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Zachary Pleat

Author ››› Zachary Pleat
  • Fox & Friends reported a detail from a 2015 NSA shooting as if it happened today

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox & Friends mistakenly reported that “two men dressed up as women” were involved in an incident this morning at the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters in Fort Meade, MD -- but that detail was actually from a similar incident in March 2015.

    Media outlets reported that one person was injured in a shooting that took place at a security vehicle entry gate at the NSA headquarters on February 14. NSA issued a statement, saying that “NSA police and local law enforcement are addressing” the incident” and that “the situation is under control.”

    Fox News first mentioned the incident at 8:01 a.m., with Fox & Friends First co-host Jillian Mele reporting: “At least three people have reportedly been shot at NSA headquarters. … There are reports claiming that two men dressed up as women tried to drive through the gate with a stolen SUV. That’s when the shots were fired.”

    But these details were not reported in any other national outlet's coverage.

    Fox & Friends appeared to have taken details from a 2015 incident at NSA headquarters and reported it as a fact in today’s incident. A FOX 5 report on today’s incident explains: “In 2015, two men dressed as women tried to ram a stolen car through the gate of the NSA headquarters at Fort Meade. One of the two was killed when guards opened fire and the other was injured.”

    Later, at 8:39 a.m., Mele correctly stated that “a very similar incident happened at the NSA headquarters back in 2015, when two men dressed as women tried to ram the gate at the main entrance.” But Mele did not mention that she incorrectly attributed that detail from the 2015 incident in her first report about today’s shooting, and Fox & Friends never gave a correction to its initial report.

    Far-right website Zero Hedge, which has a history of pushing conspiracy theories, also incorrectly reported this detail several minutes after Mele did, embedding a now-deleted tweet from an account @BreakingNewzman which stated: “DEVELOPING - Two men dressed as women who attempted to enter a gate at the NSA's campus at Fort Meade, MD in a stolen Ford Escape this morning were shot by a security guard, Bloomberg reports.” Conspiracy theory website Infowars editor Paul Joseph Watson tweeted the Zero Hedge article, adding: “Male intruders dressed as women shot while trying to ram NSA compound. One dead.”

  • Fox News downplays report that White House knew about domestic abuse allegations against top Trump aide Rob Porter

    Fox news mentioned the report hours after other cable networks

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News waited eight hours on February 9 before mentioning a new report that the Trump White House first learned a year ago that “staff secretary Rob Porter’s ex-wives were prepared to make damaging accusations about him that could threaten his security clearance.” In contrast, CNN and MSNBC reported on the development multiple times, beginning with their early morning shows.

    Porter resigned from his position in the White House on February 7 as media organizations began detailing reports of years of domestic abuse, including physical violence, from his two ex-wives, Colbie Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby, and a former girlfriend. After the Daily Mail first reported the story earlier this week, CNN interviewed both Holderness and Willoughby, who described years of physical and emotional abuse in their respective marriages over a 10-year period, including Porter punching and choking them and throwing fits of rage.

    The Trump White House initially defended Porter. Chief of staff John Kelly told the Daily Mail, “Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor, and I can't say enough good things about him. He is a friend, a confidante and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.” Press secretary Sarah Sanders likewise told the Daily Mail, "I have worked directly with Rob Porter nearly every day for the last year and the person I know is someone of the highest integrity and exemplary character." As CBS News’ timeline showed, the administration only began backing away from Porter after the Daily Mail posted an article on February 7 containing an image of one of Porter’s wives with a black eye. On the night of February 8, The Washington Post reported new information about when the White House first learned about Porter’s abusive pattern:

    White House Counsel Donald McGahn knew one year ago that staff secretary Rob Porter’s ex-wives were prepared to make damaging accusations about him that could threaten his security clearance but allowed him to serve as an influential gatekeeper and aide to President Trump without investigating the accusations, according to people familiar with the matter.

    [...]

    In January 2017, when McGahn learned of the allegations, he wanted Porter to stay put because he saw the Harvard Law-trained Capitol Hill veteran as a steadying, professional voice in the White House, according to people familiar with the matter. His view didn’t change in June when the FBI flagged some of its findings to the White House. Nor did he act in September when he learned that the domestic violence claims were delaying Porter’s security clearance, or in November when Porter’s former girlfriend contacted him about the allegations, according to these people.

    A White House spokesman said that McGahn — who had access to the FBI’s background investigation file conducted for Porter’s security clearance — and Kelly feel misled by Porter, saying he downplayed his ex-wives’ accusations in conversations with them.

    In a late phone call Thursday, McGahn said Porter did not tell him one year ago that his ex-wives accused him of domestic violence.

    A White House official said McGahn was only aware that ex-wives were prepared to make damaging accusations about him but did not ask what the accusations were because Porter said they were not true.

    A Media Matters search of the SnapStream video database found that Fox News ignored this new development all morning, instead replaying the White House’s defense from yesterday of the way the administration handled the initial reporting about Porter. In a desperate attempt to defend the Trump administration, Fox even turned to former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski -- who himself was charged with battery of a female reporter during the 2016 election cycle -- for comment. In contrast, CNN and MSNBC both reported the new information from the Post multiple times, beginning during the 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. hours, respectively, and continuing through the morning. Fox’s Outnumbered finally mentioned the Post story during the 12 p.m. hour.

    When the media started reporting on the story and Porter’s subsequent resignation on February 7, Fox was late in covering the news and “discussed [it] a handful of times on-air.” Its prime-time shows that evening failed to mention Porter, and the next morning Fox & Friends also completely ignored the story.

    Fox has demonstrated a persistent pattern of delaying stories that reflect poorly on the Trump administration and going easy on Trump officials when the coverage finally happens. The network was similarly late to cover the Trump administration’s refusal to enact election-related sanctions against Russia, and when the channel finally did report that news, it devoted a paltry nine minutes and change to the story over a nine-day period while CNN and MSNBC covered it for a combined total of more than three hours.

  • The Trump administration refused to enact election-related sanctions on Russia. Fox News barely covered it.

    Fox spent under 10 minutes covering Russia sanctions while CNN and MSNBC devoted over three hours to it

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT & ROB SAVILLO

    Over the course of nine days, Fox News devoted less than 10 minutes to the news that President Donald Trump’s administration refused to enact sanctions on Russia, which Congress mandated last year with overwhelming bipartisan support in response to Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections. In contrast, CNN and MSNBC gave this development significant coverage, with CNN devoting nearly two hours and MSNBC covering it for well over an hour during the same time period.

    In July 2017, Congress passed the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), with bipartisan, veto-proof support. The bill mandated “new measures targeting key Russian officials in retaliation for that country’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.” Though Trump signed the bill into law, he was vocal in opposing it and called it “seriously flawed.”

    January 29 was the deadline for the Treasury Department to issue sanctions against entities doing business with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors. On that day, however, the Trump administration announced it would not implement the sanctions, with a State Department official claiming that “the legislation is, in fact, serving as a deterrent.”

    A Media Matters analysis of cable news coverage from January 29, when the administration announced it would not impose the sanctions, through February 6 revealed that CNN devoted an hour and 47 minutes to the news, MSNBC covered it for an hour and 24 minutes, and Fox spent a paltry nine minutes and change on the news:


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The Treasury Department did publish a list of senior Russian political figures and wealthy oligarchs just before the deadline, which CAATSA mandated, but “underlined that those named aren’t being targeted for new sanctions.” After questioning by BuzzFeed News, a Treasury official admitted that the list “was derived from Forbes’ ranking of the ‘200 richest businessmen in Russia 2017.’” Although Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told the Senate banking committee on January 30 that “there will be sanctions that come out of this report,” the Trump administration faced congressional criticism for its refusal to enact sanctions by the deadline.

    Fox’s failure to adequately cover the Trump administration’s refusal to hold Russia responsible for its interference in the 2016 election comes amid a growing campaign by Fox News figures to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign worked with Russia during the election.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched closed captioning in the video database service SnapStream for discussion of the Trump administration's refusal to enforce sanctions on Russia between January 29 and February 6, 2018. We searched for combinations of the following terms within the same 20-second clip: "Russia," "Trump," "administration," "president," "White House," "sanction," "sanctions," "oligarch," "oligarchs," "oligarchy," "list," or "treasury."

    We included all-day original programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC between 4 a.m. and midnight each day. We did not include reruns of weekday programming that aired on weekends or early in the morning.

    We timed any segment where the topic of discussion was the administration's refusal to enforce sanctions. We also included segments where there was “significant discussion” of sanctions. We defined “significant discussion” as two or more speakers in the same segment discussing sanctions with one another. In segments where multiple topics were discussed, we only timed the portion of discussion relevant to sanctions. We also timed teasers for upcoming segments on the sanctions and “passing mentions” about the sanctions during segments on other topics. We defined “passing mentions” as one speaker mentioning sanctions and no other speakers in the segment engaging in discussion from the comment.

  • Fox & Friends blames Medicaid expansion and legalized marijuana for making the opioid crisis worse

    Research has shown marijuana has saved lives during this crisis, which began before Medicaid expansion took effect

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    A Fox & Friends segment citing President Donald Trump’s State of the Union remarks that his administration will fight the deadly opioid crisis ignored that the president has yet to actually take any action, and instead misleadingly blamed the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion and states’ legalization of marijuana for making the opioid crisis worse.

    Trump addressed the opioid crisis that is killing tens of thousands of Americans annually for less than a minute in his January 30 State of the Union address, saying that his administration “is committed to fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in need.” On the February 1 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Dr. Kevin Sabet, who worked on drug policy in the Obama White House, gave credit to Trump’s opioid commission for putting out “a very good report” and put the onus on Congress to fund its recommendations, saying: “We need funding for it, for the president's opioid commission, which was a bipartisan commission. Put out a very good report. Now we need to see Congress and the administration fund those recommendations.”

    But as CBS News explained after Trump’s address, the administration has not requested the Congress for funds to combat the crisis:

    Since October, the White House has dithered on asking Congress for funding to combat the epidemic.

    In the 97 days since the president declared the crisis a public health emergency, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders has been unable to specify how much money the White House would request for funding. She has also not said when they would be submitting a funding request to Congress.

    After Mr. Trump declared the crisis a public health emergency in October -- a declaration that came with a laundry list of action items that have yet to be executed -- he has done little to bolster the paltry $57,000 available in the public health emergency fund. The president dedicated his third quarter salary of roughly $100,000 to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to combat the crisis. But that's pocket change compared to the what the Council of Economic Advisers projected as the cost of the epidemic in 2015 alone: $504 billion dollars.

    [...]

    "The emergency declaration has accomplished little because there's no funding behind it," Opioid Commission member and former congressman Patrick Kennedy told CNN last week. "You can't expect to stem the tide of a public health crisis that is claiming over 64,000 lives per year without putting your money where your mouth is."

    A day after Trump’s address, some Democratic senators sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office asking it to investigate Trump’s lack of action after he declared “a public health emergency over the opioid crisis in October.”

    But in its February 1 segment on the opioid crisis, Fox & Friends didn’t focus on Trump administration’s failure to take concrete steps to address the issue. Instead co-host Ainsley Earhardt opened the segment by blaming the Affordable Care Act’s 2014 Medicaid expansion for making the crisis worse, citing a Republican report that claimed Medicaid and its expansion contributed to prescription pill fraud.

    A January 17 Vox article that examined evidence behind the Republican claim that Medicaid expansion made the opioid crisis worse soundly debunked the theory. As Vox senior reporter German Lopez summed up:

    This claim runs into a basic problem: the concept of time. Medicaid didn’t expand under Obamacare until 2014 — well after opioid overdose deaths started rising (in the late 1990s), after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2011 declared the crisis an epidemic, and as the crisis became more about illicit opioids, such as heroin and fentanyl, rather than conventional opioid painkillers.

    Additionally Lopez noted that Medicaid can play a major part in addressing the opioid epidemic by covering addiction treatment, a point Kaiser Family Foundation has also made.

    Toward the end of the Fox segment, Dr. Sabet also blamed increasing legalization of marijuana for part of the opioid crisis:

    DR. KEVIN SABET: If we continue to do things like legalize marijuana and these other very harmful policies, we're going to make the opioid crisis much worse. This is an addiction crisis.

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Really? You hear that, California?

    SABET: And many other states. This is an addiction crisis. Not just an opioid crisis.

    Sabet has a history of making anti-marijuana claims. And recent research shows that his claim that legalized marijuana makes the opioid crisis worse is simply wrong.

    A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), concluded “medical cannabis laws are associated with significantly lower state-level opioid mortality rates.” In March 2017, NBC News reported on a study which found that in states that allow legal medical marijuana use, “hospitalization rates for opioid painkiller dependence and abuse dropped on average 23 percent,” compared to an average of a 13 percent drop. And in October 2017, The Washington Post reported on a study which found that recreational marijuana legalization in Colorado led to a “reversal” of opiate overdose deaths. According to the study’s authors, “opioid-related deaths decreased more than 6% in the following 2 years” after Colorado legalized recreational marijuana sale and use.

    The Trump administration has made a recent policy move to discourage legalized marijuana from growing as a business. On January 4, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he’s rescinding federal guidelines that limited federal prosecutions for marijuana sales in states where it’s legal, which led to concerns that the Department of Justice may prosecute more people for marijuana crimes.

  • Fox News virtually ignored Trump refusal to enact election-related Russia sanctions

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News virtually ignored the Trump administration’s refusal to enact sanctions on Russia for its 2016 election interference; by contrast, CNN and MSNBC each covered the story on nearly every one of their shows.

    In July 2017, Congress passed the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) with bipartisan, veto-proof support. The bill mandated “new measures targeting key Russian officials in retaliation for that country’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.” Though Trump signed the bill into law, he was vocal in opposing it and called it “seriously flawed.”

    The deadline for the Treasury Department to issue sanctions against entities doing business with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors was January 29. But the Trump administration announced that it will not be implementing any new sanctions, claiming that “the legislation is, in fact, serving as a deterrent.” But Washington Post senior reporter Aaron Blake noted the problems with that explanation:

    There are a few problems with this.

    The first is that the legislation was meant as a punishment, not a deterrent. The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act explicitly says at the top that it is “to provide congressional review and to counter aggression by the Governments of Iran, the Russian Federation, and North Korea, and for other purposes.” The law says it's about “countering” something, rather than preventing something.

    The second problem is that, mere hours before the State Department issued this statement ahead of the deadline for imposing sanctions, CIA Director Mike Pompeo suggested that what Russia was being punished for is likely to repeat itself in the 2018 midterm elections.

    The Treasury Department did publish a list of senior Russian political figures and wealthy oligarchs, which was also required by CAATSA, but “underlined that those named aren’t being targeted for new sanctions.” After questioning by BuzzFeed News, a Treasury official admitted that the list “was derived from Forbes’ ranking of the ‘200 richest businessmen in Russia 2017.’” According to Bloomberg, Putin reacted to the report by “joking that it was ‘offensive’ that he wasn’t included,” and saying that “Russia will ‘refrain for the moment’ from implementing serious retaliatory measures it has prepared.”

    A Media Matters search of SnapStream found that Fox News only mentioned the story twice between 6:00 am and 5:00 pm on January 30. Fox & Friends, which Trump regularly live tweets and praises, didn’t mention the story at all. By contrast, CNN and MSNBC mentioned the Trump administration’s refusal to enact sanctions on nearly every program throughout the day. Fox’s first mention of the story was near the end of the 11:00 am hour, more than five hours after CNN and MSNBC first mentioned it.

    Fox’s failure to adequately cover the Trump administration’s refusal to hold Russia responsible for its interference in the 2016 election comes amid a growing campaign by Fox News figures to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign worked with Russia.

  • The Trump administration’s 2017 war on the press, by the numbers

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump and his administration have waged an unprecedented war on the media since he took office. Here’s a look at some numbers that exemplify the conflicts throughout 2017:

    Over 400: number of times Trump and his administration have attacked the press.

    Over 20: number of current and former Trump administration officials who have publicly attacked the press.

    166: number of times Trump has used the phrase “fake news,” “fakenews,” or “fake media” on Twitter since his inauguration.

    At least 49: number of times Trump attacked CNN verbally or on Twitter. Trump has lashed out at CNN on Twitter and during a wide variety of public events, including, but not limited to, a roundtable discussion during Black History Month, a speech at the Department of Energy, a rally in Alabama, a speech in Pennsylvania that was meant to tout his tax plan, during a visit to Poland, and in a multitude of interviews on Fox News and conservative talk radio.

    At least 38: number of times Trump attacked The New York Times verbally or on Twitter. Most of Trump’s attacks against The New York Times include him calling the paper “failing,” but Trump has also said to Breitbart News that the Times was “so evil and so bad,” and accused the paper of promoting its “sick agenda over National Security.”

    At least 15: number of leaders or state media outlets in authoritarian countries that have used Trump’s “fake news” denunciation against their critics, according to Politico.

    At least 190: number of insults Trump tweeted at “‘mainstream’ media” outlets according to The New York Times.

    28: number of TV interviews the president has done since his inauguration, according to a Media Matters count.

    20: number of Trump’s televised interviews that aired on Fox News or Fox Business since his inauguration as reported by The Associated Press.

    8: number of Trump’s televised interviews that aired on news channels other than Fox News or Fox Business since his inauguration. This includes two interviews on The Christian Broadcasting Network, an interview with Mike Huckabee on Trinity Broadcasting Network, and an interview with Sharyl Attkisson on Sinclair. The other interviews were on ABC, CBS, and NBC.

    95: number of times Trump has either tweeted at the program Fox & Friends or retweeted the show’s tweets since his inauguration.

    21: number of times Trump has either tweeted about Fox News host Sean Hannity or his program since his inauguration.

    Methodology:

    Media Matters used Factba.se, Trump Twitter Archive and Media Matters’ tracker of the Trump administration’s war on the press for tallies throughout this piece.

  • On Breitbart radio, Kris Kobach repeats debunked claims about New Hampshire voter fraud

    Kobach is a leader of Trump's voter suppression commission and a paid Breitbart columnist

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT & KATIE SULLIVAN

    On Breitbart News Daily, Kris Kobach, the vice chairman of the Trump administration’s commission investigating baseless claims of rampant voter fraud, estimated that “4,000 people who are from out of state and never actually moved to New Hampshire … voted there” in the 2016 election using out-of-state driver’s licenses. In fact, New Hampshire’s voter ID law permits out-of-state driver’s licenses to be used as proof of identity when registering to vote, an option that college students often exercise. And after President Donald Trump and other conservatives raised earlier claims of voter fraud in New Hampshire over the use of out-of-state licenses to vote, New Hampshire Public Radio matched many of the out-of-state license users to college towns.

    Kobach, who has a history of extremism, ties to white supremacists, and promotion of misinformation on immigration and voting issues, has previously made bizarre claims about voter fraud, voter intimidation, and undocumented immigrants voting. In one instance, he claimed that a dead man had voted in 2006 who was later found to in fact be alive, and he said in another interview that “We may never know” whether Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote in 2016.

    From the December 8 edition of SiriusXM Patriot's Breitbart News Daily:

    STEPHEN BANNON (HOST): Just real briefly, on your voter integrity commission, you had a stunning revelation up in New Hampshire. Can you just get people up to speed on where you stand right now, and maybe speak a minute or two about New Hampshire?

    KRIS KOBACH: Yeah, sure. So New Hampshire is one of those states that has same-day voter registration, which is something I think is a disaster because if you allow people to walk in on the day of election and say here I am, here's my name, take my word for it, and I'm not -- and also take my word for the fact that I just moved to your state. It leads to all kinds of problems. New Hampshire found on Election Day this past November that 5,300 people -- well actually, over 6,000 people, six and a half thousand -- used an out-of-state driver's license as their ID on that day. Then they went back and checked almost a year later in September, this past September, and found that 5,300 of those people still have not established New Hampshire residence. They had not gone ahead and gotten a New Hampshire license, they had registered any vehicle in New Hampshire. And it appeared that these individuals are probably not residing in New Hampshire. That's a really -- now it's theoretically possible that some of them might be out-of-state students who do not own a vehicle, and through some of the vagaries of New Hampshire law, it might qualify as a domicile in New Hampshire eligible to vote. But even if you say, let's knock off another 1,000. Let's say it's only 4,000 people who are from out of state and never actually moved to New Hampshire, yet voted there, that's extraordinary because in the Electoral College contest, New Hampshire went to Clinton by a 2,700 vote margin. The New Hampshire U.S. senator, [Maggie] Hassan, beat the Republican, [Kelly] Ayotte, by just over 1,000 votes. And so you're talking about the margin of victory being lower, less than the number of likely individuals who never actually moved to New Hampshire, but voted on Election Day using an out-of-state driver's license.

  • "Perfectly legitimate": How right-wing media figures tried to play defense for Roy Moore

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & ZACHARY PLEAT

    After The Washington Post published a report alleging that Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore had initiated sexual encounters with a then-14-year-old girl in 1979, when Moore was 32, several right-wing media figures jumped to his defense, attacking the accuser, asserting that “Roy Moore Did Nothing Wrong,” and demanding that media cover the supposed misdeeds of others instead.