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  • Don’t believe right-wing media when they say the Green New Deal would cost $93 trillion

    Politico calls the analysis "bogus," and even its lead author won't defend it

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Right-wing media outlets have repeatedly asserted that the Green New Deal would come with the absurd price tag of "$93 trillion" or "$94 trillion," uncritically repeating claims from a back-of-the-envelope, deeply flawed analysis produced by the American Action Forum, a conservative think tank. Politico recently determined that the $93 trillion figure was "bogus," and quoted the lead author of the AAF analysis, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, admitting that he had no idea how much it would cost to implement the Green New Deal.

    American Action Forum has ties to the fossil fuel industry

    The American Action Forum, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and its 501(c)(4) “sister organization,” the American Action Network (AAN), have been funded by a who’s who of the polluter syndicate.

    AAN has received at least $250,000 from the American Petroleum Institute, a trade association for the oil industry that has donated to groups in the Koch network. And AAN has received at least $35,000 from the American Natural Gas Alliance, a pro-fracking gas industry trade group. Dow Chemical has given at least $250,000. AAN has also been funded by other Koch-connected groups such as Americans for Job Security, Donors Trust, and the Wellspring Committee. It's gotten money from Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS too. AAN has in turn donated millions to AAF.

    Though some information about its funding has been made public, AAN has generally refused to disclose its donors. In 2014, MSNBC called AAN a "dark money power player," noting that it had been running numerous attack ads against Democratic candidates. noted that same year that AAN has spent tens of millions of dollars supporting Republican candidates. In 2018, a watchdog group filed suit against AAN for violating campaign finance laws and abusing its nonprofit status.

    AAF's Green New Deal cost analysis is problematic from top to bottom

    Considering the think tank’s connections to the fossil fuel industry, it’s not surprising that the American Action Forum’s report found the Green New Deal untenable. What is surprising is how flippant Holtz-Eakin, president of AAF and former head of the Congressional Budget Office, was about the rigor of the analysis he co-authored. When challenged about the accuracy of the report’s claim that the Green New Deal would cost some $93 trillion over 10 years, Holtz-Eakin told Politico, “Is it billions or trillions? Any precision past that is illusory.”

    The Green New Deal resolution introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) on February 7 is just a broad, 14-page outline of goals with no policy specifics, so determining a price tag was a fanciful exercise. AAF's claims of a $92.9 trillion total cost, or $653,000 per household, have no basis in reality. As Politico reporter Zack Colman put it:

    When they set out to put a price tag on the Green New Deal last month, Holtz-Eakin and his associates had no real policy or plan to evaluate, so they made one up to perform back-of-the-envelope calculations.

    And the AAF study does not distinguish between government and private-sector spending, nor does it attempt to quantify the benefits of reducing pollution or other policies. For example, Stanford University civil and environmental engineering professor Mark Jacobson estimated that eliminating the electricity sector’s carbon emissions would avoid $265 billion in annual U.S. damages beginning in 2050.

    Colman also pointed out that more than $80 trillion of the alleged $93 trillion total cost would come from implementing a jobs guarantee and universal health care -- policy ideas that have no direct relation to greening the economy, even though they are in the Green New Deal resolution.

    Politico declared that the $93 trillion figure is "bogus" -- or, in an earlier version of the article published behind a firewall, "essentially vapor."

    The fact-checking project PolitiFact also found the $93 trillion figure to be untrustworthy, calling it "only about as strong as a clothespin in high wind." It noted that "the [AAF] report itself is full of assumptions, qualifiers and caveats," and when a fact-checker reached out to Holtz-Eakin, the AAF president "made it clear to us that the report aims to provide very rough estimates on a plan that’s only partially developed." PolitiFact rated as "false" this claim from Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA): "At $93 trillion, the Green New Deal would cost more than the entire recorded spending of the U.S. since the Constitution went into effect in 1789."

    Other journalists have also pointed out major problems with the AAF analysis. Paul Blest at Splinter noted that AAF used cost estimates for a universal jobs program ("$6.8 trillion to $44.6 trillion") and universal health care ("$36 trillion") that are vastly higher than estimates produced by other think tanks. AAF also failed to account for how much money programs like universal health care could save. According to Blest:

    [AAF's] ballpark estimate on a federal jobs guarantee has a range of $38 trillion. The centrist Brookings Institution’s estimate last year, by the way, put the high end on a job guarantee at $543 billion a year, or $5.4 trillion over 10 years.

    On Medicare for All, too, the AAF’s number is substantially higher than previous estimates. The libertarian Mercatus Center’s estimate set out to prove last year that Medicare for All would bankrupt the country, and inadvertently found that Medicare for All would eventually save about $2 trillion in national health expenditures. Even Mercatus, however, put the cost of Medicare for All at $32.6 trillion over 10 years.

    The ClimateDenierRoundup column at Daily Kos pointed out another problem with AAF's jobs-program estimates:

    The jobs price tag is wrong because it’s double counting: many of those jobs would be created by the other parts of the GND. Improving energy efficiency and building a clean energy economy will create a lot of jobs, which are counted in the GND’s green policy price tag tally. But then AAF simply counts those jobs again in the jobs guarantee portion, as though none of those promised jobs would be used to put the green in the Green New Deal.

    Green New Deal sponsor Markey called out major flaws in the report too, starting with the basic premise: "Putting a price on a resolution of principles, not policies, is just Big Oil misinformation." Markey pointed out that AAF calculated the cost of "policies that aren't even in the resolution," such as eliminating air travel:

    Markey also noted that AAF did not provide any support for its cost estimate for a low-carbon electricity grid.

    As The New York Times recently put it, "For now it’s impossible to pin down dollar figures on the plan." agreed, writing that "the experts we spoke to said it’s not possible to put a specific price tag on the Green New Deal."

    Perhaps most egregiously, AAF’s analysis of the Green New Deal completely ignored the enormous cost of not fighting climate change. Just last year, climate disasters and extreme weather events cost the U.S. an estimated $91 billion. According to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a 1.5 C rise in the global average temperature would cost $54 trillion. Things only get more expensive (and catastrophic) from there. According to Axios:

    • You think $54 trillion is a lot? That number comes from research that also says that a 2.0°C increase will cause $69 trillion of damage, and a 3.7°C increase will cause a stunning $551 trillion in damage.
    • $551 trillion is more than all the wealth currently existing in the world, which gives an indication of just how much richer humanity could become if we don't first destroy our planet.

    Current policies in place around the world have us on track for about 3.3 C of warming by 2100 if we don't dramatically change course.

    AAF's analysis also ignored the significant economic benefits that would come from taking addressing climate change. "Bold climate action could deliver at least US$26 trillion in economic benefits through to 2030, compared with business-as-usual," according to a recent report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.

    Fox News and other right-wing outlets have been hyping the $93 trillion figure

    Right-wing media have been heavily citing the AAF report since its release on February 25 -- and they have often used the $93 trillion figure without noting that it's at the top end of a range AAF provided. Fox News has been particularly eager to amplify the huge estimate. Hosts and guests have cited price tags between $91 trillion and $94 trillion on Fox News shows including Fox & Friends, The Greg Gutfeld Show, and Watters’ World, and on Fox Business Network shows including Varney & Co., Trish Regan Primetime, Making Money with Charles Payne, and Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo. Sean Hannity has cited the AAF report at least three times on his Fox News show. He typified Fox's incurious reporting on AAF’s analysis during the March 5 episode of Hannity:

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): They are going to eliminate fossil fuels, gas, and oil. They're going to destroy the lifeblood of our economy. They're going to get rid of planes, mandate you rebuild your home. Who's paying for that? The estimates now are as high as $94 trillion in 10 years --that's their proposal.

    Many other right-wing media outlets have also uncritically amplified AAF's enormous estimate, including The Daily Caller, The Daily Wire, and the Washington Free Beacon

    Some Republican politicians such as Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso have also latched onto the $93 trillion estimate and publicized it through mainstream and right-wing media. Barrasso issued a press release with the figure, wrote an opinion piece about it for USA Today, and made an appearance on Fox News to promote it. During Barrasso’s interview on Fox's America's Newsroom, co-host Sandra Smith falsely claimed that “the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office” was behind the $93 trillion figure and Barrasso failed to correct her error. (Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt also falsely credited the report to the CBO.) From the February 28 episode of America’s Newsroom:

    SANDRA SMITH (HOST): The Green New Deal, all the rage on the left. But a new study finds that it comes with a staggering price tag: the plan estimated to cost is as much as $93 trillion. That breaks down to $600,000 per household. Those are some big numbers. Joining us now, Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming who chairs the Committee on the Environment and Public Works. Been hearing you talk a lot about this, sir, and this price tag. It is a lofty one. This is the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that did a study on this and came up with those numbers: $93 trillion, $600,000 per household. What do you think?

    SEN. JOHN BARRASSO: Well, this Green New Deal is a big green bomb that will blow a hole in our strong economy. It will destroy the energy independence we now have from foreign countries. It will destroy what we’ve been doing to actually lower emissions. The cost to families -- electricity alone would go up by about $3,600 per family, per year. This is something, Sandra, that we cannot as a nation afford. The economy can't afford it. Our nation can’t survive it.

    Some Fox News personalities and Republican politicians, including President Donald Trump, have cited an even larger unsubstantiated figure for Green New Deal costs: $100 trillion. As Dave Anderson recently reported for the Energy and Policy Institute, that number originated from a flippant Twitter thread by a Manhattan Institute senior fellow. The Manhattan Institute has been funded by ExxonMobil, and the chair of its board is also the CEO of a hedge fund that is the top shareholder in Peabody Energy, a major coal company. The $100 trillion figure was mentioned by Fox host Charles Payne during an interview with EPA chief Andrew Wheeler on March 4 on Your World with Neil Cavuto, and it was also cited on other Fox programs and right-wing sites like Townhall.

    Right-wing echo chamber amplifies misinformation by design

    The spread of the $93 trillion figure is a textbook example of how the right-wing media sphere disseminates misinformation to stymie climate action (and the spread of the $100 trillion figure too, for that matter). Conservative media outlets have been freaking out about the Green New Deal since even before the resolution was unveiled. AAF rushed out a quickie estimate of its potential costs that even its lead author won't robustly defend. Surely the think tank knew that its ready-made, sky-high number would be quickly picked up and regurgitated by conservative commentators, writers, and politicians -- and it was. It is not likely to matter that AAF's report has been called out as “bogus” and poked full of holes. You can expect right-wing media to keep on promoting it.

  • Fox News tried to quietly pull Jeanine Pirro's show from its weekly Saturday night slot. It didn’t work.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On March 16, Fox News pulled Jeanine Pirro's Justice with Judge Jeanine from its weekly Saturday night slot after a week of outrage over her anti-Muslim rant against a sitting congresswoman. The next morning, President Donald Trump lashed out in a series of tweets, demanding Fox “Bring back @JudgeJeanine Pirro” and “fight for our Country.” The entire sequence of events highlights an important reality for advertisers: Fox News is bad for business.

    During her March 9 show, Pirro suggested that Rep. Ilhan Omar's (D-MN) hijab was "indicative of her adherence to sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution.” This outright bigotry prompted widespread outrage. A day later, Fox finally addressed it, saying that "we strongly condemn" Pirro's remarks and that the network "addressed the matter with her directly." Fox's statement was accompanied by a separate statement from Pirro in which she neither apologized nor showed any remorse for what she said.

    Fox replaced Pirro’s show with a documentary rerun on March 16. Jesse Watters, whose show airs before Pirro's, did not mention her at all; normally he notes that her show follows his. The president appeared to be upset at missing one of his favorite TV programs, tweeting the next morning demands that “Fox must stay strong and fight back with vigor” and “Keep fighting for Tucker, and fight hard for @JudgeJeanine.”

    There are four fundamental truths at play here. First, Fox News is under a lot of pressure following advertiser losses as a result of the network's malfeasance and bigotry. Second, Fox News is a propaganda machine for the president, with the two entities now essentially merged. Third, Pirro's show (and, for that matter, Tucker Carlson’s) is fundamentally bigoted to its core; she can never meaningfully distance herself from anti-Muslim statements since she's been spewing rhetoric like this for years. And fourth, the Fox News audience wants the bigoted and anti-Muslim statements. They've been fed this for years, and now expect no less. That's why you've seen people like Sebastian Gorka loudly defend Pirro this week.

    In terms of any discipline for Pirro, Fox News kept mum for several days on the matter; CNN's Brian Stelter is now reporting, per one source, that Pirro has been suspended for two weeks. But Fox executives' instinctive secrecy just shows how afraid they are of their network’s audience: If Fox News were a real news organization, then at a minimum it would say on air that Pirro's remarks were unacceptable and communicate what it is doing to its audience.

    Instead of doing any of that, Fox News wants to send one message to its hard-right audience and an entirely different message to its advertisers. They are welcome to try, but the Fox audience will never abet any meaningful move away from bigotry, and the rest of the public (and advertisers) don't have to play along. These are the tactics of a propaganda outlet, not a news organization.

    Update (3/17/19): Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz noted Pirro's absense on his March 17 show, but did not confirm the suspension. According to Kurtz, "Without some public explanation of why the show was pulled, It certainly looks like a suspension."

    This post has been adapted from Media Matters' weekly email. You can subscribe here.
  • NRA and conservative media run with inaccurate report to try to make pro-gun point about the New Zealand mosque shootings

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    National Rifle Association spokesperson Dana Loesch and several members of conservative media used an early news report -- that now appears to be erroneous -- to repeat a favorite NRA talking point, claiming that the mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand were stopped by a “good guy” with a gun. While the NRA and Loesch have previously said that people shouldn’t debate gun policy in the immediate aftermath of high-profile shooting incidents, they set that rule aside in this instance to advance their pro-gun agenda.

    A mass shooting targeting two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, left 49 dead on March 15. The gunman was reportedly inspired by white nationalism; before the shooting, he posted links to a manifesto that praised other mass shooters and listed white supremacists as his heroes. The gunman was charged with murder over the mosque attacks, which were livestreamed on his Facebook account.

    An initial article reported that during the attack on the second mosque, “a well known Muslim local chased the shooters and fire two shots at them as they sped off.” It was later reported that a man charged the gunman inside the mosque, took his firearm, and chased him outside while carrying his weapon, but did not fire any shots of his own. 

    Though the initial report does not seem to have been corroborated elsewhere, right-wing outlets and media figures still rushed to claim a “good guy” stopped the shooting. Loesch tweeted that a “Good guy with a gun” is making "terrorists afraid of ever targeting innocents again.”

    The “good guy with a gun” claim is an NRA and conservative media myth; there is no evidence that having more people carrying concealed guns is the way to stem public mass shootings.

    In recent years, the NRA has taken a two-fold approach in its response to high-profile instances of gun violence. If the NRA sees an opening to push its agenda, it will comment, but if not, the organization will say that everyone should avoid any commentary out of respect to the victims.

    For example, after the June 2015 mass shooting at a historically African-American church in Charleston, SC, the NRA claimed people promoting gun safety in its wake were “exploiting” the attack “for political purposes.”

    But after a gunman killed five members of the military at a naval facility in Chattanooga, TN, in July 2015, the NRA was quick to respond, claiming the incident provided proof that rules about service members carrying guns on military bases must be loosened.

    Loesch herself tweeted last month that “wisdom says to wait” to comment “until more details are known” after a gunman shot and killed five people at a manufacturing plant in Aurora, IL. But evidently this call to wait for facts before “exploiting” a tragedy doesn’t apply if the NRA is the one doing the exploiting.

  • Tucker Carlson's shock jock tapes are R-rated versions of what you'll find on his show

    Surprisingly little has changed between then and now

    Blog ››› ››› PARKER MOLLOY

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Earlier this week, Media Matters for America published controversial comments Tucker Carlson made between 2006 and 2011 during interviews on shock jock radio program Bubba the Love Sponge. Sunday night’s post contained a roundup of misogynistic and perverted comments by the now-Fox News host, and Monday’s releases highlighted Carlson’s racist and homophobic statements. On Tuesday, NowThis published additional comments Carlson made about Miss Teen South Carolina in 2007.

    Carlson brushed off the initial post as Media Matters catching him “saying something naughty on a radio show more than a decade ago” and said he would forego “the usual ritual contrition.” He began Monday night’s episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight with a monologue about getting caught in the gears of “the great American outrage machine,” and how “bewildering” it can be when the quotes in question are more than a decade old.

    Others on the right suggested that these were just jokes, or that Media Matters was being hypocritical for dumping these recordings, highlighting how right-wing figures like Mike Cernovich were criticized for using old tweets to take down people like Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn. This theory -- that this is all meant as one big “gotcha" -- relies on an assumption that the recordings were just outdated jokes not relevant to Carlson’s views today.

    In truth, as regular viewers of Tucker Carlson Tonight can confirm, the unearthed clips are simply R-rated versions of the same messages his audience can expect to hear every weeknight.

    One of the more shocking moments in the recordings comes from a 2006 interview in which Carlson mounts a protracted defense of Warren Jeffs, then charged with two first-degree felony counts of being an accomplice to rape for facilitating a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.

    He's not accused of touching anybody; he is accused of facilitating a marriage between a 16-year-old girl and a 27-year-old man. That's the accusation. That's what they're calling felony rape. [crosstalk] That's bullshit. I'm sorry. Now this guy may be [crosstalk], may be a child rapist. I'm just telling you that arranging a marriage between a 16-year-old and a 27-year-old is not the same as pulling a stranger off the street and raping her. That's bullshit.

    It’s easy to say that 2006 comment doesn’t represent who Carlson is or what he believes, but not much has changed in the years since. During the April 28, 2014, episode of Fox News’ Outnumbered, Carlson defended a teacher accused of giving one of her students a lap dance for his 15th birthday, saying, “There’s no victim here.” At one point, co-host Sandra Smith interjected, “She fondled an underage child in front of his entire classroom. You’re not embarrassed?”

    Viewers were similarly shocked, which is why he returned a week later to defend his position: “I’m not saying that all teachers should do lap dances at school. I’m merely saying when a teacher gets so enthusiastic she breaks out into a lap dance, don’t send her to prison. That’s all I’m saying.”

    On June 5, 2014, Carlson made another appearance on Outnumbered, in which he took the side of a 38-year-old teacher who allegedly raped one of her 16-year-old students, saying it was “ludicrous that we’re calling this a rape” and lamenting that the student "went and tattled to the police." The following year, the teacher would go on to plead guilty to rape and criminal sexual act charges. She was sentenced to 10 years of probation.

    Are you being serious? The kid is 16, he pursued her, and they’re calling it a rape? I’ll tell you, she was wrong to this extent -- he went and tattled to the police and destroyed her life. Are you joking? I mean, what a whiny country this is.

    In 2015, months after the teacher had pleaded guilty, Carlson appeared on Gavin McInnes’ Free Speech podcast, where he once again reiterated his thoughts on statutory rape:

    There are lots of things you have to play along with in life, and I understand society demands compromises. We all live together in close quarters. … But there is a limit beyond which I can’t pretend anymore. And calling -- in this case, it was a 17-year-old kid -- a “rape victim” because a teacher, who wasn’t even that old, or married, was kind enough to initiate him into the ways of adulthood. I’m not just going to sit there. … I’m not going to pretend that that’s rape because it’s just not. And it demeans and devalues real rape.

    None of this is to say that Carlson can’t change his views. We all make mistakes, and I believe that people should be encouraged to learn from those mistakes and grow. In fact, that’s why this piece isn’t dedicated to one-off flubs or the use of “naughty” language, to quote Carlson himself.

    The issue with Carlson has much more to do with the fact that it’s not clear his views on things like the age of consent or misogyny have shifted.

    Prior to the 2016 election, Carlson claimed that people were only “pretending” to be shocked -- trafficking in manufactured outrage -- over Trump’s “grab ‘em by the pussy” comments. In another interview, Carlson belittled his guest, Teen Vogue writer Lauren Duca, telling her to “stick to the thigh-high boots.” He also suggested that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) met with then-President-elect Donald Trump because “she’s the prettiest member of Congress.” In 2017, Carlson lamented rape shield laws that protect the name of accusers, something he also did on Bubba the Love Sponge in 2006.

    During a 2018 interview with New York Times reporter Amy Chozick, Carlson asked whether the fact that “the overwhelming majority of beat reporters covering Hillary were women” was akin to “stacking the deck” in her favor, implying that women wouldn’t objectively cover another woman. In another interview that year, he said that the belief that we live under a patriarchy is “a sign of mental illness” and “demented.” During a September 2018 episode of his show, Carlson said survivors of sexual assault have an “obligation” to report the attack immediately in part to “protect the rest of us from whomever you believe did it.” During another show, he took that argument even further, saying, “If there's a rapist on the loose, if you don't tell anybody ... you're part of the problem, are you not?” Yet, a week later, he compared sexual assault survivors speaking out against the confirmation of then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to a scene from Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, a play about the Salem witch trials. In December 2018, he agreed with one of his guests that “feminism has ambitions to take over civilization.”

    This doesn’t even take into account the entire month of March 2018, a banner Women’s History Month in which Carlson parroted the views of misogynists like Jordan Peterson, Stefan Molyneux, Gavin McInnes, Paul Joseph Watson, and Owen Shroyer.

    What these recordings tell us about the past is less important than what they tell us about the present.

    Taking the above examples at face value (and looking only at comments made on his show), there’s little to suggest that Carlson’s views on gender or the age of consent have changed. Even so, that’s not to say that the views he held then or the ones he currently holds will be the ones he holds next month or next year.

    “The reason we released this is precisely because the things you say on your Fox News show echo the misogyny displayed in those clips. We were actually helping people better understand just how vile your current Fox News show is by showing what that worldview really looks like,” Media Matters President Angelo Carusone wrote on Twitter in response to Carlson’s Sunday night statement.

    There’s nothing nefarious about ensuring that Carlson’s advertisers understand the long-standing beliefs still being echoed on his show. Carlson is one of the most powerful voices in media, with an average audience of 2.8 million viewers per episode in 2018. He is not some random blogger or a troll, and it's not as though these comments were meant to be private. These are all things he knowingly said on the air, whether it be on Fox News or Bubba the Love Sponge.

    Carlson is almost certainly a member of America’s ruling class, a group that he’s repeatedly argued should be held to account for what they say and what they do. To ignore the current narratives presented on his show and how they have been shaped by years of comments would be irresponsible. I believe Carlson should be judged on what he says today and not 10 years ago, and it's the overlap between the past and the present that makes those recordings relevant.

  • Video: During Fox News' emergency meeting with ad buyers, protesters tell advertisers to #DropFox

    Blog ››› ››› MILES LE & AUDREY BOWLER

    Fox News has lost so many advertisers that the network held an emergency meeting at its headquarters in New York City on March 13 to try to persuade advertisers that its many controversies are over. (They’re not.)

    Protesters gathered outside of Fox News’ HQ to make sure ad buyers know what companies are sponsoring when they advertise on Fox News: bigotry and hate. Here’s what they had to say:

  • White supremacist YouTube channel Red Ice TV loves Tucker Carlson

    Red Ice TV’s Henrik Palmgren: “Tucker Carlson does good work over at Fox News”

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & JOHN KERR

    Perhaps because of his noticeable descent into white supremacy, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson gets a lot of love from white supremacists, including the founders of Red Ice TV, a YouTube channel that boasts over 300,000 subscribers despite containing explicitly racist content like discussions of the “JQ” (Jewish Question) and criticism of interracial relationships.

    Red Ice TV founders Lana Lokteff and her husband, Henrik Palmgren, have often mentioned Carlson during their shows, specifically to praise his staunch opposition to diversity. They also celebrated when Carlson tweeted out (and later deleted) a link to their site in an attempt to criticize people who call out racism.

    The Red Ice TV founders aren’t the only white supremacists who adore Carlson; others have labeled him their “favorite commentator,” credited him for being their “only voice to a large extent,” actively fantasized about a Carlson presidential run, and rallied behind him in the face of backlash. Clearly, the white nationalist dog whistles in Carlson’s rhetoric have not gone unnoticed by extremists.

  • A Fox News anchor recycled a debunked claim about Beto O’Rourke

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox News is already spreading misinformation about newly announced Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke.

    During a segment on America’s Newsroom about O’Rourke’s announcement that he is running for president, co-anchor Sandra Smith listed what she labeled “some of O’Rourke’s policy positions.” Among them, she said O’Rourke “called law enforcement the ‘new Jim Crow.’”

    This claim originated from a midterm election debate between Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and O’Rourke in September, during which Cruz said: “Just this week, Congressman O’Rourke described law enforcement -- described police officers -- as modern-day Jim Crow.” Following that debate, multiple news organizations explained that Cruz was misleadingly simplifying comments O’Rourke made about racial discrimination that is found throughout the entire criminal justice system as well as in legislative redistricting.

    America’s Newsroom was not the first Fox show to recycle Cruz’s debunked claim against O’Rourke as an objective fact. Last night on The Story, before O’Rourke officially announced his candidacy, Fox contributor Karl Rove stated that O’Rourke had said “law enforcement is the new Jim Crowism.” Rove repeated this claim on Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria Bartiromo today. And Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt said this morning that O’Rourke “called law enforcement ‘the new Jim Crow,’” not just once, not twice, but three times.

    Fox News has been pushing the claim that its “hard news” division is separate from its opinion shows and commentators. But this example of a Fox anchor dutifully repeating a false talking point about O’Rourke -- one that had already been repeatedly pushed by a Fox & Friends co-host and President George W. Bush’s former deputy chief of staff -- is just further evidence that no such editorial divide exists at Fox.

  • Fox's “news side” runs with a farcical report that the DOJ “ordered” the FBI not to charge Clinton

    Last night's Special Report was a case study in how Fox's news team operates

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On Wednesday, Fox News opened its studios for an unprecedented meeting with the advertising industry. The network hoped to make the case that -- in spite of the constant controversies involving its biggest stars -- media buyers should continue to place ads on the network without fear of damaging the advertisers’ brands. Fox executives sought to focus attention on the network’s “news side,” arguing that advertisers should be proud to associate themselves with staffers like Special Report anchor Bret Baier who produce purportedly credible journalism akin to that at other networks.

    Fox’s “news side” actually serves two distinct roles that are quite different from those of reporting bureaus at other networks, as I’ve noted before. First, as Wednesday’s meeting underscores, when there is an outcry caused by the right-wing hosts whose bigoted commentary is at the core of the Fox business model, network executives can point to the “news side” in order to shield the Fox brand. Second, the “news side” produces incremental reporting, often based on Republican claims, that advances conservative narratives, providing ammunition for Fox’s right-wing hosts to yell about.

    A report that aired on Wednesday night’s Special Report provides a clear case study of this second role, with one of Fox’s premier “news side” journalists pushing along a Republican congressman’s effort to create a new scandal about the Department of Justice and the FBI’s investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

    On Tuesday night, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) tweeted an exchange he had with former FBI attorney Lisa Page during a closed House Judiciary Committee hearing last July. Ratcliffe wrote, “Lisa Page confirmed to me under oath that the FBI was ordered by the Obama DOJ not to consider charging Hillary Clinton for gross negligence in the handling of classified information.”

    This was not news, and there was no such “order.”

    As Adam Goldman, who covers the FBI for The New York Times, pointed out in response, the Justice Department inspector general’s review of DOJ and FBI activities during the 2016 election laid all of this out when it was published in June. According to the report, DOJ prosecutors who analyzed the “gross negligence” statute which Ratcliffe and Page discussed had concluded that making that charge would require a great deal of evidence, which the FBI investigators concluded "was lacking.” The report also noted that the prosecutors' interpretation of the statute was consistent with "prior cases under different leadership including in the 2008 decision not to prosecute former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for mishandling classified documents."

    Moreover, as Cato Institute senior fellow Julian Sanchez pointed out, the scandal Ratcliffe was attempting to generate is debunked by the simple fact that the conduct he and Page discussed was absolutely normal. The FBI doesn’t charge people -- prosecutors at the Justice Department do -- and it is entirely typical for DOJ prosecutors to explain to FBI investigators the precedents that govern what evidence they would need to bring a case. In fact, Page explicitly made this point elsewhere in her questioning by Ratcliffe. As Sanchez put it, the exchange shows “DOJ is giving obviously correct legal advice—‘the facts you’re describing aren’t the sort of thing that section of the statute would apply to, or that we’d charge under that section’—and Ratcliffe is trying to spin it as a (nonexistent) ‘order’ not to investigate.”

    For credible journalists, that’s where the story would end.

    But Page has been a frequent subject of baseless theories from right-wing media and congressional Republicans suggesting that senior FBI and Justice Department officials had conspired to prevent Clinton from being charged with crimes, while pushing through a politically motivated investigation of now-President Donald Trump. Ratcliffe’s claim fit into those narratives, and so it quickly spread through right-wing media.

    By Wednesday night, Special Report, Fox’s flagship “news side” broadcast, was covering the story.

    Baier, a Fox anchor often included in the ranks of the network’s legitimate journalists, introduced the story by pushing the “order” falsehood: “We are learning more tonight about what the Obama Justice Department ordered federal lawyers to do and not to do concerning the Hillary Clinton email investigation.”

    Fox chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge’s subsequent report focused on the transcript Ratcliffe tweeted. Throughout the segment, Herridge bolstered the sense that Radcliffe's tweet pointed to a real scandal. She claimed that Page's testimony “appears to conflict” with former FBI Director James Comey’s July 2016 statement that the FBI’s investigation was done “independently." She produced an FBI document that said “DOJ not willing to charge” on gross negligence. And she highlighted denunciations of the Justice Department from Trump and a Republican congressman. At no point did she note that the Justice Department inspector general had already explained that the normal DOJ/FBI process had been followed. 

    Later in the program, Baier returned to the exchange Ratcliffe had highlighted, calling it “significant” and saying that it “seems to open up a lot of other questions.” Invoking a constant refrain from presidential mouthpiece and Fox colleague Sean Hannity, Baier later asked a guest, “Is this fair to say that this shows, Mo, two tiers of justice? I mean, is this the beginning of kind of saying it wasn't fair the other way either?”

    The first Special Report segment caught the attention of the president, who was apparently watching and tweeted out the caption featured during the report.

    As is typical for Fox “news side” reporting, Herridge’s segment provided grist for the network’s far-right stars. All three prime-time shows devoted time to the story, using it as fresh evidence of the purported corruption at the Obama Justice Department that supposedly let Clinton get away with crimes.  

    “My question to you is simple,” Hannity asked Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in one such segment. “Based on what Lisa Page said, do we now have to go back right to Hillary Clinton if, in fact, the DOJ rigged that from the get-go?”

    By Thursday morning, America’s Newsroom -- a Fox program typically described as part of the network’s “news side” -- was running scandalmongering coverage falsely claiming that “New Transcripts Show Lisa Page Said DOJ Ordered FBI To Stand Down On Charging Clinton.” (In adding “stand down” to the alleged order, Fox is invoking its endless coverage intended to push the myth that U.S. forces were issued a “stand down” order during the September 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.)

    This won’t be the last we hear of this nonsensical story. As Baier said on Wednesday’s show, “We're going to see a lot more of this angle, especially from the Judiciary Committee and the Senate and elsewhere.” And Fox’s “news side” journalists will be more than happy to support that narrative from Senate Republicans, regardless of how ridiculous their claims may be. That’s literally what they are there for.

  • Roger Stone’s Infowars co-host attacks judge overseeing Stone’s criminal case

    Stone is under a gag order that prohibits him from commenting on the case or directing others to do so

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Infowars host Owen Shroyer attacked Judge Amy Berman Jackson by alleging that she won’t give Infowars host and Trump confidant Roger Stone a fair trial because she is involved in covering up “the crimes of Barack Obama.”

    Shroyer and Stone are co-hosts on the Infowars program War Room, although Stone stopped making his regular appearances on the show after Jackson imposed a gag order on him.

    Stone, who is facing seven felony charges as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, was subjected to a gag order by Jackson on February 21 after he posted an image of Jackson next to crosshairs on social media and wrote a caption complaining about the “Obama appointed Judge.” The terms of the gag order prohibit Stone from speaking publicly about his case or Mueller’s investigation, and it additionally prohibits him from commenting on the case “indirectly by having statements made publicly on his behalf by surrogates, family members, spokespersons, representatives, or volunteers.”

    In a clip of War Room posted to Infowars on March 12, Shroyer said that Stone is innocent but that he fears he will be jailed “a politicized judge, nominated by Obama, one of the greatest criminals in American history.” Shroyer went on to add, “You don’t think for one second that judge wants to protect the crimes of Barack Obama?”

    OWEN SHROYER (CO-HOST): Bob Mueller and all these Democrats with Adam Schiff and everybody destroying all these innocent people’s lives, destroying America. They love it. They get off to it. It gets them high. And the average American can’t empathize with that. They don’t even have a scintilla of empathy for that. They couldn’t even comprehend having no remorse, just in cold blood destroying anyone’s life that’s in your way politically. And so, honestly, that’s why it’s so hard for America and for the average human to truly comprehend the evil that we’re dealing with. And the only reason I comprehend it is because I’ve seen it, I’ve studied it, and I now can flesh it out and know every move they make.

    And that’s why I’m afraid my friend Roger Stone, an innocent man, is going to be put in jail by a politicized judge, nominated by Obama, one of the greatest criminals in American history. You don’t think for one second that judge wants to protect the crimes of Barack Obama? I’m trying not to get mad right now. This is when I start screaming. Because America needs to wake the hell up.

    Stone’s Infowars boss, Alex Jones, previously used Infowars to broadcast his own attacks on Jackson. During a February 24 broadcast, he compared Jackson to Hitler and repeated Stone’s pre-gag order catchphrase that he will not “bear false witness against the president.”

  • The right-wing grift industry has found a new favorite target: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    “Radical activists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are about to be running D.C." ... "I’m about to teach her and her cronies a few things they are going to wish they never learned" ... “All Flights are Canceled” ... “They want to impose their socialist nightmare on America.”

    Members of the right-wing grift industry really want to scare you about the “socialist nightmare” that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) purportedly hopes to impose on the country -- and they need your money to stop it from happening.

    The conservative movement has been infected with scams and hucksters for years. Some of the most fertile ground for grifters has been right-wing email lists, which contain messages with warnings to conservatives about purported threats to their health, safety, and financial security. In prior years, missives about the supposed damage that then-President Barack Obama would inflict on the nation were commonplace.  

    With Obama out of office, many right-wing grifters are now using Ocasio-Cortez and her policy proposals -- especially the Green New Deal -- as a scary specter of the future. Those grifters include a disgraced financial firm advertising with an anti-Semitic publication, the National Rifle Association, Jack Abramoff, and James O’Keefe. Here’s a look at some of their pitches.

    Disgraced financial firm sent anti-AOC email to anti-Semitic publication’s list

    Stansberry Research is a financial firm that’s previously been fined $1.5 million for engaging in "deliberate fraud" and profiting from "false statements." Its founder, Porter Stansberry, has used racist and anti-gay slurs on his online radio program.

    The firm has been using the supposed threat of Ocasio-Cortez to bring in business. In emails with subject lines like “This Socialist scheme should worry you” and “Why is this happening in America?,” Stansberry founding partner Mike Palmer writes: “We are witnessing a raging Socialist movement in America today. Just for starters … America's new political star, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is pushing for free medical care, free college, and 70% tax rates.” The email links to a sign-up page to buy Porter Stansberry's book at $5 and then puts subscribers in their email list.

    That email was sent as a sponsored advertisement to right-wing email lists, including one belonging to the anti-Semitic publication American Free Press. That outlet has repeatedly published blatantly false claims that the Holocaust is a “hoax” and other anti-Semitic content.

    The NRA wants money to stop Ocasio-Cortez from imposing her “socialist nightmare on America”

    The NRA’s shady finances have recently taken a hit amid a series of problems for the group during the Trump administration. The pro-gun organization has unsurprisingly used Ocasio-Cortez to raise money, writing that she and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “want to impose their socialist nightmare on America.”

    Disgraced fraudster Jack Abramoff: “I’m about to teach her and her cronies a few things they are going to wish they never learned - and it won’t just be a math lesson”

    Jack Abramoff is one of the most notorious fraudsters in recent American politics. As Reuters summarized in 2017:

    Abramoff in 2006 pleaded guilty to felony counts of conspiracy, fraud, and tax evasion. His name became synonymous with government corruption, and Democrats attacked their Republican opponents who had ties or had received campaign donations from him.

    In addition to bribing government officials, Abramoff was accused of defrauding clients who were Native American tribes lobbying about reservation casinos. Abramoff was released from federal prison in 2010 and was then subject to three years on probation.

    Abramoff is now the honorary chairman of Protect American Values, an anti-environmental political action committee. He sent an email in February asking for donations, writing: “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t even in diapers when I started fighting the Left, and I’m about to teach her and her cronies a few things they are going to wish they never learned - and it won’t just be a math lesson.”

    Shady SEAL PAC sent falsehood-laden anti-AOC fundraising email

    SEAL PAC (Supporting, Electing American Leaders PAC) states that it wants to be a “voice for thousands of veterans and patriots” -- but in recent years the organization has been mired in questions about its fundraising practices. Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke founded the group in 2014 but left it when he entered the Trump administration. As Politico reported last December:

    Zinke’s 2014 congressional campaign hired Forthright Strategy, a D.C. firm run by a conservative fundraiser and activist named Kimberly Bellissimo, to help it raise money from small donors. Forthright has been criticized by some fellow Republicans who said it charged more in fees than it transferred to campaign coffers.

    With Zinke, Forthright advertised on its website that it transferred more than $500,000 to his campaign — after having raised nearly $2 million. After Zinke won the election, Forthright heralded his success on its website as proof of its fundraising skill.

    Zinke, for his part, seemed to employ similar tactics with his own fundraising.

    Zinke established a political action committee called SEAL PAC in November 2014, mailing the filing paperwork mere days before he was elected to Congress. In the first two full years of its existence, SEAL would pay half of the $3 million it raised to companies associated with Bellissimo and only $118,000 on actual candidates, according to campaign finance disclosures.

    Politico also reported in April 2018 that the “Federal Election Commission is asking a leadership PAC previously affiliated with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to account for more than $600,000 of previously unreported contributions from the first six months of 2017. … This is the second time in recent months the FEC has asked SEAL PAC about a discrepancy in its books while [attorney Vincent] DeVito was treasurer. In November, regulators asked the PAC to account for $200,000 in cash on hand that suddenly appeared on its books between Dec. 31, 2016, and Jan. 1, 2017.”

    The group sent an email with the false subject line “All Flights are Canceled” and with opening text falsely claiming that “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants to ban meat-eating in America.”  

    Anti-LGBTQ and conspiracy theory group fundraises off of AOC

    Conservative group Accuracy in Media is an alleged media watchdog. In reality, the group pushes toxic rhetoric against LGBTQ people and conspiracy theories, including about Obama’s birth certificate and former Clinton White House deputy counsel Vince Foster’s death.

    The group sent a falsehood-laden February fundraising email, which included the claim that Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal proposal is dedicated to “ending air travel.”

    Fraudster James O’Keefe: “Radical activists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are about to be running D.C.”

    James O’Keefe is a serial liar and huckster who once attempted “to embarrass” a reporter by planning to get her “onto a boat filled with sexually explicit props and then record the session.” In 2010, as The Hill summarized, he was “sentenced to three years of probation, 100 hours of community service and a $1,500 fine after he pleaded guilty on Wednesday to misdemeanor charges stemming from his involvement in a break-in at Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-La.) office.”

    Prior to the start of this year’s congressional session, O’Keefe sent an AOC-centric fundraising email, writing: “Radical activists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are about to be running D.C. Our undercover journalists must be there to greet them and hold Washington accountable -- cameras ready. But I need your support right now. Our allies have to be ready to expose their corruption. Click HERE to donate.”

    The “master of ‘scam PACs’” helped create an anti-Ocasio-Cortez PAC

    Dan Backer has been involved with so many shady organizations that he was been dubbed the “master of ‘scam PACs’” by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Daniel Bice.

    In March, Backer helped start a new group called Stop the AOC PAC. He then sent a falsehood-filled email claiming that Ocasio-Cortez has “made a name for herself as the face of the New Socialist Left with wacky, unworkable, and downright crazy policies like the Green New Deal – calling for the elimination of gas-powered cars and airplanes – banning the consumption of hamburgers and make everyone go vegan. And Democrats are goose-stepping in line behind her!”