Author Page | Media Matters for America

Timothy Johnson

Author ››› Timothy Johnson
  • Major neo-Nazi website sees NRA’s recent hard-line messaging as its best hope to kill all Jewish people

    The Daily Stormer: “It’s time to put your money where your mouth is and join up with the country’s single effective pro-white organization intent on fully SMASHING THE JEW”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The Daily Stormer -- a major online hub for racists and anti-Semites that has followers who have committed mass murder -- has been telling its readers to join the National Rifle Association, as the neo-Nazis who run the website see a successful NRA as their best possible hope to see Jewish people subjected to another Holocaust.

    The Daily Stormer has been very pleased with the NRA’s hard-line messaging in the Trump era: As the neo-Nazi website itself notes, the NRA frequently singles out Jews as its political enemies and refuses to condemn anti-Semitic actions taken by members of its leadership. A February 2017 Daily Stormer article explained, “There is basically zero chance that [NRA leader Wayne] LaPierre and others in the top ranks of the NRA aren’t aware of the Jewish issue, especially as it relates to the second amendment. They’ve remained silent on this topic until now, scared of the media power that the Jews possess. But things are changing.”

    The Daily Stormer has frequently promoted NRA membership drives, including repeatedly linking to an NRA recruitment website and claiming,“The number 1 source of new recruits for the NRA has always been the Daily Stormer.”

    In articles posted on the website, Daily Stormer writers implore readers to join the NRA:

    According to The Daily Stormer, “The NRA is the country’s premiere pro-white and anti-Semitic organization. In fact, it is the only right-wing group of any kind in this country to have any success at all in the last 50 years.”

    The Daily Stormer clearly sees the NRA as a tool it can use to instigate wide-scale attacks against Jewish people. Here are a few pro-NRA threatening messages the site has posted:

    The Daily Stormer also posted a meme featuring NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch to threaten, “Our patience has its limits,” writing, “And guess what kikes? Your outrage machine is broken.”

    Following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, The Daily Stormer backed the NRA’s calls for arming teachers, writing:

    The Daily Stormer is endorsing a plan to take it a step further, and arm the students as well.

    Say you’re in class, the teacher is writing something on the board, and a Jew pulls out a gun. The teacher has his back to the class and doesn’t see the Jew make his move – but you’re sitting behind him, and you’ve got a clean shot – why shouldn’t you be allowed to take it?

    The Daily Stormer is particularly enamored of five high-profile NRA employees: Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre, President Oliver North, national spokesperson Dana Loesch, NRATV host Chuck Holton, and NRA board member Ted Nugent.

    The Daily Stormer has labeled LaPierre “/ourlad/” and “Reichsmarschall,” the highest military rank in Nazi Germany, and favorably called the NRA leader an “anti-Semitic white nationalist.” In particular, the site likes LaPierre because of a speech he gave after the Parkland school shooting in which he called opponents of the NRA “European-style socialists,” which, as The Daily Stormer explained, “everyone acknowledges, means ‘Jews’” or “the gun-grabbing kikes.” The Daily Stormer has favorably mentioned that LaPierre “gave a speech calling out the Jews as gun grabbers,” noted that LaPierre “purposefully pushed for an open war with the Jews,” and written that “he literally put out a Jew list, showing that everyone who disagrees with gun rights is a Jew. And he has to know, too. There is no way you list off a dozen Jews – and not a single goy – without noticing that pattern.” Indeed, LaPierre has frequently targeted Jews during his public remarks.

    In May, The Daily Stormer heaped praise on North after he became president of the NRA. An article on the neo-Nazi website argued, “The NRA just made a great pick for their new head. Great, great pick.” The website described North’s involvement in the Iran-Contra arms trafficking scandal as a positive, writing, “This is one guy who definitely does not give a single fuck about having a license to buy and sell weapons. For those who don’t know – the Iran-Contra ‘scandal’ was a program of selling weapons to Iran and using the money from that to fund communist-killing death squads in Latin America.” The article speculated that as president of the NRA, North could help arm Iran with nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons that the country could then use against Israel.

    The Daily Stormer also has a lot of praise for NRA national spokesperson Loesch, whom it calls “Princess Dana.” The site praised the gun group for not firing Loesch for her recently resurfaced 2010 tweet that said, “I bet Rick Sanchez was fired by a Jew.” (Sanchez was fired from CNN after he made anti-Semitic remarks about comedian Jon Stewart.) Loesch said that her tweet was meant to be an appeal to poetic justice. The Daily Stormer wrote that instead of firing her, the NRA “doubled-down by giving her a show about how she is going to destroy the Jews,” referencing promotional material for her NRATV show Relentless in which Loesch has threatened members of the media that their “time is running out.”

    The Daily Stormer has also praised Chuck Holton, a correspondent for the NRA’s media operation NRATV. During a July 2017 appearance on NRATV, Holton suggested that Black people were poised to commit mass rape and murder against white people while referencing “what’s happening in South Africa.” In response, The Daily Stormer wrote, “Holy shit! The NRA cited the White Genocide in South Africa as a warning to America!” Holton has a lengthy history of promoting white nationalism and making racist comments, and he has repeatedly pushed the conspiracy theory that Jewish philanthropist George Soros is behind the migrant caravan traveling through Central America and Mexico -- a remarkably similar theory to the one that inspired a gunman to carry out an anti-Semitic massacre at a Pittsburgh, PA, synagogue in October. The site is aware of NRATV and has disturbingly noted, “A NRA tv channel calling out ‘socialist corruption’ 24/7 would be the best thing ever, especially considering that all of these ‘European-style socialists’ are actually Jews.” (Three months after that Daily Stormer article was published and a day after an ISIS terror attack in Manchester, U.K., Holton argued on NRATV that “this wave of violence that we’re seeing across Europe is a symptom of the broader problem of multiculturalism and socialism.”)

    The Daily Stormer also lauded NRA board member Ted Nugent for sharing an anti-Semitic meme on Facebook without repercussions from the NRA, writing, “I’ve gotta give it to Ted. I expected an apology within hours. Instead he is just straight trolling these Jews. It’s fantastic.” In February, a Daily Stormer article defending the NRA as a friendly home for anti-Semites brought up the incident: “Remember another NRA spokesperson, Ted Nugent, posted that one meme a couple years ago… So, the NRA knows and the Jews know the NRA knows, and both sides want to escalate that.”

    The NRA’s recent adoption of more extreme messaging tactics is not lost on The Daily Stormer. As the neo-Nazis who run the website cheered in a March article, “The NRA is done with euphemisms.”

  • NY Times somehow outdoes itself in its awful coverage of the Wisconsin GOP’s antidemocratic power grab

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Wisconsin Republican legislators perverted representative democracy by passing sweeping legislation that strips powers from incoming Gov. Tony Evers solely because he is a Democrat. Outgoing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has signaled he will sign the bills into law. The New York Times reported on this development with an article that ran with the title “Wisconsin Republicans Defiantly ‘Stand Like Bedrock’ in Face of Democratic Wins,” after first being published under the much more accurate headline “Wisconsin Republicans Approve Bills Stripping Power From Incoming Democratic Governor.”

    Defiance, at least to me, is speaking truth to power and not giving up no matter the odds against you. It doesn’t mean advancing anti-democratic laws and getting away with it because you know voters have a slim chance of holding you accountable since you rigged the system through gerrymandering. A better descriptor for that might be “cowardice.” (Even though Democratic candidates received 54 percent of votes in the 2018 midterm elections, they will hold just 36 percent of the state’s legislative seats, meaning they can’t simply reverse the power grab.)

    I live in Madison, WI, and I was at the capitol on Monday when the legislative package was first considered. I saw defiance there, but not the type the Times reported on. Defiance was the 1,426 Wisconsinites who spoke out against the bills -- compared to one person speaking in their favor -- as Republicans attempted to limit public comments. Defiance was the people who could not make it into the hearing room chanting so loud outside that it echoed throughout the capitol. Defiance was the crowds causing legislative staff to delay the hearing as staff members scrambled to open up multiple overflow rooms for the citizens who wanted to see how the power grab would play out. Defiance was also a local pizza shop giving out free food to sustain the protesters as they waited long hours to speak their minds. Defiance was the hundreds of people who showed up outside the capitol later that evening -- in the bitter cold -- to protest the bills.

    A natural question to ask regarding the New York Times headline (which has since been slightly modified to “Wisconsin Republicans Defiantly Move to Limit the Power of Incoming Democrats”) is where the “stand like bedrock” quote came from. It was Wisconsin Republican Speaker Robin Vos -- the racist, power-hungry architect of the package -- who laughably said after Wisconsin Republicans were trounced in the midterm elections, “We are going to stand like bedrock to guarantee that Wisconsin does not go back.” While Vos’ comment is petulant and antidemocratic to the point that it is newsworthy, the partial quote cited in the Times headline made it seem as if Republicans in Wisconsin were taking some sort of noble stand. As The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer noted:

    Instead of getting his words splashed credulously in a Times headline, Vos should be the subject of extreme media scrutiny and righteous outrage. Shortly before Republicans passed the power-grab bills, Vos attempted to justify the move on Twitter by saying, “We have allowed far too much authority to move to the executive branch.” The state legislature -- presumably the “we” in Vos’ statement -- has been controlled by Republicans for the past eight years, coinciding with Walker’s governorship. But it is only now that Vos suddenly realized that the governorship is too powerful and the separation of powers in the Wisconsin government need to be radically changed.

    Other tweets by Vos in defense of the legislation have sparked an angry backlash; for example, he attempted to explain the power grab by arguing on Twitter, “The basic fundamental part of our democracy is compromise and negotiation.” (There was, of course, no compromise, as the Republicans control the legislature and can pass whatever law they want regardless of the views of their Democratic colleagues.) While “the ratio” of negative to positive responses to this tweet currently stands at around 100-to-1 on Twitter, it pales in comparison to the 1,462-1 ratio of Wisconsinites speaking against versus in favor of the power grab.

    Beyond the headline, the text of the Times article also fell short, characterizing moves by Republican legislators as merely “hardball” politics and describing Vos’ comment that incoming Gov. Evers’s agenda is not “evil” as “conciliatory.”

    The most recent Times coverage of Wisconsin follows another misstep from the newspaper, which in a previous article framed the power grab as a typical partisan dispute between Republicans and Democrats.

    The Times also covered the the Wisconsin GOP power grab in its podcast The Daily. While the podcast did provide fairly detailed background on what is happening, it fell far short in its framing of the issues. One part of the podcast focused on people protesting Walker as he lit the Christmas tree that stands in the capitol rotunda during the holiday season. Times reporter Mitch Smith said, “All these protesters -- people who did not come for the Christmas tree lighting -- start booing. And these poor kids, this high school choir -- they start singing these Christmas carols and this group of singing protesters drowns them out from the floor above, bellowing these kind of anti-Walker tunes of their own.” Obviously, no one was booing the kids. I’m sorry if the kids in the choir did actually feel bad, but the subversion of democracy that’s going on warrants some noise. I hope the ruckus made their visit more interesting and served as a lesson on how people can peacefully dissent against their elected officials.

  • Conservative defenses of the antidemocratic power grab in Wisconsin are scant, extremely stupid

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    As Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature move into the final stages of enacting an antidemocratic power grab, conservative media justifications for the move are few and far between. It’s difficult to defend the indefensible, so when conservative media figures have addressed the issue, their arguments fall flat.

    Following Wisconsin Democrats’ sweep of all of the statewide constitutional offices in the 2018 midterm elections, the GOP-controlled Wisconsin legislature put forward a package of bills in a lame-duck session that would strip powers from Gov.-elect Tony Evers, who defeated Republican incumbent Scott Walker on Election Day, and limit other functions of the soon-to-be Democratic-controlled executive branch. Both chambers of the Wisconsin legislature passed the package on December 5 following an all-night session, and the legislation now awaits Walker’s signature. In addition to the antidemocratic stripping of powers from the incoming administration, the package includes other odious provisions such as a tax cut that will only benefit couples who make more than $200,000 a year.

    Right-wing media has been largely silent on the story, perhaps because many conservative media figures don’t feel the need to stick their necks out over something so obviously wrong when the Wisconsin GOP doesn’t need any help pushing the measure through. Due to rampant gerrymandering, Democrats will hold just 36 percent of state legislative seats during the next session despite winning 54 percent of the statewide vote, meaning they will be unable to reverse the Republicans’ power grab. Legal challenges to the measures, however, are sure to follow.

    The few conservative media defenders of the GOP power grab haven’t made very good arguments. Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey published an article lightly chiding Wisconsin Republicans for “graciously relieving [Evers] of some of Scott Walker’s old workload.” While acknowledging that what is happening is not fair, Morrissey excused it, saying that this is “the real world” and that (emphasis original) “the impulse behind this effort may well be understandable” because of the possibility “Democrats wouldn’t have played fair with executive authority without those restrictions.”

    Rush Limbaugh's producer James Golden, who goes by the pseudonym Bo Snerdley, reacted to the package’s passage in a tweet, saying “Democrats just hate losing.” (Democratic candidates in Wisconsin received 190,000 more votes in the 2018 elections than Republican candidates.)

    And on his radio show, MSNBC contributor Hugh Hewitt said complaints about the power grab are “falling on deaf ears with me” because “you got to go back to November and December and January of 2016 and early ‘17 when they were reminding us only one president at a time.”

    HUGH HEWITT (HOST): There is controversies about elections in North Carolina and in the aftermath of elections in Wisconsin and Michigan where defeated Republicans are limiting the powers of the incoming Democrats. By the way, people who are objecting to that, you got to go back to November and December and January of 2016 and early ‘17 when they were reminding us only one president at a time. … No one was complaining then about using all your powers until the end of your term, so that’s falling on deaf ears with me.

    This is an extremely poor line of reasoning to defend the GOP’s power grab in Wisconsin. Hewitt’s reference to “controversies” in North Carolina is a case where supporters of a Republican House candidate may have literally stolen the election through fraud, and his reference to Michigan is about a similar GOP legislative power grab. But Hewitt’s argument fails completely in his false equivalence between Wisconsin Republicans and the final months of the Obama administration. What the Obama administration did in its last months was an attempt to shore up legitimate actions it had taken under existing executive branch norms; the administration didn’t seek to change the system entirely. Any actions taken by the Obama administration could be checked by an incoming Republican president (who lost the popular vote) and a Republican Congress, while Wisconsin Republicans are attempting to radically alter their state government’s separation of powers.

    Courtney Hagle contributed research to this post.

  • Mainstream media botch coverage of Wisconsin and Michigan Republicans' post-election power grabs

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    As Republican legislators in Wisconsin and Michigan move to strip powers from incoming Democratic governors, the press is failing to fulfill its responsibility to report on these antidemocratic power grabs. Network morning and evening news shows have refused to cover the stories at all, while a poorly framed New York Times article gave the impression that the power grab in Wisconsin is politics as usual.

    In Wisconsin, Republican legislators are advancing a package of bills in a lame-duck session that would strip powers from Gov.-elect Tony Evers, who defeated Republican Scott Walker on Election Day, and limit other functions of the soon-to-be Democratic-controlled executive branch. The final vote could occur as early as today, December 4. Because of GOP gerrymandering, Democrats will hold just 36 percent of state legislative seats during the next session despite winning 54 percent of the statewide vote, meaning they will be unable to reverse the power grab. Likewise, Republicans in the lame-duck Michigan legislature are attempting to strip powers from Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer and from other statewide offices that will soon be held by Democrats. As in Wisconsin, Republicans control the legislature due to gerrymandering.

    Rather than treating these moves as alarming threats to democracy, many major media outlets are ignoring the stories or covering them poorly.

    A December 3 New York Times article on the Wisconsin power grab that ran under the headline “Stung by Election Losses, Republicans in the States Seek a Way to Neutralize Democrats” is being criticized on social media for normalizing the Wisconsin GOP’s actions. Critics say it frames the issue as a typical partisan dispute between two opposing political parties. Some excerpts (emphasis added):

    • “When Democrats won the governor’s office in Wisconsin, it was one of the party’s most celebrated midterm successes in regaining power in the states. Now Republicans are striking back, moving to slash the power of the new governor even before he takes the oath of office.”
    • “Democrats reacted with fury, crowding the halls of the State Capitol in Madison on Monday and accusing the Republicans of trying to undo an election they had lost.”
    • “For Wisconsin, a state that both parties will urgently vie to win in 2020 elections, it was one more sign of the ferocious partisan split that has rippled through the state in recent years.”

    Apparently out of reluctance to be seen as taking a side, the Times was unable to describe what is happening in Wisconsin as the extraordinary affront to democratic norms that it is.

    Meanwhile, major network news shows haven't discussed the unusual power grabs unfolding in either state. Between Election Day on November 6 and December 4, CBS Evening News, CBS This Morning, NBC’s Nightly News with Lester Holt, NBC’s Today, ABC’s World News Tonight With David Muir, and ABC’s Good Morning America failed to cover either story.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched available transcripts for ABC, CBS, and NBC in Nexis for the words "Michigan" and "Wisconsin" between November 6 and December 4 and searched transcripts in the iQ media database for the words "Michigan" and "Wisconsin" on December 3 through December 4.

  • Paul Ryan’s sore-loser comments about California House races don’t merit serious attention

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) recently complained that “ballot harvesting” led to many California House races being called for Democrats days or weeks after Election Day, garnering significant press coverage. But why should anyone care about the conspiratorial whining of a retiring congressman who was unwilling to defend his own seat in the 2018 midterms?

    If Ryan -- who has an undeserving reputation in some mainstream press circles as a serious statesman -- wants to talk about fairness and elections, he should speak out about North Carolina’s 9th District. In that race, evidence has emerged that Republican candidate Mark Harris’ staff or supporters may have attempted to steal the election by throwing away and altering absentee ballots. Or he should speak out about two GOP-controlled legislatures -- one in his home state of Wisconsin -- that are attempting to pre-emptively strip powers from incoming Democratic administrations solely because the Republicans don’t like the election outcomes.

    Ryan complained about California House race results during a November 29 appearance at a Washington Post event, claiming that a vote counting procedure used in California that causes a delay in final counts led to “a very, very strange outcome.” He added, “When you win the absentee ballots and you win the in-person vote, where I come from, you win the election.” Ryan said that he wasn’t “saying there’s anything nefarious about it, … but we believed we were up about six seats in California the night of the election, now I think we lost just about every single one of those.” (The Washington Post write-up of his remarks even noted, “Ryan said he wouldn’t go so far as to ask the state attorney general to review the results but suggested that The Washington Post should write a story about it,” suggesting Ryan knows in his heart that his complaints are whiny bullshit that only plays in the press.)

    What Ryan is complaining about -- a process that has pejoratively been called “ballot harvesting” -- is California’s election procedure, which intentionally takes time to determine the legitimacy of provisional ballots and count those that are valid. In other words, it’s pro-representative democracy.

    Conservative outlets, nonetheless, are championing Ryan’s comments as evidence of a Democrat-led voter fraud conspiracy or, at a minimum, support for the backward notion that California’s process is unfair. In one instance, a Townhall article with the headline “‘Ballot Harvesting,’ California Dems’ Latest Election Stealing Tool” noted, “The statewide results even drew the attention of the normally squishy soon-to-be former House Speaker Paul Ryan.” Some mainstream outlets uncritically regurgitated Ryan’s conspiratorial claims in headlines, with The Hill writing, “Ryan casts doubt on 'bizarre' California election results,” and Politico claiming, “GOP cries foul after California thumping.”

    Ryan’s disingenuousness is also evidenced by an anti-democratic power grab being attempted in his own backyard that he hasn’t found the gumption to speak out about. Despite racist attempts by Republicans to suppress votes in Wisconsin, Democrats were victorious in all elections for statewide constitutional offices on November 6, with the late-night count of absentee ballots pushing Democrat Tony Evers ahead of Republican Gov. Scott Walker. In response to Walker’s defeat, the GOP legislature is poised to pass a package of bills that will strip huge numbers of powers from the executive branch.

    While Ryan’s California comments have received a great amount of press attention, what is happening in Wisconsin has not:

    If Ryan wants to whine to the press about elections and fairness, he should be forced to talk about Wisconsin, or about a similar effort by Republicans in Michigan, or about North Carolina’s 9th District.

  • Layoffs hit the NRA’s media operation NRATV

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A veteran producer for the National Rifle Association’s media operation, Cameron Gray, announced today that he and several of his colleagues had been laid off from NRATV.

    The layoffs follow reporting on the NRA’s most recent tax filings, which show a $55 million drop in revenue between 2016 and 2017.

    Gray was most often seen on NRATV as a producer and occasional guest host for Cam & Co., a weekday three-hour talk radio-style broadcast that covers gun issues as well as general conservative interest stories. Gray wrote on his LinkedIn profile that he has worked on the show since 2009. Cam & Co. was first launched in 2004 with host Cam Edwards as the flagship of the NRA’s media operation, which was then called NRA News. Cam & Co. was also broadcast on the Sportsman Channel beginning in January 2013 through its cancellation by the network in June 2015. It remains to be seen whether Cam & Co. will continue to be broadcast; the November 28 broadcast of the show was a repeat of the previous day’s episode.

    Media Matters has been a frequent critic of misinformation about gun violence that permeates Cam & Co.’s programming, most notably the show's incessant -- and incorrect -- argument that more permissive access to firearms leads to lower levels of gun violence and frequent false claim that guns are used to stop crimes more often than they are used to commit them.

    In October 2016, NRA News rebranded itself as NRATV with the aim of offering more live programming. NRATV broadcasts via online streaming at NRATV.com, on satellite radio, and through Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire. As with NRA News, NRATV’s operations are supported by the gun group’s advertising firm, Ackerman McQueen.

    The launch of NRATV in 2016 presaged a sharp change in tone for the NRA’s media operation. Going beyond misinformation about the debate over gun laws, new programming on the network struck such a hateful, bigoted, and conspiratorial tone that Media Matters termed the operation a “hybrid of Breitbart and Infowars.”

    NRATV has also essentially served as state TV for the Trump administration, in its early days attacking the press for reporting on then-candidate Donald Trump’s admission on tape that he has sexually assaulted women. The pro-Trump propaganda has continued since then, with one recent example being NRATV host Grant Stinchfield’s declaration that Trump was the real winner of the 2018 midterm elections, where Democrats won the House of Representatives by historic margins. New programming launched by NRATV also showed great hostility towards the First Amendment -- both in the tendency to attack peaceful protests against Trump and its often wildly unhinged attacks on press critical of the president.

  • Confronted with photographs of tear-gassed children, far-right media cry hoax

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    After news outlets published disturbing images of migrant children suffering the effects of tear gas fired by the U.S. Border Patrol at the Mexican border, an effort has emerged in far-right media circles to defend the indefensible by calling the photographs “staged.”

    Border Patrol agents fired tear gas at a group of roughly 500 migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border near the San Ysidro Port of Entry on November 25. CNN reported that “video of the scene showed a cloud of tear gas that sent people running and screaming, including families with young children.” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen attempted to justify Border Patrol’s actions by claiming that some migrants “attempted to breach legacy fence infrastructure along the border and sought to harm CBP personnel by throwing projectiles at them.”

    Some members of far-right media quickly responded to the incident by questioning the veracity of photographs showing children fleeing the tear gas.

    Disreputable website The Gateway Pundit published an article claiming that “the illegal alien mother ‘fleeing’ from the border wall was all a lie. It was a setup.” Calling the photograph a “hoax,” the article bizarrely argued that the border incident was a “photo-op” because the pictures show other people not running and some with cameras in the background.

    Gateway Pundit owner Jim Hoft promoted the article, which was authored by his brother Joe, on Twitter:

    Chuck Holton, a correspondent for the National Rifle Association’s NRATV operation, claimed that the photo was “staged” in a general sense “by people who helped this woman and her kids travel 1500 miles, by a media who encouraged her dangerous trek, by leftist orgs who assisted, facilitated and goaded her to take her children to a violent mob riot.”

    Holton, who has a lengthy history of promoting white nationalism and making racist comments, had repeatedly pushed the conspiracy theory that philanthropist George Soros was behind the migrant caravan -- a remarkably similar theory to the one that inspired a gunman to carry out last month’s massacre at a Pittsburgh, PA, synagogue.

    Holton’s NRATV colleague Grant Stinchfield claimed during a November 26 NRATV broadcast that the image is “propaganda at its best” and that “this whole thing was a set up job and the media complied.”

    The claim that the photographs from the tear gas incident were staged is also gaining traction on the far-right cesspool 4chan:

  • The Infowars-White House pipeline is alive and well

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders shared an edited Infowars video to prop up the White House’s lies about CNN’s Jim Acosta

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders shared a deceptively edited video from Paul Joseph Watson, the editor-at-large at Infowars, as evidence for the administration’s false claim that CNN’s Jim Acosta assaulted a White House intern during a press conference.

    Infowars head Alex Jones has repeatedly claimed that his operation passes material to President Donald Trump and White House staff.

    Acosta and Trump had a contentious exchange during a November 7 press conference where a White House intern attempted to take a microphone from Acosta’s hand. During the exchange, “Acosta’s hand appeared to briefly brush her arm.” But Sanders subsequently accused Acosta of “placing his hands on a young woman” and announced that his White House press pass was suspended.

    In an attempt to bolster her false claim, Sanders posted a video that purported to back her version of events:

    Observers on Twitter quickly pointed out that the clip in question originated from a tweet by Watson and that the video was altered. According to HuffPost, “The footage Sanders shared was missing the audio, zoomed in and repeated. Critics on social media said the speed of the footage was altered as well.”

    In recent months, several social media platforms have either outright banned Jones and his outlet or placed restrictions on his activities. But Jones and his Infowars colleagues still appear influential enough that their content can quickly reach the White House.

    Ever since Trump appeared on Jones’ show in 2015 and praised his “amazing” reputation, Jones has often claimed to have close access to Trump and administration personnel. One high-profile example of the Infowars-White House pipeline is when Trump pardoned disgraced former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. As the pardon announcement neared, Arpaio appeared on The Alex Jones Show and thanked Jones and Infowars for getting his story to the president. As recently as September, Jones claimed on his show, “I have specifically had the White House and the president thank me recently for the fact that I’m covering the hard topics no one else will to hit the barbed wire.”

  • Alex Jones’ Infowars still uses Facebook to spread hate, dehumanization, and harassment

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Mellisa Joskow / Media Matters

    Update (11/9/18): Following publication of this post, Facebook removed all of the War Room videos referenced here. Facebook did not take action against the War Room page itself, which remains active.  

    In August, Facebook took action against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, deleting several of the primary pages he used to broadcast content from his Infowars outlet for violating the social media site’s community guidelines.

    But the ban wasn’t total. One of Infowars’ main programs, War Room, is still broadcast on Facebook, and it is a cesspool of harassment and hate.

    War Room is a three-hour weekday broadcast hosted by Infowars’ Owen Shroyer and Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone that airs following The Alex Jones Show. The War Room Facebook page is officially affiliated with Infowars, listing the outlet’s website for its contact information; it also “likes” several other active pages associated with Infowars.

    In addition to being broadcast on Facebook, War Room airs on Infowars.com and through terrestrial radio. Jones himself is a frequent guest of the show, and the War Room Facebook page also posts full segments of The Alex Jones Show, Infowars’ flagship program, whose page was banned by Facebook.

    A Facebook spokesperson declined to address questions about the War Room page.

    On War Room, Shroyer acts as Jones’ surrogate by pushing the same hateful messages his boss touts. This pattern can be seen in the program’s harassment of Christine Blasey Ford, who came forward during the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to say Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school.

    During the show’s September 25 Facebook broadcast, Shroyer called Ford a “high school floozie who may or may not have drunkenly fell into bed with one man or 100 men.” Two days later, Shroyer made comments that highlighted how Facebook allows him to say things about Ford that other online platforms don’t permit, commenting that Twitter had banned him for calling Ford a “floozie.” Apparently taking advantage of his carte blanche from Facebook, Shroyer went on to repeatedly call her “floozie Ford” while mocking her voice. During an October 8 broadcast, Shroyer joked that Ford had been sexually assaulted by “Barney the Dinosaur” or “the Kool-Aid Man,” while again mocking her voice.

    The War Room Facebook page also aired a September 20 video in which Jones made a number of disgusting sexist comments about Ford. The video, which is comprised of clips from War Room and The Alex Jones Show, includes Jones falsely claiming that Ford was photographed “spreading her legs” in her high school yearbook and saying she “appears to be a hussy.” Jones also called on his supporters to harass Ford during her testimony before Congress by holding signs showing her spreading her legs.

    Harassment on the War Room page also extends to elected officials. During a September 21 broadcast, Shroyer described a scenario in which Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), a favorite target of Jones’, is a murderer and child rapist. Shroyer asked, “Do the Democrats having to be raping your daughter and stabbing you in the freaking neck for you to realize who these people are? Seriously -- does Eric Swalwell have to come to your house and rape your child and stab your granny in the neck just for you to see how crazy he is?”

    War Room’s Facebook page is also a platform for videos of Shroyer’s in-person harassment. During the show’s October 29 broadcast, Shroyer played a video of him harassing several Black people outside of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. In the video, Shroyer tells the people they are in “the cult” and “choose not to be part of the African-American revolution that’s happening right now.”

    The War Room page additionally features violent commentary from Shroyer, such as when he took issue with a reporter for liberal outlet Raw Story who was critical of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA). During the October 8 broadcast, Shroyer asked, directing his comment at the reporter, “What if some radical conservative showed up to your house and shot you in the leg, you little punk ass bitch?”

    Anti-Semitism also has a home on War Room’s Facebook page. During a video hawking Infowars products posted on October 8, Jones falsely claimed that philanthropist George Soros, who is Jewish, is a “Nazi collaborator piece of crap” who killed “a bunch of innocent Europeans,” and added, “Fuck you, Soros.” The false claim that Soros collaborated with the Nazis is an anti-Semitic smear used frequently to attack him.

    During another Infowars commercial that has broadcast on the War Room Facebook page, Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson mocked people who have autism, claiming that buying Infowars products will “trigger the verified libtards on Twitter” and cause an “autistic screeching fit.”

    The Washington Post reported on November 5 that NewsWars, another page affiliated with Jones, was also untouched by Facebook’s earlier enforcement action. In an interview, Jones “acknowledged that his social media staff sometimes suggests content to the NewsWars Facebook page.” The article noted:

    The continuing popularity of Jones’s videos on Facebook, including those focusing on the migrant caravan in Mexico and claims that pipe bombs sent to prominent Democrats were hoaxes, also highlights Silicon Valley’s struggle to crack down on hate speech even in cases when tech companies have publicly singled out perpetrators for punishment.

  • “Guns Down at the Polls” to provide resource to report firearm-related intimidation at polling sites on Election Day

    Voters can text “GUNSDOWN” to 91990 to report instances of voter intimidation

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A group called Guns Down America is providing a voter resource that will allow people to report voter intimidation, including intimidation carried out with firearms, occurring at polling sites on Election Day.

    The project comes after a wave of attempted bombings of prominent liberals, including former President Barack Obama, and a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue in the weeks before the 2018 midterm elections. The project’s partners include Media Matters, the Center for American Progress, and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, among others. It was first launched in 2016 following reports that several far-right and white supremacist groups were encouraging their followers to bring guns to polling locations.

    Voters who observe intimidation at polling sites are encouraged to text “GUNSDOWN” to 91990. The reports will then be forwarded to the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, which can take further action.

    As the project’s website explains, “It’s critical that we make sure all voters can access the polling places without the threat of intimidation. Voter intimidation is any concerted effort to coerce the voting behavior of a group of voters and it’s a federal crime. Intimidating someone with a firearm at a polling place is a federal crime.”

    Although it may come as a surprise, there is no federal law prohibiting the presence of firearms at polling sites. Instead, regulation is left to the states, and many do allow guns to be carried.

    There has already been a firearm-related intimidation incident at a polling site in Georgia this election season. WBTV reported that a man was arrested in Charlotte after he threatened a GOP campaign worker at an early voting location:

    Officials say when officers arrived on the scene, a black man said he was working at the voting location when he saw the armed man in the parking lot with a camera taking pictures or recording the polling location.

    Police say the armed man approached the campaign worker - a retired detective - and began hurling racial slurs, according to a report from CMPD.

    The report stated the campaign worker said the armed man threatened to assault him before lifting his shirt and displaying a handgun which was in a holster on his belt.

    Police reportedly found a BB gun when the suspect was arrested. An image taken during the incident shows that the assailant was wearing a “Punisher” T-shirt, referring to a comic book series that has been co-opted by the alt right:

    Disturbingly, National Rifle Association spokesperson Dana Loesch recently suggested that NRA supporters may need to bring guns to polling locations in order to fend off attacks from “anti-gun progressives.” During the October 23 broadcast of her NRATV show Relentless, Loesch attacked the Guns Down at the Polls project and falsely claimed that its goal is “intimidating law-abiding gun owners legally carrying their firearms by potentially sending the police after people who are doing nothing more than exercising their constitutionally protected rights.” Loesch then called the project “a moderate, soft form of swatting,” a reference to an intimidation tactic involving false 911 calls.

    Loesch went on to say, “If God forbid some unhinged maniac with an illegally possessed firearm were to show up at a polling location, something tells me a lot of people would be grateful that one of those law-abiding gun owners was there.”

    Leading up to the election, a major conservative messaging effort has argued -- without evidence -- that mobs of Democrats are planning to kill conservatives. The NRA has also been involved in this effort, with its media operation NRATV misrepresenting peaceful protests against the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court as violent.

    Permissive laws that allow firearms -- often including assault weapons -- to be openly carried in public have emboldened the far right to bring firearms to events where people are exercising their First Amendment rights. There were multiple instances of counterprotesters bringing firearms to the nationwide March for Our Lives gun safety rallies early in 2018. After a May school shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas, an armed man showed up outside the school to protest gun rights. And in October, the Portland Police Bureau acknowledged that, as The Portland Mercury reported, “Members of Patriot Prayer, a group of right-wing provocateurs from Vancouver, brought a cache of loaded firearms to the top of a parking garage in downtown Portland prior to the group's August 4th protest.”

    Guns Down at the Polls aims to counter people who think they can intimidate others and stop them from exercising their voting rights.