESPN documentary highlighting false rape accusations made against the Duke lacrosse team.

    This snapshot of coverage at the leading sports network hints at a much larger problem: an extremely narrow pipeline for talent and expertise in sports journalism.

    In fact, an annual report by the Women’s Media Center on gender diversity in media indicates that these ESPN numbers are (sadly) pretty good when you consider the rest of the sports media landscape. The report cites data showing that women made up just 13.3 percent of total sports staff and less than 10 percent of sports editors at major newspapers and websites in 2014. ESPN employed by far the largest proportion of that small percentage of women, who were also overwhelmingly white. Another study, examining gender and sports reporting, found that ESPN’s on-air talent was also overwhelmingly male and white -- though slightly more diverse than the Los Angeles affiliate networks the study also analyzed. 

    Deadspin writer Diana Moskovitz considered Media Matters' study and said, “Given the systemic exclusion of women from sports journalism (as well as other forms of journalism, including politics, criminal justice, and investigative work), these numbers show just how far the industry still has to go in creating newsrooms that actually reflect the country we live in.”

    When women -- and particularly women of color -- aren’t part of the conversation, audiences are denied important perspectives. And this trend can cause specific and irreparable harm when it comes to sports reporting on sexual violence.

    Jessica Luther, an expert on sports and culture, said the demographic imbalance in terms of who is reporting on sports has an impact when it comes to discussing sexual violence: “There is a sort of bias to who we see as experts in this society, and who we think can speak to these things. … Imagine the conversations that are getting lost or ignored because women aren’t there.”

    ThinkProgress sports reporter Lindsay Gibbs expanded on that often-missing perspective. She said that while there “are certainly men who are well-versed on the subject of sexual violence, and there are absolutely men who have been victims as well,” women typically have a different daily experience.

    “I think there are things [women] have to deal with on a daily basis that men don’t -- whether it’s being afraid to go out on a run after dark because we don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said. “Or locking your doors the second you get home, or having to think twice before you talk to that person at the bar, or having to send your friend the location of your Tinder date just in case they don’t hear from you.

    “These are things that women of all kinds deal with on a daily basis, that inform our discussions of topics like this, that men don’t have to deal with,” she continued. “That’s going to impact the sensitivity and the awareness of the issue.” 

    Olympic athlete Anita DeFrantz, who is a board member at the Women’s Media Center, added, “Women reporters will have a different view based on the context of their life experiences. … If one truly wishes to contribute to knowledge about a subject, why continue to use the same sources of thought?” 

    The Media Matters snapshot of ESPN coverage also hints at immediate opportunities sports reporters -- and all reporters -- can take advantage of to better serve an audience that undoubtedly includes survivors of sexual violence.

    Gibbs said that when media ignore a sexual violence report about a sports figure or try “to paint it as a distraction,” they are “minimizing the subject as a whole, and that does a lot more harm than good.”

    Sports reporters also have an obligation to report on sexual violence without bias, taking care not to focus on the perpetrator without including the survivor’s perspective, or to ascribe blame to anyone who has come forward to report. 

    Luther explained that, because of widespread reports of sexual violence involving athletes, a 24-hour sports news cycle, and the nature of sports fan investment, “whether they like it or not, sports reporters are going to be leading the discussion on [sexual violence], on a ubiquitous issue that is harmful when it’s reported poorly. It keeps people quiet. It emboldens people who do violence. When it’s reported in a way that is mean to people who’ve come forward, it’s sympathetic to people who’ve been reported in a way that isn’t balanced with sympathy for victims.”

    “I always think of the victims in this case,” Gibbs said. “They’re watching.”

    Sexual violence is a topic that’s far too important to get wrong -- and women leaders in the sports media industry are demonstrating what quality reporting looks like.

    Luther, Moskovitz, and Gibbs have all contributed to a promising category of in-depth, nuanced reporting on sexual assault and domestic violence in the sports world. They’re joined by stand-out journalists at ESPN too: Kavitha Davidson, Paula Lavigne, and, until recently, Jane McManus.

    McManus, a role model whom Luther described as “the leader, especially at ESPN, on reporting on the NFL and domestic violence,” was among those laid off from the network in April.