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Pam Vogel

Author ››› Pam Vogel
  • Sinclair stations are airing a dramatic special fearmongering about socialism, and it’s hosted by former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka 

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Local TV news stations controlled by the conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group recently began airing a “special program” hosted by former Trump aide and current Fox News contributor Sebastian Gorka called Inside Socialism. In the 30-minute show -- which appears to be the first episode in a multipart series -- Gorka tells the audience he will “take an in-depth look at the appeal of a system that promises equality to all and what happens when the initial enthusiasm gives way to a sobering reality.”

    The program kicks off with stylized footage of a hammer and sickle being forged in flames and then clips of speeches by Democratic socialists Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Virginia state Del. Lee Carter, and New York Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, much of it set to ominous music.

    It is not understated.

    Gorka spends the majority of rest of the program discussing the history of various regimes across the globe, framed to show what happens when socialism goes wrong. The final block of the program features a package on Brazil’s political future from Sinclair reporter Jonathan Elias. A version of that package ran earlier in November as part of conspiracy theorist Sharyl Attkisson’s weekly Sinclair program Full Measure.

    Gorka signs off by saying he will “continue to follow the developments on this important issue” and telling viewers to “join us next time for another edition of Inside Socialism.”

    According to the iQ media database, the program aired on at least 18 Sinclair-owned or -operated local news stations between November 10 and November 13. Some clips featured in Inside Socialism -- none with Gorka -- have also been repackaged and posted on various Sinclair station websites under Elias' byline. 

    The special was produced by a company called Cisneros Media, which has helped create similar special programming for Sinclair in the past. A press release from a similar project from 2016 suggests Sinclair provided input on the programming’s content and that the program may air on more than 100 Sinclair stations nationwide.

    A separate special hosted by Gorka, called The Rise of Terrorism: A Clash of Cultures, aired on numerous Sinclair stations in March. In that program, footage labeled as "ISIS propaganda" and shots of terror attacks are followed by Gorka asking viewers, "Can the the teachings of Islam and western values ever be reconciled? Is it possible for the waves of refugees arriving in the west to assimilate and coexist peacefully?" At one point, b-roll footage is shown of a protest sign that says "Rapefugees." 

    A Sinclair-contracted spokesperson did not respond to a question about whether Gorka is an employee, though he has appeared in the company’s programming in the past. Last year, Gorka participated in a gun violence town hall for Sinclair’s Washington, D.C., station, WJLA, and made headlines for saying he believed “Black Africans” were killing each other “by the bushel.” In March, he appeared in a nationally aired news segment produced by Sinclair reporter Kristine Frazao about the so-called “deep state.”

    Gorka is best known for having parlayed his brief tenure in President Donald Trump’s administration into a right-wing pundit career despite his lack of expertise or qualifications -- and for his connections to the Hungarian Nazi-linked group Vitezi Rend. Last January, Gorka wore a Vitezi Rend medal to the Trump inaugural ball; by November, he had become a "national security strategist" for Fox News.

    And Gorka is not the only former Trump aide who can broadcast commentary on local news stations across the country thanks to Sinclair, either. In 2017, the media giant hired former Trump campaign and White House staffer Boris Epshteyn to serve as its chief political analyst. Epshteyn, who may be legally barred from criticizing the president, produces near-daily “must-run” segments for Sinclair stations that often defend Trump’s actions, mimic the president’s lines of attack on members of the press, or provide administration and Republican Party officials with platforms to push their messages.

    Update (11/19/18): Since publication, the special has aired on at least 23 more Sinclair-controlled local news stations, bringing the total to at least 41 stations in 27 states.

  • Sinclair is already gearing up for Trump 2020 

    New “must-run” segment airing a week after midterms boosts Trump and dismisses Democratic chances in 2020

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    Less than one week after the 2018 midterm elections, Sinclair Broadcast Group is already pushing “must-run” segments minimizing Democratic chances in 2020 and boosting President Donald Trump’s re-election bid.

    A new “must-run” commentary segment about the 2020 elections began airing on Sinclair’s local stations on November 12. It’s part of Sinclair’s ongoing series called “Bottom Line with Boris,” which features chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn. Epshteyn worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign and may have signed a nondisparagement agreement during that time that would prevent him from criticizing the president.

    In the segment, Epshteyn tells viewers that the Democratic Party has “too many competing messages and varying factions” that will prevent “a clear path to victory in their primaries." He cited eight potential 2020 contenders for the Democratic nomination, ranging from party members like Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who supposedly wants to take the party in "a radical direction of open borders and single-payer health care," to "centrist, pro-business old guard" like former Vice President Joe Biden. Epshteyn said that the Republican Party is very united behind Trump, whom he called a “very formidable candidate” and an “active and strong campaigner.”

    With the 2018 midterms behind us, the country now turns toward the 2020 election cycle, including what is sure to be a hotly contested re-election race for President Trump.

    President Trump will continue to be an active and strong campaigner. Potential Democrat candidates, like Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris, want to take their party in a radical direction of open borders and single-payer health care.

    Other rumored candidates, such as former Vice President Joe Biden and former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, represent the centrist, pro-business old guard of the Democrat Party. There’s also a chance that Democrats go local and nominate a former young mayor in either Mitch Landrieu from New Orleans or Eric Garcetti from Los Angeles.

    Headed into 2020 you'll hear a lot about how the GOP is equally as divided as Democrats. Ignore that. The president’s approval rating is at about 90 percent among Republicans. The “Never Trump” movement is now largely a figment of imagination perpetuated by the flood of former Republican operatives who are paid to make frequent appearances on the networks so they can bash the president and the Republican Party.

    Here's the bottom line: Right now, there are too many competing messages and varying factions vying for the Democratic nomination for there to be a clear path to victory in their primaries. Democrat candidates will have to declare their intentions very soon. It will be interesting to see which direction their party chooses to take in trying to defeat a very formidable candidate, and unquestionably the leader of the Republican Party, in President Trump.

    Epshteyn also teased in his morning newsletter another “must-run” to be released later today, which will focus on “a potential 2020 presidential run for Hillary Clinton.” Both of these segments will air on an estimated 100 local TV stations nationwide, including in major battleground states.

    Epshteyn’s -- and his employer’s -- early shift to 2020 makes perfect sense, since he spent the year leading up to the 2018 elections using his platform to essentially campaign for Republicans. In his “Bottom Line With Boris” segments, he focused specifically on the midterms at least 13 times this year and more broadly made the case for Republican policies countless others. Some segments skipped the usual commentary altogether, instead featuring excerpts from softball interviews he conducted with Trump and five Republican politicians on ballots last week, including Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis and newly re-elected Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

    Taking into account Sinclair’s yearlong effort to put its thumb on the scales in 2018 along with its longer history of political meddling during election seasons, local news viewers should unfortunately expect more Trump 2020 messaging on Sinclair stations for the next two years.

  • The true cost of hiring Megyn Kelly

    NBC, what did you think would happen here?

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    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    It turns out there may actually be a limit to failing upward in the media business, and Megyn Kelly may have finally reached it. But at what cost?

    Kelly began her national news career at Fox in 2004, making appearances on Fox News shows including The O’Reilly Factor before trying her hand at weekday and weekend programs on the network. She landed her own prime-time show there, The Kelly File, in 2013.

    In the years she worked at Fox News, Kelly engaged in the network’s signature race-baiting, xenophobic rhetoric, anti-LGBTQ attacks, rape apologia, and climate denial like the rest of her colleagues. We know because we watched her do it.

    • Kelly made race-baiting and outright racist comments a cornerstone of her Fox News show. On several occasions, her coverage of Black victims of police-perpetrated violence essentially blamed the victims by insisting they didn’t respect the police officers or focusing on their previous criminal records. She said of a 14-year-old Black girl violently manhandled by a police officer at a Texas pool party: “She was no saint either.”
    • Kelly infamously insisted in a 2013 Fox appearance that both Santa Claus, a fictional character, and Jesus, who was Middle Eastern, were white. She added, “Just because it makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change.”
    • Kelly regularly fearmongered and pushed conservative lies to attack the Muslim community, including advocating for Muslim profiling.
    • Kelly used her Fox platform to fearmonger about immigration, defending Trump’s campaign comments calling Mexican immigrants criminals and “rapists,” and allowing Trump to call them “killers" without any pushback in a later appearance on her show.
    • Kelly regularly hosted anti-LGBTQ extremists and other hate group leaders on her Fox show -- including Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, a figure on the evangelical right who endorsed a Ugandan bill that would have imposed the death penalty for homosexuality.
    • Kelly repeatedly mocked and dismissed transgender people, including misgendering transgender inmates multiple times.
    • Kelly criticized sexual assault prevention measures and minimized survivors, particularly in discussions of campus sexual assault.
    • Kelly employed Fox News’ signature climate science denial tactics, from hosting questionable figures to pushing fringe beliefs about climate change and making jokes that cold weather disproves global warming.

    But when Kelly signaled she was ready to leave Fox behind, NBC pursued and hired her anyway.

    And then, unsurprisingly for no one besides apparently the executives who hired her, she did it all again: hosted a dangerous conspiracy theorist, defended an alleged sexual assailant, delivered a petty, Fox-like monologue attacking one of her previous guests, and now has defended blackface.

    Yet Kelly may walk away from the network with $69 million she didn’t earn, and NBC will be left to pay many more costs for its inexcusable decision to bring her on board in the first place.

    The true cost of NBC’s decision to hire Kelly is far greater than that astronomical $69 million, or even the show’s high-budget staff, or the $10 million NBC spent redesigning her studio space.

    It includes the career costs and emotional costs for the two talented Black TV personalities she replaced when she joined the Today show, Tamron Hall and Al Roker. Hall and Roker had been hosting the 9 a.m. hour of Today and were bringing in higher ratings than she ever managed to do while earning significantly smaller paychecks. Reportedly, the two hosts together were earning less than half of Kelly’s annual $23 million. Hall’s departure from NBC was swift and mishandled by the network; she apparently found out she was being replaced just minutes before going on air and did not get to say goodbye to her viewers. And Roker, along with Today anchor Craig Melvin, who is also Black, was put in the position of having to comment on their colleague’s casual racism this week.

    The immeasurable costs of NBC choosing to ink a massive deal with Kelly also include the missed opportunities of the network supporting many other journalists who could have focused on covering and representing communities of color or the LGBTQ community. Instead, NBC gambled its profits on a woman with a well-documented history of further marginalizing the marginalized.

    It includes the lost loyalty of morning show viewers, who have increasingly flocked to her ABC competitors instead since Kelly joined Today. Kelly’s schtick of parroting classic conservative rhetoric and coupling it with the occasional tough question never translated to mainstream broadcasting. NBC never saw the ratings it had likely anticipated for Kelly’s Today hour, or for the hour after, or for her scuttled Sunday show -- and the effects extended beyond NBC’s national platform to harm local NBC affiliate stations too. (It’s more than likely this consistent stagnation in viewership is what actually did her in at NBC, rather than some sudden moral reaction to a race-baiting comment the network executives should have seen coming.)

    It includes losing the faith of NBC employees, many of whom were embarrassed or alienated by their well-paid colleague’s right-wing antics on Today.

    And it includes losing public faith, because so many of us saw this coming from day one.

    Was it worth it?

  • Voter suppression stories aren't just about which party wins or loses in November -- they're about racist disenfranchisement in the long term

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Recent reporting has revealed indisputable voter suppression efforts in North Dakota and Georgia that appear to specifically target Native and Black communities. While these racist disenfranchisement efforts are obviously notable in the lead-up to next month’s midterm elections, media fail the public when they simply focus on the impact in the short-term and turn the story into another horse-race conversation. The real story here is the long-term, conservative-led effort to systematically dismantle voting rights for people of color -- and it won’t go away after November.

    On October 9, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to suspend a lower federal court ruling that requires North Dakota voters to show identification with a residential address in order to vote. This requirement effectively disenfranchises Native American tribal residents, as many do not have the acceptable identification or don’t list residential addresses on their IDs. As the plaintiffs in the original court case explained, the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t deliver to residences in rural tribal communities so residents instead list P.O. boxes on tribal IDs. In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted that “the risk of disfranchisement is large” in clearing the way for the state to enforce this voter ID requirement after it had previously been blocked during primary voting.

    On the same day, The Associated Press reported that Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (who is also currently running for governor on the Republican ticket) has actively purged “over 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012,” and currently has “over 53,000 registrations sitting on hold.” AP’s analysis revealed that nearly 70 percent of the 53,000 “on hold” registrations were those of Black voters, an astonishing statistic when the state population is only 32 percent Black. The reasons for holding a registration vary, and can include simple errors in entry or “a dropped hyphen in a last name, for example.”

    Both of these efforts began well before the current election cycle. Mother Jones reports that North Dakota Republicans began tightening state voter ID laws after Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp was first elected in 2012. Kemp was first elected secretary of state in 2010, but his office began its purge as early as 2012 as well. It’s not even the only move Kemp has made to suppress votes in Georgia in recent months. Both fit into the broader systemic dismantling of voting rights in America, signaled by the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder case, and subsequent rulings granting states greater freedom to dictate their own election maps and voting requirements -- tools that some states have used to create stricter barriers to voting access for communities of color.

    Right-wing media have been cheering on the conservative voter suppression campaign for as long as it has been underway, helpfully propping up bogus claims of widespread voter fraud to justify this clear and targeted racist disenfranchisement.

    Media silence about the systemic dismantling of voting rights -- as was the case for coverage of the 2016 races -- should not be an option. Instead, media’s responsibility is to present the full context and actively counter the decades-long trend in voter suppression perpetrated by the right-wing political and media ecosystem.

    Coverage ought to focus on conveying the message that instances of voter suppression are both far from isolated, and far from random in the communities they affect. And even summing up in-depth reports that do provide this context with narrow midterms-focused headlines, like these, is itself a disservice:

    [Salon, 10/10/18]

    [New York, 10/10/18]

    [GQ, 10/10/18]

    [Alternet, 10/9/18]

    [Mic, 10/10/18]

    It’s just one step above a headline that tells readers nothing at all.

    Framing the latest voter purges from Georgia and North Dakota as purely horse-race developments effectively erases the opportunity to address the racist erosion of voting rights. This is not simply about a red or blue wave, or about polling numbers, or campaign strategy. This is not a matter of being bad for Democrats or good for Republicans. And this will not go away after next month.

    Black and Native people are being robbed of their voices at the polls in service of a conservative structure that will only work to systematically reinforce and further these voter suppression efforts in the future. Racism is a feature of this system, not a bug.

    Every time we see a headline about one specific and seemingly isolated disenfranchisement effort, we are deprived of the chance to make larger connections; to understand the rot at the core of our electoral system; and to fight it.

  • What we owe Christine Blasey Ford

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Professor Christine Blasey Ford had originally chosen not to publicly share her account of sexual assault by Brett Kavanaugh because of the onslaught of harassment she would undoubtedly face. “I was ... wondering whether I would just be jumping in front of a train that was headed to where it was headed anyway, and that I would just be personally annihilated,” she explained during her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Why suffer through the annihilation if it’s not going to matter?” she told The Washington Post when she decided to come forward.

    Tomorrow, 20 days after Ford first shared her account publicly in the Post (and just nine since she movingly recounted her story before millions of Americans), 13 days since Deborah Ramirez’s account was published, and 10 days from when Julie Swetnick spoke out, senators will vote to send Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. He was ushered there by dozens of representative leaders who long ago abdicated their sworn responsibilities both to represent and to lead. The whole farce was cheered on by a pundit class that’s far removed from the brutal realities of American life, and unjustifiably ignorant about interpersonal violence that directly harms another American every 98 seconds.  

    Christine Blasey Ford stepped in front of that moving train, and it kept moving. Her personal trauma is now public text, and her courage and grace will leave an indelible mark on us all. And make no mistake about it: She has shown us a way forward.

    The first thing Ford taught us is that it’s OK to share your story when you don’t remember every detail, because it’s fundamentally your own. You will always remember the most important parts. Indelible in the hippocampus will be what happened to you in that moment. It’s your story to tell, if you choose. And people -- the good ones -- will remember it, and believe you.

    She has also taught us what is broken in our common language, our media ecosystem, our politics and institutions. If you were lucky -- or ignorant -- enough to not have realized this before September 16, you may now know just how far gone we are.

    We do not know, for example, how to talk about the harm we experience at the hands of others. Tragically common forms of interpersonal violence still have no consensus-driven label in the English language. This is how an attempted rape -- a hand over a mouth, a feeling like you are going to die, uproarious laughter as your humanity is diminished -- can so easily vanish into nothing in another person’s eyes.

    And we have a better approximation of the twisted depths to which the conservative political and media ecosystem will go in their attempt to discredit, diminish, and disappear a survivor’s story. They will call you a slut, and question your mental fitness, and speculate about your political motivations, and blame you for ruining your alleged assailant’s career, and simply make things up about you. They will hear you explain that the worst part was the laughter and the humiliation, and then they will mock you for it in front of a laughing audience. Even worse, in its own way: They will say that they do believe you, they just don’t care.

    We have also seen how irreparably broken our public news and information systems have become, even in just the two years since the last presidential election. All manner of false information is encouraged to spread, and private information is subject to the often stupid and sometimes violent whims of the internet.

    And we know now, if we didn’t before, that our institutions will not save us. Instead, they will close ranks. The academy, the court, the presidency, the legislature, the FBI, and the media have always been fundamentally tainted by the same poisonous cornerstone of violent patriarchy. They do not deserve our faith, and the people who work within them do not automatically deserve our respect. Almost none of them have done anything to earn it.

    Christine Blasey Ford showed us once and for all that if we are to be saved, it will be only because of moments when individuals directly challenge these systems, or work to tear them down. It will be in the moments of rage, when we stick our feet in the elevator door.

    Thank you, Christine Blasey Ford. Thank you, Deborah Ramirez. Thank you, Julie Swetnick. Thank you, reporters and activists who tried against all odds to give them a voice. Thank you, protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court and senators’ offices at this moment, and yesterday, and last week, and at all the other times when righteous outrage has countered with equal force a willful injustice.

    Because of you, millions of people will never forget what happened here. And that’s a threat.  

  • Sinclair's recent must-runs were a series of Trump interview excerpts about how great his administration is doing and how unfairly he’s treated

    Trump in must-run: “I am treated less fairly than anybody who's probably ever lived"

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    In perhaps the most egregious example yet of the pro-Trump alternate reality Sinclair Broadcast Group presents to its viewers, six “must-run” commentary segments the media company has created since September 21 have all been excerpts of a softball interview of President Donald Trump conducted by a former Trump aide.

    Amid last week’s overwhelming news, including Professor Christine Blasey Ford’s powerful testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee (and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s blatantly false testimony the same day), Sinclair subjected its local news viewers to a total of six separate “must-run” segments consisting of excerpts from a Trump interview.

    The overwhelming themes of the segments boiled down to: The Trump administration is doing great things, and the left and the liberal media aren’t being fair to Trump. The interviewer, Boris Epshteyn -- a former Trump aide, apparent personal friend of Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., and Sinclair’s chief political analyst -- mostly nodded along or added details in an attempt to back up Trump’s bonkers statements.

    Segment 1: Trump touts Kavanaugh’s “unblemished record” while Epshteyn nods

    The series of six consecutive “must-run” segments -- each of which has now aired on an estimated 100 local news stations across the country -- kicked off on September 21 with a segment focused on what Trump called Kavanaugh’s “unblemished record.” The interview was conducted that day, five days after Ford first shared the details of her account publicly in The Washington Post. In the interview, Trump briefly repeated vague White House talking points about making sure Ford is heard, before saying he believed Kavanaugh would ultimately be confirmed.

    Segment 2: Trump rambles about how everyone says there was “no collusion,” and Epshteyn again just sort of nods

    In the second interview segment, posted on September 24, Epshteyn asked one of just a handful of actual interview questions about Trump’s walk-back on declassifying documents related to the ongoing investigation into Russian collusion during the 2016 presidential election. Trump fumbled through his response, answering mostly by citing different Republican lawmakers who say there was “no collusion.” Epshteyn concluded that Trump is committed to transparency.

    Segment 3: Trump says the current economy could be “the greatest we’ve ever had” and Epshteyn passively nods

    The third segment, from September 25, began with Trump declaring that the current economy “could be the greatest we’ve ever had.” Epshteyn then asked him about renegotiating the NAFTA trade deal in the following extremely unbiased way (emphasis added):

    EPSHTEYN: You mentioned NAFTA. Mexico has already agreed to renegotiate a deal -- something that most people said you couldn't get done. You got that done. Now it's up to Canada. Do you think that Canada, with Justin Trudeau as their leader, will capitulate and join the new deal?
     

    Segment 4: Trump uses the Sinclair platform to tell viewers to vote for Republicans in the midterms

    Epshteyn kicked off the fourth interview segment -- also focused on the economy -- with another very normal and not biased question for his former employer:

    EPSHTEYN: Sir, it’s almost been two years. The economy is roaring. The stock market is way up. Unemployment, way down. GDP growth -- it's much better than anybody expected. What do you think can be done to make sure it's long-term sustainable economic growth?

    The two men then continued to agree with each other about how great the economy is, before Trump told viewers that they ought to vote for Republicans in the midterm elections (emphasis added):

    TRUMP: We have a great economy. This is possibly the greatest economy our country's ever had. That's why, when it comes to the midterms, I hope people are going to remember us because we need Republicans. And I'm not running, but I am in a way running because, you know, friends of mine and people that have our values and our thoughts, they're running. So, we need a lot of help for the midterms and I think we're going to do well, you know, based on the economy and based on the success.
     

    Segment 5: Trump unintelligibly rants about his relationships with North Korea and Iran, while Epshteyn nods along

    In the fifth segment, released on September 27, Trump incoherently discussed relations with North Korea, frequently interrupted by Epshteyn signaling his agreement with everything the president says even though it makes no sense. The one substantive thing Epshteyn said in the entire excerpt was to offer an additional point that backs up Trump’s claim that, with North Korea, “We’re doing a lot of speed. So it’s really coming along well.”

    Segment 6: Trump says he is “treated less fairly than anybody who's probably ever lived” by the media, Epshteyn agrees

    Epshteyn finished off the series of interview must-runs on September 28 with an excerpt that sounded like it was ripped straight from a Trump rally: an almost entirely uninterrupted rant from Trump about how he is “treated less fairly than anybody who’s probably ever lived” by the overwhelming “fake news media.”

    Just watch this, then imagine flipping channels as you make dinner and landing on your local news and this is what’s playing. 

    EPSHTEYN: President Trump feels that he is not treated fairly by most of the media. He spoke about that extensively during our exclusive one-on-one interview.

    [BEGIN INTERVIEW CLIP]

    TRUMP: I am treated less fairly than anybody who's probably ever lived. I almost ask why, you know, what’s the point. We have the best economy we’ve ever had. So many things are going well. You know, the media is really dishonest and reports came out -- even when I do really good stuff, they make it look as bad as possible. And when I do stuff that’s OK, it’s like a disaster.

    EPSHTEYN: Right.

    TRUMP: OK? But when I do things that are really phenomenal, like, as an example, North Korea. We’re doing a phenomenal job in North Korea. We were going to go to war. Before I got in, we would have had a war. We didn’t give anything. We got our hostages back. We got so many different things.

    EPSHTEYN: The remains.

    TRUMP: We got the remains. No more missile testing. No more rocket testing. No more nuclear testing. And I met. And they said, “He met, he met. Therefore he lost.” Because I met. In other words, they couldn’t get anything substantive so they said, “Ah, the fact that” -- now I will say, when it was announced that I was going to meet, until they got their, you know, little dialogue straightened out, they thought it was incredible. But you know, about, within 24 hours --  

    EPSHTEYN. Sure.

    TRUMP: they said we -- you know, the media’s unbelievably dishonest. And I actually say that the fake news media is truly an enemy of the people. It hurts our country tremendously.

    EPSHTEYN: But the people see through it. Don’t you think?

    TRUMP: And I had a rally last night here where they had thousands and thousands of people. They sent away thousands of people. They couldn’t get into the convention center. And it was really incredible. So I guess the bottom line is they must.

    [END INTERVIEW CLIP]

    EPSHTEYN: Here’s the bottom line: Let’s hope that the press can start concentrating on facts and issues that matter to the American people, and not gossip and innuendo.  
     

    So to recap, Epshteyn secured an interview with a leader of the free world, with excerpts airing on local news stations all over the country. With this opportunity, here is a list of every question or statement Epshteyn uttered throughout the six interview excerpts. They are presented in chronological order:

    • Right.
    • Do you think he will get confirmed in the end?
    • A couple issues on the home front. Let's talk about the declassification of documents. Earlier this week you said you were going to declassify. Now you're saying that you want the inspector general of the Department of Justice to review the documents first. What happened? What's the motivation?
    • Don’t declassify?
    • It’s true.
    • OK. Do you think that in the end the American people should have an eye, have a view into these documents?
    • You mentioned NAFTA. Mexico has already agreed to renegotiate a deal -- something that most people said you couldn't get done. You got that done. Now it's up to Canada. Do you think that Canada, with Justin Trudeau as their leader, will capitulate and join the new deal?
    • Right.
    • Sure.
    • Right.
    • Horrible.
    • Right.
    • Mm-hm.
    • Right.
    • Right.
    • Sir, it’s almost been two years. The economy is roaring. The stock market is way up. Unemployment, way down. GDP growth -- it's much better than anybody expected. What do you think can be done to make sure it's long-term sustainable economic growth?
    • Right.
    • The new normal, right?
    • Mm-hm.
    • Highest wage growth since the start of the recession, in fact.
    • No doubt.
    • Right.
    • Kim Jong Un just actually said to Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president, that he's very thankful for the summit and thinks it's the relationship has stabilized in the Korean Peninsula because of your efforts.
    • Mm-hm.
    • Right.
    • Right.
    • The remains.
    • Right.
    • Sure.
    • But the people see through it. Don’t you think?

    The good news: Virtually no one seems to be seeking out these segments on purpose. By all accounts, a new one-on-one interview with direct, potentially newsworthy quotes from the president of the United States is a huge get. And yet, as of publication, each of these interview segments has been watched less than 200 times on Ephsteyn's YouTube channel. Five of the six segments -- all but the segment that Media Matters already wrote about -- have gleaned less than 50 views. (This is embarrassingly typical of Epshteyn’s audience numbers.)

    The bad news: Epshteyn’s lack of an eager audience hasn’t stopped numerous other conservative leaders from giving him “interviews” to exploit his platform, thus beaming their messages to millions of unwitting local news viewers just in time for the midterm elections.

    This year, Epshteyn has aired interviews with seven other members of the Trump administration, eight Republican congressmen, and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. The appearances include: then-Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Vice President Mike Pence, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Council of Economic Advisers Chair Kevin Hassett, and Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI). DeSantis, McCarthy, Rooney, and Duffy are all on ballots this year.

  • It was never "he said, she said"

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    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On the day of Christine Blasey Ford’s Senate testimony, and about 24 hours before a possible committee vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, it’s clear this moment has never been “he said, she said,” as some in media have suggested -- because for those in power, it has never mattered what Ford said, or who else said they believed her.

    What Ford said was that in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh held her down on a bed at a house party and covered her mouth with his hand and groped her. That his friend Mark Judge watched, alternating between encouraging Kavanaugh and telling him to stop. That the boys had laughed, and that she felt like she might die. That she has been afraid to be in spaces without multiple exits, afraid of being trapped again, for decades. That it changed her life.  

    People backed her up: her high school classmates, her husband, her friends who’d heard details since. Today’s hearing could have been about them. But it won’t be. Because right-wing media, pundits, and politicians didn’t listen to them -- and now the public won’t hear from them either.

    Today’s hearing could also have been about the other person Ford said was in the room. But those in power know better than to let that happen. His testimony won’t be included either.

    And today won’t be about what Deborah Ramirez said -- that at a drunken party during freshman year at Yale, Kavanaugh thrust his penis in her face, forcing her to touch it in order to move him away from her. That there was laughter. That she was humiliated. Ramirez's offer to testify hasn't been honored; she won't speak at the hearing either. 

    Nor will we hear about what people said to back her up -- several of their classmates, his roommate, students who’d experienced the same toxic environment.

    The hearing will also not be about what Julie Swetnick said -- that she witnessed Kavanaugh and Judge spike drinks with drugs or grain alcohol at parties in high school in order to more easily sexually assault young women. That she was drugged and gang-raped by a group of boys at one of those parties where Kavanaugh and Judge were present. That she saw Kavanaugh and Judge at many of these parties, “waiting for their ‘turn’ with a girl inside the room.” Swetnick's call for a full investigation hasn't been fulfilled; she won't get to testify today. 

    It won’t be about what Elizabeth Rasor said, which was in keeping with Swetnick’s account: Her ex-boyfriend Mark Judge had told her of an incident in high school “that involved him and other boys taking turns having sex with a drunk woman.” Rasor won't be testifying either, though she has said she's willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the FBI. 

    It won’t even be about what Kavanaugh himself said before this process began. Or the fact that some of the things he says now, on a number of topics, contradict themselves.

    Now it will be about what those in power say -- in this case, the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- and really, what they have been saying all along: That what Ford says doesn’t matter.

    They might even vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination tomorrow morning, because this hearing was never meant to provide any semblance or form of justice.

    So don’t let anyone -- on your TV, on the radio, in the opinion section, online -- tell you this was a case of "he said, she said." It isn't. It rarely ever is. 

    It wasn’t “he said, she said” with Anita Hill’s testimony 27 years ago, though some in power tried their best to make it seem that way -- and Hill was actually allowed to have (some) others testify on her behalf, unlike Ford.

    And it isn’t "he said, she said" with so many people who do everything by the book -- speak up right away, offer evidence and corroborations -- and then watch all of it weighed equally against a singular denial.

    It isn’t "he said, she said" with many who speak up and find a community of fellow survivors -- perhaps because the first time they said it’s “he said, she said,” they ignored her and listened to him and he knew he could do it again.

    And it isn’t "he said, she said" with the many more who never speak up. Perhaps that's because they see what happens even when it’s “he said, she said, she said, she said, they all said" -- and they decide it’s less painful to say nothing at all.