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  • 40+ times the Trump administration specifically targeted Jim Acosta and CNN

    In response to First Amendment lawsuit, White House insists Acosta's recent ban has nothing to do with the content or viewpoint of CNN's reporting

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    CNN and its chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta have sued President Donald Trump and various administration officials for violating the First Amendment when Acosta was banned from the White House. The lawsuit specifically notes that the president and White House officials have shown animus toward the media in general, and CNN and Acosta in particular. In response, the president’s lawyers have claimed the White House has not demonstrated the type of content and viewpoint discrimination that is impermissible under the First Amendment. The evidence indicates otherwise. 

    Throughout the first year of his presidency, Trump and his administration attacked various media outlets and journalists more than 400 times, specifically targeting CNN verbally and on Twitter dozens of times. The attacks on the media didn’t let up in 2018. These facts and the 42 examples of the Trump administration’s attacks on Acosta and CNN gathered below support the network's complaint that the Trump administration took action against Acosta and CNN for the “contents of their reporting”:

    Trump: “Jim Acosta is a very unprofessional man. … I don’t think he’s a smart person.” [Faceba.se, 11/9/18]

    Trump: “So funny to see the CNN Fake Suppression Polls and false rhetoric.” [Twitter, 11/5/18]

    Trump: “CNN and others in the Fake News Business keep purposely and inaccurately reporting that I said the ‘Media is the Enemy of the People.’ Wrong!” [Twitter, 10/29/18]

    Trump: “Facebook has just stated that they are setting up a system to ‘purge’ themselves of Fake News. Does that mean CNN will finally be put out of business?” [Twitter, 10/21/18]

    Press secretary Sarah Sanders: “Can’t imagine why @CNN has such low ratings when during the day they break from live coverage to show reruns.” [Twitter, 9/4/18]

    Trump: “CNN is working frantically to find their ‘source.’ Look hard because it doesn’t exist. Whatever was left of CNN’s credibility is now gone!” [Twitter, 8/30/18]

    Trump: “The hatred and extreme bias of me by @CNN has clouded their thinking and made them unable to function. But actually, as I have always said, this has been going on for a long time. Little Jeff Z has done a terrible job, his ratings suck, & AT&T should fire him to save credibility!” [Twitter, 8/30/18]

    Trump: “CNN is being torn apart from within based on their being caught in a major lie and refusing to admit the mistake.” [Twitter, 8/29/18]

    Trump: “Look at the lie that Fake CNN is now in. They got caught red handed! Enemy of the People!” [Twitter, 8/29/18]

    Trump: “If you are weeding out Fake News, there is nothing so Fake as CNN & MSNBC, & yet I do not ask that their sick behavior be removed.” [Twitter, 8/18/18]

    Sanders on the White House canceling national security advisor John Bolton’s interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper: “Actually a @CNN reporter disrespected @POTUS & PM May during their press conf. Instead of rewarding bad behavior, we decided to reprioritize the TV appearances for administration officials.” [Twitter, 7/14/18]

    Trump: “So funny! I just checked out Fake News CNN, for the first time in a long time (they are dying in the ratings), to see if they covered my takedown yesterday of Jim Acosta (actually a nice guy). They didn’t! But they did say I already lost in my meeting with Putin. Fake News.” [Twitter, 7/14/18]

    Trump: “Real @FoxNews is doing great, Fake News CNN is dead!” [Twitter, 6/2/18]

    Trump: “The Washington Post and CNN have typically written false stories about our trade negotiations with China.” [Twitter, 5/16/18]

    Trump: Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper “is a lying machine who now works for Fake News CNN.” [Twitter, 4/28/18]

    Trump: “Check out the fact that you can’t get a job at ratings challenged @CNN unless you state that you are totally anti-Trump? Little Jeff Zuker, whose job is in jeopardy, is not having much fun lately. They should clean up and strengthen CNN and get back to honest reporting!” [Twitter, 4/3/18]

    Trump: “The Fake News Networks, those that knowingly have a sick and biased AGENDA, are worried about the competition and quality of Sinclair Broadcast. The Fakers’ at CNN, NBC, ABC & CBS have done so much dishonest reporting that they should only be allowed to get awards for fiction!” [Twitter, 4/3/18]

    Trump: “Bad ratings @CNN & @MSNBC got scammed when they covered the anti-Trump Russia rally wall-to-wall. They probably knew it was Fake News but, because it was a rally against me, they pushed it hard anyway. Two really dishonest newscasters, but the public is wise!” [Twitter, 2/20/18]

    Trump: “Jake Tapper of Fake News CNN just got destroyed in his interview with Stephen Miller of the Trump Administration. Watch the hatred and unfairness of this CNN flunky!” [Twitter, 1/17/18]

    Acosta: Sanders “issued a warning to me. She said if I asked a question of Trump at the bill signing ‘I can't promise you will be allowed into a pool spray again.’ Sorry Sarah.. we won't be intimidated.” [Twitter, 12/12/17]

    Trump: “I seldom, if ever, watch CNN or MSNBC, both of which I consider Fake News.I never watch [CNN’s] Don Lemon, who I once called the ‘dumbest man on television!’ Bad Reporting.” [Twitter, 12/11/17]

    Trump: “CNN’S slogan is CNN, THE MOST TRUSTED NAME IN NEWS. Everyone knows this is not true, that this could, in fact, be a fraud on the American Public.” [Twitter, 12/9/17]

    Sanders on news that CNN will boycott a White House Christmas function: “Christmas comes early! Finally, good news from @CNN.” Trump quote-tweeted her, adding: “We should boycott Fake News CNN. Dealing with them is a total waste of time!” [Twitter, 11/28/17, 11/29/17]

    Trump: “We should have a contest as to which of the Networks, plus CNN and not including Fox, is the most dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted in its political coverage of your favorite President (me). They are all bad. Winner to receive the FAKE NEWS TROPHY!” [Twitter, 11/27/17]

    Trump: “CNN International is still a major source of (Fake) news, and they represent our Nation to the WORLD very poorly. The outside world does not see the truth from them!” [Twitter, 11/25/17]

    Trump: “While in the Philippines I was forced to watch @CNN, which I have not done in months, and again realized how bad, and FAKE, it is. Loser!” [Twitter, 11/15/17]

    Trump: “People are just now starting to find out how dishonest and disgusting (FakeNews) @NBCNews is. Viewers beware. May be worse than even @CNN!” [Twitter, 10/12/17]

    Trump: “NBC news is #FakeNews and more dishonest than even CNN. They are a disgrace to good reporting. No wonder their news ratings are way down!” [Twitter, 10/4/17]

    Trump: “Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a ‘tenfold’ increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!” [Twitter, 10/11/17]

    White House staffer Dan Scavino: Acosta “loves to seek attention & make the news all about himself.” [Twitter, 9/15/17]

    Trump to Acosta: “I like real news, not fake news. You’re fake news.” [Fox News, Shepard Smith Reporting, 8/14/17]

    Then-Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka: Acosta is a “grandstanding” reporter. [The Daily Caller, 8/3/17]

    Trump adviser Stephen Miller during a press briefing: “Jim, that is one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant, and foolish things you've ever said. … It reveals your cosmopolitan bias to a shocking degree.” [Media Matters, 8/2/17; Politico, 8/2/17]

    Trump tweeted a video of him knocking over a person with CNN logo imposed on his face: “#FraudNewsCNN #FNN.” [Twitter, 7/2/17]

    Trump: “I am thinking about changing the name #FakeNews CNN to #FraudNewsCNN!” [Twitter, 7/1/17]

    Trump: “I am extremely pleased to see that @CNN has finally been exposed as #FakeNews and garbage journalism. It's about time!” [Twitter, 7/1/17]

    Then-press secretary Sean Spicer about Acosta: “I think some of these reporters are more interested in their YouTube clips than they are in getting factual news.” [Fox News, MediaBuzz, 6/25/17]

    Trump: “FAKE NEWS media knowingly doesn't tell the truth. A great danger to our country. The failing @nytimes has become a joke. Likewise @CNN. Sad!” [Twitter, 2/24/17]

    Trump: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” [Twitter, 2/17/17]

    Trump to Acosta: “Your ratings aren’t as good as some of the other people that are waiting.” [WhiteHouse.gov, 2/16/17]

    Trump to Acosta: "I sort of understand there's a certain bias" at CNN. [WhiteHouse.gov, 2/16/17]

    Trump: “I watch CNN — it’s so much anger and hatred and just the hatred.” [WhiteHouse.gov, 2/16/17]

  • White supremacists directly linked to pro-Trump media figure Jack Posobiec. Here’s what you need to know about him.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Jack Posobiec, a conspiracy theorist and consummate pro-Trump media figure who often boasts of his access to the White House and other MAGA celebrities, worked as recently as 2017 with white supremacists who advocate for violence. Posobiec has a long record of extremism and ratfucking: He was an outspoken advocate of the “alt-right,” published a book with the help of an “alt-right” figure, and pushed all kinds of smears and misinformation for political gain.

    Posobiec reportedly had links to Jeffrey and Edward Clark, two white supremacist brothers. Jeffrey Clark was arrested by federal authorities in Washington, D.C. for gun charges after relatives contacted authorities about his support for last month’s mass shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue. As reported by HuffPost, Posobiec teamed up with the brothers in 2017 to film documentary footage; a source provided an image of Posobiec alongside the brothers. HuffPost also reported that anti-fascist researcher Laura Sennett said Jeffrey Clark had told her Posobiec both knew of his Nazi beliefs and was sympathetic to them.

    Posobiec is currently a host for One America News Network, a right-wing news outlet that specializes in sycophantic coverage of President Donald Trump and conspiracy theories. He previously worked for far-right Canadian outlet Rebel Media. Posobiec achieved his standing in the MAGA media universe by embracing the “alt-right“ and its public figures during the 2016 presidential election, and, like many other grifters, eventually rebranding as a member of the “New Right” after the extremism of the “alt-right” made associating with it too toxic.

    Despite his continued efforts to sanitize his role in spreading the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, Posobiec repeatedly broadcasted to his social media followers and to Infowars audiences the baseless claim that a D.C. pizza restaurant served as a front for a child trafficking ring, showed up at the pizza parlor himself to “investigate,” and then claimed that the arrest of a gunman who also showed up at the pizzeria was a “false flag.”

    Posobiec’s ratfucking record includes spreading forged documents tied to Russia purporting to be then-French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s emails; planting a “Rape Melania” sign at an anti-Trump protest to smear activists; and doxxing one of the women who reported that she was sexually assaulted as a minor by defeated Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. Leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, Posobiec was an administrator in a racist Facebook group that promoted Republican candidates and pushed far-right conspiracy theories.

    He has built his brand by promoting attention-grabbing stunts that masquerade as activism, such as disrupting a theater presentation of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar that he deemed to promote political violence, filing a civil rights lawsuit over all-female screenings of Wonder Woman, and trolling a congressional press conference on net neutrality to demand that Democratic senators disavow “satanic” internet pornography. He also gleefully participated in an online harassment campaign that resulted in CNN journalist Andrew Kaczynski receiving death threats.

    Posobiec has ridden every controversy and subsequent media coverage to increase his visibility and online followers. He’s used that branding for political access and promotion of his personal business endeavors, which include his self-congratulatory book about the movement that took Trump to victory, and his most recent book, published with the help of with “alt-right” figure Theodore Beale, who writes under the pseudonym Vox Day. Posobiec promoted this book by linking to Vox Day’s website, a depository of white supremacist grievances.

    Posobiec’s clout in the MAGA social universe has risen high enough to earn him a retweet from Trump himself (when Posobiec wrote an accusatory tweet aimed at the media for focusing too much on the 2017 white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA) and allow him access to the White House. He used temporary White House press credentials in May 2017 to push the debunked conspiracy theory that former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was murdered for leaking DNC emails.

    In his role as OANN correspondent, Posobiec regularly showcases his access to pro-Trump celebrities (including Donald Trump Jr.) and his presence at White House and Trump Hotel social functions. Meanwhile, he’s used his OANN platform to hype smears from the defendant in the Seth Rich lawsuit, as well amplify the wild conspiracy theory known as QAnon, giving virulent far-right troll Microchip a platform and taking his word at face value that he is the anonymous poster known as Q. Microchip is an anonymous and prolific user of Gab -- the social media site known for being “haven for white supremacists” -- where he constantly posts white supremacist grievances, anti-Semitic and racial slurs, and invites followers to “fuck shit up” legally by pushing and spreading the misinformation campaign that is QAnon.

    It is clear that Posobiec’s history of extremism, peddling of conspiracy theories, and ties to white supremacists are not a problem for the network that employs him, nor for the pro-Trump universe that has enabled his professional career. In that universe, misinformation and extremism are not deal breakers. They’re assets.

  • The fatal police shooting of Jemel Roberson disproves the NRA’s favorite myth

    NRATV struggled to not admit the obvious

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    The fatal police shooting of an armed and trained security guard outside a bar, after he stopped a gunman from opening fire, provides further proof that the “good guy with a gun” myth peddled by NRATV is just that: a myth.

    On November 11, 26-year-old security guard Jemel Roberson “apprehended an alleged gunman” outside an Illinois bar, holding him on the ground at gunpoint until police arrived. According to witnesses, bar patrons were yelling to officers that Roberson was security, while officers demanded he drop his firearm before fatally shooting him. An investigation is underway.

    The National Rifle Association and its media outlet have long peddled the narrative that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun and they have frequently suggested that the victims of mass shootings could have saved themselves had they been armed. During the November 13 edition of NRATV’s Relentless, NRA spokesperson and host Dana Loesch referred to Roberson as “a good guy with a gun, one of those individuals that anti-gun advocates love to pretend do not exist.”

    Loesch admitted the incident made her “worry a little bit” as a concealed carrier, and she questioned what good guys should do when they’re “that close” to the gunman “and law enforcement shows up.” NRA-certified instructor and frequent NRATV guest Guy Relford responded that there is “no perfect choice” between exposing “yourself to the risk of the known bad guy who is underneath you that you’re holding, or exposing yourself to the risk of being shot by police officers”:

    DANA LOESCH (HOST): I worry about this as, you know, a concealed carrier, I worry about this as someone who -- you know, I’ve done a lot of training, and I always make sure that I have my skills up to speed if heaven forbid, you know, I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it in that situation. But I’ll be frank with you, stories like this make me worry a little bit. And not just for -- you know, for all Americans, Black Americans, white Americans, men and women, because this is one of the -- I think, one of the concerns that concealed carry holders have. So, how should concealed carriers look at this particular story and -- because, again, it makes me worried and if I’m feeling a little nervous about this, I would imagine other people are too.

    GUY RELFORD: If you can possibly avoid it, you do not want to have a gun in your hand when responding police officers show up, even if you’re the good guy. Now, here, he’s holding someone, you know, against their will. Did he have the ability to put that gun away or not have that gun in his hand or get that gun back in the holster before police officers arrived? And again, I don’t want to second-guess anyone without having more facts, but if there was any opportunity to get that gun out of his hand, not in the sight of police officers when they show up, we always want to try to do that because unfortunately this isn’t the first time that someone survived a potentially deadly attack and was completely lawful in what they did, but lost their life because of confusion by responding police officers.

    LOESCH: I am so glad that you brought that up, Guy, because in all of these -- and I’m sure that you can talk a little bit about this, last question for you, in some of the cases that you’ve handled, because normally in everything that I’ve read, whenever there’s been a defensive gun usage and someone is holding someone, there’s some distance there. You know, there’s at least five to three feet between the individuals. This -- I mean Roberson was on this guy, he had his knee on his back, and that makes it a little bit harder for him if this -- and who knows if this guy still -- we don’t even know if this guy still -- the criminal still had his gun in his hand. We don’t know that either. And then police show up -- you don’t really have a lot of time to make sure you’re in a safe position. If that criminal can access that firearm immediately, you kind of -- so, I don’t want to speculate, but at the same time, it’s such a rare instance, it’s a very difficult spot for anybody to be in when they’re doing the right thing. I mean, he was a security guard, he wanted to be on the police force, he had some training, so he knew what he was doing up until a certain extent. That gets into a real kind of gray area, what do you do when you’re that close and law enforcement shows up and maybe the perp still has his hand on the gun?

    RELFORD: Yes, and sometimes there may just be no good decision. I mean, there is no perfect choice between choosing whether you’re going to expose yourself to the risk of the known bad guy who is underneath you that you’re holding, or exposing yourself to the risk of being shot by police officers.

    Even though NRATV continually pushes the “good guy” narrative, statistics and anecdotal commentary from law enforcement repeatedly prove armed citizens rarely stop mass shootings or violent crime incidents. In 2016, the Dallas police chief anecdotally stated that this type of civilian action creates more confusion for responding officers. And a 2000-2013 FBI study of 160 active shooter incidents -- in which “individuals [were] actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in populated areas” -- found that only four incidents were stopped by armed security guards and one was stopped by a licensed and armed citizen, whereas 21 incidents were stopped by unarmed citizens. A 2015 analysis by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that the likelihood of people sustaining an injury during a robbery didn’t change based on whether or not they were armed.

  • STUDY: NY Times, Wash. Post coverage of caravan plummets after midterms

    News stories referencing the caravan drop by more than half post-elections, front-page ones by more than two-thirds

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    In the weeks leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, The New York Times and The Washington Post filled their news pages with reporting about a caravan of migrants moving through Central America and Mexico toward the United States. The caravan was more than 1,000 miles from the U.S. border -- a journey of several weeks on foot -- and shrinking. But President Donald Trump, in a series of demagogic statements aimed at bolstering GOP chances in the elections, warned that the caravan constituted an “invasion” and a national emergency, and the Times and Post allowed him to set their news agendas.

    After the election, Trump largely stopped talking about the caravan, and the coverage of the subject in those papers plunged.

    In the eight days before the election, the Times and Post ran a total of 84 news stories in their print editions mentioning the caravan, putting 25 on the front page. In the eight days since, they ran 39 such stories, only eight of which ran on A1. That’s a decline of roughly 54 percent in news stories and 68 percent in front-page news stories.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    I wrote about this coverage the Friday before Election Day, noting that many of the articles were laudable on their merits -- they told the migrants' stories, debunked presidential lies and conspiracy theories, and highlighted facts that undermined Trump’s demagoguery. But taken together, their sheer volume couldn’t help but to fuel his fearmongering and make it impossible for other important pre-midterm stories to break through.

    The papers are still producing valuable reporting on the topic -- about the migrants’ journey, the administration’s response of deploying U.S. soldiers on the border and taking executive action to limit asylum, and Trump’s own slackening interest in the caravan, among other angles. But with the elections over and in the absence of regular comments from the president, they are publishing much less of it, and they’re giving the stories they do publish less prominent placement.

    Newspaper resources, column inches, and front-page real estate are all limited -- the amount of each that a paper devotes to particular stories reveals its editors’ priorities and signals to the public which issues are important. The Times and Post appear to have given the caravan outsized coverage when Trump was fixated on it, and now that he isn’t, the papers are providing the issue with substantially less attention.

    The Post has published a total of 109 articles in its print A section mentioning the caravan since it formed, putting 24 of those articles on the front page. The paper ran 48 such articles, during the eight days before the election, 13 of them on the front page; those numbers dropped to 20 and three in the eight days after the election, a decline of 58 percent and 77 percent, respectively. Before the election, the paper published five or more articles referencing the caravan on 10 different days. Since the election, it has done so twice.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The Times has published a total of 88 articles mentioning the caravan in its print A section, putting 24 of those articles on the front page. During the eight days before the election, the paper ran 36 such articles, putting 12 on the front page; those numbers dropped to 19 and five in the eight days after the election, a decline of 47 percent and 58 percent, respectively. Before the election, the paper published five or more articles referencing the caravan on six different days. Since the election, it has done so once.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The massive print coverage of the caravan story leading up to the election echoed the story’s dominance on cable news.

    Fox led the way, providing more than 33 hours of coverage through Election Day, with the network’s hosts spurring and echoing the president with apocalyptic, conspiracy theory-minded rants about the coming “invasion.” But the day after the election featured no discussions whatsoever focused on the caravan, while the network spent four minutes and 57 seconds covering the story the day after that.

    After Trump took Fox's advice and tried to turn the caravan into an election issue, CNN and MSNBC also devoted hours and hours of programming to the story. As with the papers, these cable networks produced far more critical coverage of the story, but they nonetheless focused their attention on the subject Trump wanted to discuss. And in the same manner as the Post and the Times, the volume of their reporting has dropped substantially since the election.

    As I wrote before the election, the facts about the caravan neither matched Trump’s crisis narrative nor justified the saturated coverage the story received. Since then, the “first wave” of the caravan has reached the U.S. border (most of the migrants are still 1,000 miles away), while the administration has imposed radical new asylum restrictions in response. But while those factors suggest that the caravan has become increasingly newsworthy on its merits, the Post and Times have produced fewer articles mentioning it and put fewer on their front pages.

    These results strongly suggest that for these newspapers and cable networks, the newsworthiness of particular issues is strongly tethered to whether Trump is publicly commenting on them. Whatever he’s talking about quickly becomes the most important story in U.S. political journalism. And once he stops commenting on it, the story falls out of the headlines.

    Reporters might respond to this criticism by saying that the president’s comments are always newsworthy. But that sentiment is not reflected in actual news coverage -- the closing days of the 2014 and 2016 election cycles were both dominated by Republican attacks on Democrats, not by President Barack Obama’s commentary.

    Moreover, under the current president, that argument cedes substantial power over the public debate to a notorious liar and conspiracy theorist. Journalists should carefully consider what that means. By allowing Trump to serve as their assignment editor, decision-makers at newspapers and cable news channels are ignoring critical issues in favor of covering what the president wants to talk about.

    This is an ongoing crisis in political journalism, and it won’t end unless journalists heed the lessons of the last few years and learn how to respond when conservative leaders try to manipulate them in bad faith in order to focus the public’s attention where they want it. That will require them to make independent calls on what deserves coverage and how much, rather than following the whims of Trump and his ilk.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the Nexis database for New York Times and Washington Post articles mentioning the caravan between October 12 and November 14. We included articles from only the print editions of each paper, and we limited the results to articles from the news (A) sections; articles from editorial, opinion, op-ed, business, sports, and other sections were excluded. For the November 7 edition of the Post, which was not available in the Nexis database as of publication, two Media Matters researchers independently reviewed a hard copy of the paper’s A section.

    Shelby Jamerson contributed research

  • Anti-LGBTQ forces warn that Colorado's first openly gay governor is a threat to Christians

    As Colorado Gov.-elect Jared Polis makes history, an anti-LGBTQ group and right-wing media outlet have dubiously attempted to pit religion against the LGBTQ community

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Anti-LGBTQ groups and right-wing media outlet The Daily Wire have used the successful campaign of Colorado Gov.-elect Jared Polis, the first openly gay man to be elected governor, to push a false narrative pitting religion against the LGBTQ community. Specifically, they have leveraged the story of anti-gay Colorado baker Jack Phillips -- who went all the way to the Supreme Court in a case involving his refusal to bake a cake for a gay couple -- to say that the state is persecuting Christians and that Polis’ election would result in religious people losing their rights.

    Extreme and influential anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom represented Phillips in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case. The Supreme Court narrowly ruled in Phillips’ favor based on the particulars of the case, citing “inappropriate and dismissive comments” from one of the Colorado civil rights commissioners as “hostility” toward Phillips’ religion. Polis called the Supreme Court’s decision “disappointing, but thankfully narrow in scope,” adding that Congress should pass the Equality Act, a bipartisan federal bill that would amend civil rights protections in employment, housing, education, public accommodations, and other areas of life to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

    After Polis’ historic win, The Daily Wire’s Paul Bois published an article headlined “Colorado Elects First Openly Gay Governor In U.S. History As The State Persecutes Christians.” Bois highlighted Polis’ “commitment to LGBTQ principles” and wrote, “The ascension of Polis in Colorado comes at a time when the state has increasingly positioned itself as an enemy of religious liberty, most notably in its persecution of baker Jack Phillips.”

    Before Election Day, anti-LGBTQ group Family Policy Alliance also featured Phillips in a campaign ad against Polis. According to LGBTQ news outlet INTO, the ad said, “Assaults on Jack’s faith – and yours – could get even worse if Boulder’s own Jared Polis becomes governor,” and a statement released alongside the ad asserted that “the decision Colorado voters make will impact Jack Phillips and other people of faith in Colorado—and beyond—for years to come.” Family Policy Alliance sent an email promoting the ad on October 24, which claimed that Polis’ election “means that things could get even worse for Jack and other people of faith in Colorado.”

    The group deleted the ad within days and scrubbed references to the video from its website. A Family Policy Alliance spokesperson told Baptist Press on November 2 that the group “was no longer featuring Phillips in its ad online but was ‘pivoting to the next phase in our strategy with an ad that focuses on candidate Jared Polis and the threat to religious freedom he poses for people of faith in our state.’" That second ad, titled “Jared Polis vs. Freedom,” asserted that if elected, Polis would threaten “the freedom of people of faith throughout Colorado.” (During the 2018 election, Family Policy Alliance and its member group Massachusetts Family Institute worked extensively to undo a trans-inclusive nondiscrimination law in Massachusetts. The repeal effort failed.)

    The Family Policy Alliance ads and The Daily Wire’s story rest on the false premise that the LGBTQ community and people of faith are at odds, or that equal rights for LGBTQ people somehow result in the loss of rights for people of faith. Anti-LGBTQ figures often set up this “God vs. Gay” dichotomy to gin up sympathy for individuals and groups who wish to discriminate against LGBTQ people by citing their faith. But these figures, often right-wing evangelical Christians, do not represent all people of faith or even speak for all of Christians. The majority of Americans believe that homosexuality should be accepted -- including majorities of most religious groups. Almost 1,300 faith leaders filed an amicus brief defending the gay couple at the center of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case and condemning the use of “religious freedom” arguments to discriminate against LGBTQ people. According to the brief’s press release, the faith leaders represented 500,000 congregants “from approximately 50 unique faith traditions across the U.S.” And though the Supreme Court ruled against the couple, the decision did not indicate how similar court cases should play out. But Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the baker in the case, is litigating several other cases that may determine whether businesses serving the public have the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the guise of “religious exemptions.”

    Additional research by Brianna January.

  • Fox News president says his network "supports CNN," but Fox News personalities have been attacking CNN and Jim Acosta on air

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In the wake of the White House’s decision to pull CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s press pass after a verbal spat with President Donald Trump during a press conference, and CNN’s subsequent lawsuit against the Trump administration to restore Acosta’s credentials, Fox News President Jay Wallace issued a statement saying his network “supports CNN in its legal effort to regain its White House reporter's press credential.” But Wallace’s own on-air talent doesn’t seem to agree.

    In fact, several Fox News personalities praised the White House on air for revoking Acosta's hard pass and have been attacking Acosta personally. Sean Hannity said that Acosta's pass had been "rightfully revoked"; Laura Ingraham hosted Matt Schlapp, a frequent Fox guest and the husband of White House Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp, who called revoking the pass "the right decision"; and Fox contributor and former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie said that he was “so happy that the White House has revoked [Acosta’s] press credential.”

    Immediately following the November 7 incident, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace blasted Acosta’s “shameful” behavior. Fox Business hosts Stuart Varney and Trish Regan also went on to trash Acosta; Varney called him “a disgrace to the White House press corps” and Regan suggested that a background in sexual assault was useful for analyzing Acosta's interaction with the White House intern who attempted to wrestle the microphone from his hand during the contentious briefing. Laura Ingraham characterized Acosta’s attempt to ask a question of the president a “disgraceful performance,” and frequent Fox guests Diamond and Silk referred to Acosta as “the enemy of the people” and “the enemy of the truth.”

  • Right-wing media and Trump Jr. peddle debunked, years-old story about illegal voters in Florida

    And one fact-checker explains what she did to fight back.

    Blog ››› ››› PARKER MOLLOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Is it true that “nearly 200,000 Florida voters may not be citizens?” No, but that didn’t stop some prominent conservative social media accounts -- including that of the president’s son -- from spreading a since-debunked 2012 story making that claim.

    To understand how this happened, it’s good to know a little background about Florida’s brush with “anti-fraud” initiatives in recent years.

    In May 2012, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced a partnership between the Florida Department of State and Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to remove possible noncitizens from the state’s voter rolls ahead of that year’s election. The departments would cross-check data with each other for voter inconsistencies, flag them, and send them to the state’s Supervisors of Elections for review and, if needed, removal of registrations.

    It was a massive debacle. What began as a review of roughly 2,600 possible inconsistencies at the time the partnership was announced had ballooned to nearly 182,000 names within days. That’s when NBC Miami ran with the somewhat sensational headline “Nearly 200,000 Florida Voters May Not Be Citizens.”

    But the system was embarrassingly rife with false positives, leading to a lawsuit over the disenfranchisement of U.S. citizens who were removed but actually eligible to vote. In the end, out of those 182,000 names, just 85 were found to be ineligible -- an error rate of 99.95 percent. The following year, the state enrolled in Crosscheck, the interstate anti-fraud program championed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Similar to the results of Florida’s 2012 in-state program, Kobach’s Crosscheck program also “gets it wrong over 99 percent of the time,” a Washington Post analysis concluded. In April 2014, Florida exited the Crosscheck program, only to later accidentally release the partial Social Security numbers of nearly 1,000 Kansas voters

    In all, the “nearly 200,000 Florida voters may not be citizens” story turned out to be just 85 ineligible voter registrations. But why let the truth get in the way of a good story?

    This week, as conservative media push the unfounded idea that the current election in Florida is being “stolen,” this old story that confirmed all their worst fears seemed too good to be true: And it was.

    We know by now that most people simply don’t read past the headline of stories they see in their social media feeds. And headlines suggesting that there are an equivalent number of noncitizens voting illegally in Florida as there are people living in Tallahassee are eye-catching. That would be outrageous to people on any end of the political spectrum. But even based on the facts known at the time, the story wasn’t quite accurate.

    Rounding “nearly 182,000” up to “nearly 200,000” is a needless inflation of even the most sensationalized true version of the story, and saying “voters might not be citizens” suggests that these people have actually voted -- when the numbers actually refer to voter registrations. Both points probably could have been more artfully and accurately addressed in the original headline. Also, the word “might” is doing a lot of work here.

    It’s those small embellishments that made the story perfect for the era of weaponized headlines.

    The NBC headline, as some might say, aged poorly. And here’s how it spread:

    On November 10, the link was shared in a number of pro-Trump Facebook groups. On Twitter, the story got a boost from Instapundit, a conservative account which has more than 105,000 followers:

    A bit later, David Wohl, attorney and occasional Fox News guest, shared it on Twitter to his more than 26,000 followers.

    By the next day, commentator and conspiracy theorist Pamela Geller had published a blog post, in which she put the entire text of the NBC report, swapping out the article’s actual publication date (May 11, 2012) with November 10, 2018.

    Harlan Hill, a member of the Trump 2020 campaign advisory board, tweeted, “200,000 non citizens voting in Florida!?!? But I thought Democrats said voter fraud was a myth? We have got a SERIOUS problem on our hands. #StopTheSteal #MAGA”

    Then, in a since-deleted tweet, Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk wrote, “This is an absolute disgrace to our country. Foreign interference in our elections. Every single one of these people should be arrested, deported, and never allowed reentry. RT to spread this!”

    And finally, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted the link out, adding, “Amazing, but not shocking at all anymore.”

    Townhall.com also published a story on the topic that, while updated, still maintains that “200,000 non-citizens might have voted in the state's elections” in 2012.

    While it’s hard to put the #FakeNews (like, you know, actual fake news) toothpaste back in the proverbial tube, one woman tried, and she was actually kind of successful at it.

    Brooke Binkowski is a former managing editor at Snopes, and she currently runs the fact-checking site TruthOrFiction.com. When she saw the post begin to spread, she took quick action. First, she tweeted at people who might have known the article was old and didn’t accurately represent how that story concluded but shared it anyway “for approval and to fit in,” hoping to convince them to delete their posts and stem the spread of misinformation.

    “That headline hijacks intellect and goes straight to the amygdala if you’re fearful,” she tells me over a Twitter direct message. “‘Oh no! 200,000 non citizens trying to STEAL OUR ELECTION! they're gonna turn this country into a banana republic!’ and whatever else people think when they're too busy to click on the story.”

    When that didn’t work, she called the NBC station that ran the original story in hopes of getting the staff to update the article to reflect that it isn’t a current story. She explained the situation as best as she could, asking the station to add “STORY FROM 2012:” in the headline so it would show up in shares across social media.

    “Clickbait is one thing, but when you are actively interfering in what should be an open electoral process -- as I said in my email to them -- that’s quite another,” she adds. She continued:

    People don't realize how much damage buffoons like Jacob Wohl and Gateway Pundit and Donald Trump Jr. and all the rest of those people can do. They push this completely idiotic stuff and then it gets laundered by bots and turned into a story that's used to influence policy. It's now crystal clear that's what they are doing and that it is semi-coordinated, that there's a network of people who are pushing all this information to make it seem respectable, and they are mixing a little tiny bit of truth in to make it seem plausible.

    NBC Miami did end up updating the headline, adding “2012 Election:” at the very beginning. It also added an editor’s note at the top of the article:

    Editor’s note on Nov. 12, 2018: This story was published in May 2012.

    The initial list of 180,000 names was whittled to 2,625, according to the Florida Department of State. The state then checked a federal database and stated it found 207 noncitizens on the rolls (not necessarily voting but on the rolls). That list was sent to county election supervisors to check and it also turned out to contain errors. An Aug. 1, 2012, state elections document showed only 85 noncitizens were ultimately removed from the rolls out of a total of about 12 million voters at that time.

    While the story continues to be shared on social media as fresh news, the updated headline and editor’s note do seem to have had the effect of cooling its spread among influencers. Plus, the added context, including the disparity between “nearly 200,000” figure and the actual total of 85, has given people a way to quickly understand the facts of a somewhat complicated local story.

    Binkowski stresses that it’s important to understand that there are a lot of people who simply are not making statements or arguments in good faith. “If you are a news person, please be aware of this cycle and your massive responsibility. If you are a news executive, please pay your journalists a living wage,” she said, noting that “they are up against something new and nightmarish and trying to inoculate the world against it and could use all the support they can get.”

  • Mainstream media parrots Trump’s baseless claims regarding Florida recounts

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Following news that Florida Senate and gubernatorial races would be heading to recounts, many mainstream media outlets reported on President Donald Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the Florida election, but failed to note in their tweets and headlines that the accusations were baseless.

    A state judge presiding over a lawsuit regarding the Florida recount has noted that there is zero evidence of voter fraud, election tampering, or misconduct by election officials or workers. Miami Herald previously reported that state election observers have seen no evidence of criminal activity or election tampering in Broward County, where the controversial election supervisor has drawn criticism for alleged incompetence during the midterm elections.

    Despite a lack of evidence, Trump took to Twitter to push conspiracy theories about the Florida elections, calling ballots “massively infected,” accusing Democrats of trying to “steal two big elections in Florida,” and baselessly claiming that “many ballots are missing or forged.”

    Covering a president who frequently repeats lies has proven to be a challenge for the media since the beginning of Trump’s presidency, with many outlets publishing headlines and tweets that report his statements but fail to note their inaccuracies. Repeating the president’s claims in headlines without giving proper context only spreads Trump’s lies and causes confusion, which is particularly detrimental during coverage of elections and undermines faith in the country’s democratic institutions. It also sets media outlets up as easy targets for Trump to manipulate, allowing him to more easily spread his dishonesty and lies.

    ABC News

    "NEW: Pres. Trump calls Florida ballots "massively infected," demands end to recounts."

    While the article headline emphasized the lack of evidence in Trump’s claims, the tweet did not. Though ABC later issued a follow-up tweet including the phrase “without evidence,” the original tweet received a lot more retweets.

    NBC News

    "Trump on Florida: 'Many ballots are missing or forged.' Gillum: 'You sound nervous'"

    While the subheadline noted there was not evidence of fraud, the headline, which is viewed by more people, did not correct Trump's claim.

    Associated Press

    "Trump calls on Florida Democrat to concede, implies fraud"

    Bloomberg

    "Trump Claims ‘Honest Vote Count’ No Longer Possible in Florida"

    NY Post

    "Trump says honest recount in Florida ‘no longer possible’"

    USA Today 

    "President Trump calls for end to Florida recount, tweeted ballots 'massively infected'"

    While the actual article headline emphasized Trump’s lack of evidence, the phrase “without evidence” was removed from the Twitter headline.

    The Daily Beast

    "Trump: Stop Counting Florida Votes, Republicans Already Won"

  • Sinclair is already gearing up for Trump 2020 

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

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Fox & Friends hosts former Ohio secretary of state with own track record of voter suppression to complain about Florida recounts

    Ken Blackwell, who once rejected voter registration forms because he said the paper was too thin, suggested Florida “clean up” its voter rolls

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Continuing their effort to cast doubt on the ongoing vote recounts in the Florida Senate and gubernatorial elections, Fox & Friends hosted Ken Blackwell, a member of President Donald Trump’s now-defunct Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, to complain about the recount process. But Blackwell himself regularly sought to curtail access to the voting booth in his former capacity as Ohio secretary of state.

    Since the November 6 elections, Fox News has attempted to dispute the legally mandated recount in two statewide Florida elections with baseless claims of voter fraud. Furthering that theme, Fox & Friends brought on Blackwell to spew nonsense about the vote in Florida being “corrupted” by the recount process. He claimed that “Florida has to clean up … their voter rolls” to “make sure that folks who are deceased are taken off the rolls,” echoing a tiresome and groundless right-wing myth that widespread voter fraud is caused by “dead people voting.”

    Blackwell told Fox & Friends that election officials need “transparency” and “penalties” to restore confidence in Florida’s recount process “and get rid of folks who violate the standards. Three strikes and you're out.” But in his former role as Ohio secretary of state, Blackwell was accused of multiple attempts to suppress the vote, such as allegedly “failing to provide voter registration opportunities in public assistance offices as required by the National Voter Registration Act,” and even rejecting “1000s of voter registration applications due to paper weight.” His office also repeatedly leaked voters’ Social Security numbers when he was running for governor in 2006 -- all before he was named to Trump’s election fraud commission.

    From the November 13 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    KEN BLACKWELL (FORMER OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE): I think they’re going to look to the secretary of state to be in the lead, but the attorney general of Florida has a role, as does the governor. Look, the bottom line is that we cannot allow an election to be corrupted behind -- by hiding behind the veil of gross incompetence. And so that means that there are some steps that we have to take: One, we have to clean up -- Florida has to clean up, as are other states are doing, their voter rolls. We have to make sure that folks who are deceased are taken off the rolls -- folks who have moved from the state are taken off the rolls in the state that they have left. We, in fact, have to make sure that there are standards of transparency, and they must be enforced.

    And thirdly: It is very important that there are penalties to folks and personnel that violate these rules. Because, you know, my dad used to always say, “If you reward bad behavior, all you're going to get is more bad behavior.”

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): But, Ken, you know about Broward County. You sued them, right? Your organization sued them. You could have called this ahead of time.

    BLACKWELL: Well, look, but that -- that's the point. You have to have eyes on the process. Transparency, and as I’ve told many people, you, Brian, the other week, you know, “Those who want to do evil love the darkness.” We have a responsibility to make sure that our system, in a bipartisan way, has eyeballs on all of the process, at every step of the process. That is so, so important. And this, this -- this notion, that you can have chronic, massive incompetence that is excused -- that corrupts a process. That lowers confidence in the results, and it breeds distrust.

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Ken, real quickly, give us one thing Florida -- in particular, Broward County, perhaps -- should do to fix it?

    BLACKWELL: Transparency. Transparency, transparency, and get rid of folks who violate the standards. Three strikes and you're out. That’s baseball, and that's criminal justice system. Three strikes and you're out. Broward County, this person has had many strikes.