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  • Foreign media outlets keep showing how to cover politics in the age of Trump. Will U.S. outlets learn their lesson?

    Access journalism and softball interviews fail the American people. U.S.-based media need a reality check.

    Blog ››› ››› PARKER MOLLOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    “Trump returns to his dangerous lying about elections, makes up story about massive voter fraud he says has cost the Republicans victories...and falsely adds that you need a ‘voter ID’ to buy cereal,” Toronto Star Washington correspondent Daniel Dale tweeted about a recent interview between the president and The Daily Caller, an outlet Dale called “horrific.”

    Dale, who is known for his meticulous fact checks on Trump’s statements to the press and at rallies, was right: The interview with The Daily Caller was riddled with unchallenged errors and nonsensical statements. For instance, he lied about his border wall and about his attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He claimed that undocumented immigrants were voting in California and that Massachusetts residents had been bused into New Hampshire during the 2016 election, flipping the state to Hillary Clinton’s favor. He accused people of voting twice by putting on disguises and changing clothes and, as is almost always the case, he also peppered his responses with half-truths and exaggerations.

    Daily Caller editor Amber Athey responded to Dale’s criticism with a tweet of her own: “Why don't you let American outlets handle interviewing the president?”

    Maybe U.S. outlets, including mainstream organizations, simply aren’t up to the task of holding the powerful accountable.

    The Daily Caller has a conservative bent, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that this was a friendly interview. After all, one of the two people conducting the site’s interview with Trump was “lib-owning” enthusiast Benny Johnson, a serial plagiarist and publisher of conspiracy theories.

    But it’s not just the Daily Callers, Fox Newses, and Breitbarts of the world that give members of the Trump administration and its surrogates a pass. Even the most mainstream, nonpartisan news outlets in the country often let the administration spread rumors and outright misinformation during interviews without follow-up.

    For example, take a look at Trump’s October interview with The Associated Press. At one point, an AP interviewer asked if Trump had any plans to pardon Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman. During his response, which trailed off into a comment on Russians who had been indicted for hacking Democratic National Committee emails, the president said, with absolutely zero proof or explanation, “Some of [the hackers] supported Hillary Clinton.” Rather than question him about this bombshell accusation, the interviewers moved on to their next subject: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s planned trip to Saudi Arabia. At another point in the interview, Trump repeated well-known lies about a law requiring the U.S. to separate undocumented children from their parents at the border and another about members of the military receiving a raise for the first time in 11 years. On both occasions, there was no pushback from the interviewers.

    Another example comes from Trump’s recent on-camera interview with Jonathan Swan and Jim VandeHei of Axios. During the outlet’s November 4 HBO special, Swan asked Trump about his campaign promise to end birthright citizenship, as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment (emphasis added).

    DONALD TRUMP: You can definitely do it with an act of Congress. But now they're saying I can do it just with an executive order. Now, how ridiculous -- we're the only country in the world where a person comes in, has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years, with all of those benefits. It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous. And it has to end.

    But we’re not actually “the only country in the world” with birthright citizenship. While Axios does note on its website that there are, in fact, more than 30 other countries that offer birthright citizenship, people who saw the viral Youtube clip likely wouldn't know this, as neither Swan nor VandeHei corrected the false statement at the time. 

    Last week, a video of journalist Mehdi Hasan interviewing Trump campaign adviser Steven Rogers accumulated millions of views on social media. The video shows Hasan, who hosts UpFront and Head to Head on Al-Jazeera English and writes a column for The Intercept, asking a series of questions about: birthright citizenship, Trump’s claim that there were riots in California, and a frequent Trump lie about American Steel announcing plans to open new plants in the U.S. when it has done no such thing. Unlike the aforementioned examples of journalists passing on the opportunity to push back on false statements in real time, Hasan continued following up on the same issue until he got something resembling an honest answer out of Rogers.

    MEHDI HASAN: He said during the campaign that there’s six to seven steel facilities that are going to be opened up. There are no -- U.S. Steel has not announced any facilities. Why did he say they’ve announced new facilities? That’s a lie, isn’t it?

    STEVEN ROGERS: No, it isn’t, because there are a lot of companies opening up -- there are steel facilities that are going to be opening up or I think they actually, one opened up in Pennsylvania.

    HASAN: Sorry, Steven, that’s not what he said. I know it’s difficult for you. I know you want to try and defend him.

    ROGERS: No, it isn’t difficult for me.

    HASAN: Well OK, let me read the quote -- let me read the quote to you. “U.S. Steel just announced that they’re building six new steel mills.” That’s a very specific claim. U.S. Steel have not announced six new steel mills. They have said they’ve not announced six new steel mills mills. There’s no evidence of six new steel mills. He just made it up. And he repeated it. He didn’t just say it once.

    ROGERS: Look, I don’t know of what context these statements were made, but I can tell you this, the president of the United States has been very responsive to the American people, and the American people are doing well. Look, people can look at me and say, “Steve Rogers lied --”

    HASAN: The American people can be doing well, and the president can be a liar. There’s no contradiction between those two statements.

    ROGERS: I am not going to say the president of the United States is a liar. I’m not going to do that.

    HASAN: No, I know you’re not! But I’ve just put to you multiple lies, and you’ve not been able to respond to any of them.

    It’s not a matter of partisanship, either. In the past, Hasan has grilled Obama administration deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes over U.S. intervention in Syria and Obama adviser Derek Chollet on the former president’s foreign policy legacy. 

    It says a lot about the state of U.S. journalism that Hasan’s clip got attention for just being the type of interview journalists everywhere should be conducting.

    Journalist Mehdi Hasan Brilliantly Grills Trump Official On President’s Lies,” read one HuffPost headline. “Al Jazeera Host Pummels Trump Adviser With Examples of His Lies: ‘The President Lies Daily,’” read another over at Mediaite.

    In July, BBC journalist Emily Maitlis won similar praise after forgoing softball questions in favor of something a bit more substantive when interviewing former White House press secretary Sean Spicer. So used to friendly interviews, Spicer characterized the questions -- which included queries about the infamous Access Hollywood tape, Spicer’s lie about the crowd size at Trump’s inauguration, and about how he could both care about democracy and serve as the “agent” for a president who repeatedly lied -- as “extreme.” Maitlis told The New York Times, “That is what we do: We hold people accountable in robust interviews. It was not about me versus Sean Spicer at all.”

    In an exchange with me via Twitter direct messages, Hasan offered tips to journalists at U.S.-based outlets. On brushing off bad-faith accusations of bias and resisting the impulse to preserve access, Hasan borrows from a conservative catchphrase: “Facts don’t care about your feelings.” He writes:

    If journalists are posing tough but factual questions, then who cares how conservatives -- or liberals, for that matter -- feel about that? U.S. conservatives, of course, have a long, tried-and-tested history of 'playing the ref' and pressuring media organizations to soften their coverage with bad-faith accusations of liberal bias.

    One way around this is for interviewers to establish reputations for being tough with politicians from across the spectrum. Only a handful of U.S. cable news interviewers do this -- Jake Tapper and Chris Wallace, off the top of my head. But they're still not tough enough -- especially with Trump administration officials and supporters who like to tell brazen lies live on air.

    But being a tough interviewer isn’t without its downsides. For instance, in June 2016, CNN’s Jake Tapper interviewed then-candidate Trump. Tapper grilled Trump about his comments that Judge Gonzalo Curiel -- who was presiding over a case involving Trump University -- had a conflict of interest in the case because his parents were Mexican immigrants and Trump wanted to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. The interview, which aired during the June 5 edition of State of the Union with Jake Tapper, left Trump looking foolish and unable to defend his Curiel comments. The interview was hard-hitting. Trump has not given another interview to Tapper in the more than two years since.

    Hasan has thoughts about how journalists can avoid the access trap, but it involves a bit of teamwork. He wrote: “Unless all interviewers toughen up their act, it'll be very easy for politicians to pick and choose between tough and soft interviewers and decline requests from the former.” That is to say, journalists all need to up their games.

    He and his team on UpFront devote a lot of time to researching the people and issues they plan to discuss in advance. The team will watch past interviews the guest has done to see “what works and what doesn’t.” Importantly, they think realistically about how much ground an interview can or should cover in the time allotted. It’s an important question: Is it better to cover a dozen topics with zero follow-up questions, or does it make more sense to really drill down on three or four questions? The answer is probably the latter.

    “It's not rocket science: if you can't be bothered to prepare, to turn up for an interview equipped with relevant information, with facts and figures, don't be surprised if you're unable to hold an evasive guest to account,” writes Hasan. “Despite what Kellyanne Conway might want you to believe, facts are facts and facts still matter.”

    “Also: you're not there to make friends. You're there to speak truth to power. Don't be charmed, don't be bullied, don't be distracted. Focus,” he adds. “And if you let your guest get away with a brazen lie, in my view, you're complicit in the telling of that lie.”

    On-air interviews are rare opportunities for politicians to show how brave they really are. Voters should expect elected officials to take risks and to be able to defend their positions in unscripted environments.

    A good on-air interview can tell the voting public more than any debate or print interview ever could. Hasan explains:

    Interviews on television are one of the few times that a politician has his or her feet held to the fire in a sustained or coherent way. Print interviews tend to be softer, and done in private. TV debates between candidates tend to be an exchange of hackneyed and partisan talking points. A TV interview is an opportunity to perform a robust interrogation of a politician's views, positions, policies and statements. If it's not probing and challenging, what's the point of it? Why bother doing it?

    News consumers and voters should encourage politicians to take on the toughest interviewers they can find. Politicians who can’t explain and defend their policy positions are politicians who probably shouldn’t hold office at all. So long as interviewers are fair, fact-based, and focused on relevant issues, there’s no reason a tough interview isn’t also one that can win over both skeptics and supporters. Friendly interviews have their place, but they’re not especially helpful when it comes to giving voters the information they need to make informed choices about who they want representing them.

    Unfortunately, we’ve come to expect that presidents and other politicians will seek out the easiest, most slam-dunk interviews they can book. For instance, during the 2016 campaign, the Trump campaign forged an agreement with Sinclair Broadcast Group to air exclusive (and exceptionally friendly) interviews with Trump.

    The 2016 election demonstrated not just that candidates were afraid to take the risk of engaging in difficult interviews, but also that journalists were afraid to offer them.

    A study by Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy found that during the 2016 presidential election, there wasn’t a whole lot of policy being discussed. According to the report, 42 percent of all election media reports were dedicated to horse race coverage, with 17 percent focused on controversies. Just 10 percent of all election coverage was centered on policy issues.

    Perhaps news and entertainment have become too intertwined, with too much focus on viewership and not nearly enough emphasis on what should be the primary goal of informing the American people. Infotainment simply does not make for an informed electorate, and it’s a shame that we live in a world where interviews like Hasan’s are the exception and not the rule.

  • What you need to know about EPA nominee Andrew Wheeler and the media

    Wheeler mimics Scott Pruitt's press strategy ahead of his Senate confirmation hearings

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Andrew Wheeler, President Donald Trump's soon-to-be nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is more like his predecessor, Scott Pruitt, than most people realize -- particularly when it comes to his interactions with the media.

    It's well-known that Wheeler, who took over as acting administrator of the EPA after Pruitt resigned in July, has continued Pruitt's work of rolling back major environmental regulations. That was no surprise; Wheeler formerly worked as a lobbyist for coal, natural gas, chemical, and utility companies, and as an aide to Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), the Senate's most recalcitrant climate denier.

    Wheeler does, however, have a reputation as a more behind-the-scenes, businesslike administrator than the scandal-plagued Pruitt. New York Times reporter Lisa Friedman recently described the acting EPA chief as having a "low-key, under-the-radar style, even as he has worked diligently and methodically to advance Mr. Trump’s deregulatory agenda."

    But Wheeler is now following in Pruitt's footsteps in many of his dealings with journalists and the press.

    Wheeler's EPA press office attacks journalists and media outlets

    Pruitt had a remarkably contentious relationship with the media. His press office retaliated against specific reporters whose stories it didn't like and attacked them by name in press releases, among other aggressive moves.

    When Wheeler took over, many reporters noticed and welcomed a change in approach. E&E News published a story about the differences in July under the headline "'Night and day' as Wheeler opens doors to press."

    But in recent weeks, the EPA press office has returned to some of the same combative tactics employed during the Pruitt era. On October 30, it published a press release headlined "EPA Sets the Record Straight After Being Misrepresented in Press." Two days later, it got more aggressive with a press release titled "Fact Checking Seven Falsehoods in CNN’s Report."

    From an E&E News article published last week:

    The [EPA press shop's] combative approach calmed a bit when acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler took over for Scott Pruitt, who resigned over the summer, but now it appears to be intensifying again.

    ...

    The agency's actions have been scrutinized in the press in recent weeks, and the public affairs shop has been hitting back.

    ...

    Bobby Magill, president of the Society of Environmental Journalists, said the agency seems to be returning to its war-room-style tactics under Pruitt.

    "It looks to me like they're sort of returning to form," Magill said. "This suggests that they are returning to their previous press strategy under Scott Pruitt."

    Wheeler favors right-wing media for his televised interviews

    Pruitt heavily favored Fox News and other right-wing media outlets, giving them far more interviews than mainstream news organizations.

    Wheeler exhibits similar preferences. All four of the TV interviews we've seen him give since becoming acting administrator at the EPA have been with right-wing outlets.

    The first went to the conservative Sinclair TV conglomerate. Boris Epshteyn, Sinclair's chief political analyst and a former Trump aide, asked no hard questions and gave Wheeler a platform to make specious claims about automobile fuel economy. Wheeler's second TV interview was with Fox News, the third was with the Fox Business Network, and the fourth went to a Sinclair national correspondent.

    Wheeler embraces right-wing outlets and bashes mainstream media via his Twitter account

    Like his predecessor, Wheeler has a fondness for right-wing media outlets and personalities, but he's exhibited that in a way that Pruitt never did -- via his personal Twitter account.

    The Daily Beast's Scott Bixby reported earlier this year on one noteworthy example:

    In August 2016, Wheeler publicly defended alt-right troll Milo Yiannopolous after the latter was banned from Twitter for encouraging users to harass actress Leslie Jones. In a now-deleted tweet, the lobbyist linked to a six-minute video, “The Truth About Milo,” produced by InfoWars editor-at-large and noted conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson, in which Watson posited that conservatives might be “banned from using the internet altogether if they trigger your butthurt.”

    Wheeler recently retweeted Fox's Brit Hume when he criticized The New York Times and linked to an article in the conservative National Review. Wheeler has also liked a number of tweets from right-wing figures who criticized mainstream media outlets, including:

    • a Donald Trump Jr. tweet linking to The Daily Caller and mocking CNN
    • a tweet from frequent Fox guest and NRATV host Dan Bongino that slammed MSNBC
    • a tweet from libertarian talk show host Dave Rubin that bashed HuffPost

    Wheeler promotes climate denial and racist memes via his Twitter account

    Like Pruitt, Wheeler also casts doubt on well-established climate science -- another view he has expressed through his Twitter account.

    In a 2015 tweet, Wheeler praised a RealClearPolitics essay that argued, "There is no such thing as 'carbon pollution.'” The essay criticized mainstream media outlets and scientific journals that have reported on climate change:

    Of course, we don’t have good data or sound arguments for decarbonizing our energy supply. But it sounds like we do. If you read Scientific American, Science, Nature, National Geographic, the New York Times, the Washington Post, or any of thousands of newspapers and magazines, and you take them at face value, you would have to agree that there is a strong likelihood that serious climate change is real and that decarbonization or geo-engineering are our only hopes. ... These are the people promoting a myth that has become deeply ingrained in our society.

    In 2011, Wheeler tweeted a link to a post on the climate-denial blog JunkScience.com. The post, written by the site's founder and longtime climate denier Steve Milloy, argued that information from the American Lung Association should not be trusted because the organization "is bought-and-paid-for by the EPA." Wheeler also retweeted a Milloy tweet from 2015 that took a shot at HuffPost founder Arianna Huffington. And in 2009, Wheeler sent two tweets linking to climate-denying blog posts.

    As HuffPost's Alexander Kaufman reported last month, Wheeler has also used his social media accounts to endorse or promote other troubling views:

    Andrew Wheeler, the acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, repeatedly engaged with inflammatory content on his personal Facebook and Twitter accounts over the past five years, including some in the past month.

    The previously-unreported interactions include liking a racist image of former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on Facebook and retweeting an infamous “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist.

    Wheeler now turns back to major mainstream newspapers as he faces confirmation fight

    Though Wheeler has shown a preference for right-wing media when he does TV interviews, he has given a number of interviews to mainstream newspapers and wire services. In July, after it was announced that he would serve as acting EPA administrator, Wheeler gave substantive interviews to The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, USA Today, and The New York Times.

    The pace of his interviews with print outlets slowed down after his first month in office, but Wheeler now appears to be ramping it back up -- just as he's about to begin the process of trying to earn Senate confirmation.

    On November 16, hours before Trump announced that he would nominate Wheeler to officially fill the top EPA spot, Wheeler sat down for an interview with New York Times reporter Lisa Friedman. And Wheeler is scheduled to do a live-streamed interview with Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin on November 28.

    Wheeler may want to present himself as a mainstream moderate rather than a right-wing partisan as he tries to win over senators, and turning to major mainstream newspapers could be part of his strategy. But that would also present an opportunity for environmental journalists to ask tough questions and push him off his well-rehearsed talking points before confirmation hearings begin. We'll be looking to Eilperin to kick that process off next week.  

  • Fox host Jeanine Pirro has banked more than $200K speaking at GOP events since Trump's inauguration

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News host Jeanine Pirro has received more than $200,000 in speaking fees from 13 Republican organizations in the past two years, according to a Media Matters analysis.

    The network recently lied by claiming it “does not condone any talent participating in campaign events.” In reality, Fox News personalities have routinely participated in Republicans events such as fundraisers and rallies.

    Perhaps the most prolific campaigner for Republicans is Pirro, the host of the weekend show Justice with Judge Jeanine. Pirro has positioned herself as one of President Donald Trump’s most sycophantic backers in the media. She has ​reportedly attempted to cash in her on-air advocacy for a senior job in the Trump administration.

    Pirro has also turned her pro-Trump advocacy into a lucrative side business as a paid speaker for Republican events. Fox News has no apparent problem with her and other personalities such as Fox News host Pete Hegseth and contributor Sebastian Gorka getting paid by Republican organizations; in one case, a Republican committee sent a payment directly to Pirro at Fox News’ New York City headquarters.

    Here is a list of 13 events that Pirro has done since 2017, along with the amount of money she or her speaking agency, Premiere Speakers Bureau, received in speaking fees near the time of the event. The data was obtained through a search of available campaign finance reports posted on state and federal databases.

    • Scott Wagner for Governor in Pennsylvania (October 10): $35,000. (Note: Initial reports documented that Wagner paid Pirro $24,500; an additional payment of $10,500 was made public following those reports.)
    • Kern County Republican Party in California (March 16): $25,000
    • Sangamon County Republican Central Committee in Illinois (February 8): $13,250
    • New Jersey Republican State Committee (Pirro received a “speaker’s fee” in January, February, and March of 2018 for an “event”; Media Matters wasn’t able to determine which event she did, and the committee did not respond to a request for clarification.): $15,000
    • Alachua County Republican Party in Florida (November 9, 2017): $15,000
    • California Republican Party (October 21, 2017): $20,000
    • Volusia County Republican Party in Florida (October 8, 2017): $20,000; separately, Pirro also received $442.35 for "books."
    • Republican Party of Arkansas (July 28, 2017): $15,000
    • Bonneville County GOP in Idaho (March 31, 2017): $14,000; separately, Pirro also received $2,204.42 for “airfare and hotel.”
    • Republican Committee of Lower Merion and Narberth in Pennsylvania (March 20, 2017): $5,284; separately, Pirro also received $240.90 for "transportation expenses."
    • Georgia Republican Party (March 13, 2017): $15,000; separately, Pirro also received $261.38 for “travel fees.”
    • Erie County Republican Committee in New York (March 9, 2017): $7,579.34
    • Kent County Republican Committee in Delaware (February 18, 2017): $12,000 (via SENR PAC, which is the campaign committee of the Delaware Senate Republicans).

    Fox News did not respond to a request for comment.

  • How the Russian concept of "info-noise" can help American outlets cover Trump

    Substantive policy changes can -- and should -- be kept separate from statements that are merely inflammatory

    Blog ››› ››› TALIA LAVIN


    Melissa Joskow/Media Matters

    “Infoshum” -- or “information noise” -- is a term that has recently gained attention in Russian-language media analysis. Pioneered by TV channel RTVI, the concept applies to meaningless, inflammatory news items and attempts to differentiate them from those with substance. American outlets covering President Donald Trump would serve their audiences better if they learned the difference.

    As independent Russian media analyst Oleg Kashin put it last month in a column for Republic.ru, “Infoshum is not fake news or post-truth” -- rather, it is news that draws on provocative statements, conjectures, or social media controversies to build stories designed for maximum clickability and minimum informativeness. Kashin’s take translates as: “For every piece of news that’s made of clear, intense, high-quality reporting work, ... there’s one for which success is virality for the sake of virality, and what used to be sent out in boring press releases is now mined and sold as a valuable exclusive.” To further illustrate the principle, Kashin used examples of journalists calling up Russian senators in the Duma who are known for making inflammatory comments and extracting “one detail that turns it into real anti-journalism” -- some sensational statement which then becomes a news story in its own right. Writing up provocative tweets by political figures elides even this faint journalistic effort.

    In the Trump era, it’s hard not to see the problem of infoshum as familiar and, these days, fundamental to the way American news outlets operate. Idle, inflammatory musings from the president are quickly spun into headlines. On October 30, Axios’s Jonathan Swan engaged in what Kashin might call “anti-journalism” by inducing Trump to assert, with characteristic truculence, that he planned to end birthright citizenship and then publishing Trump’s resultant vague comments about ending it, packaged uncritically as an “Exclusive.”

    Trump is an infoshum-dispatching machine -- he has a singular ability to signal-jam mainstream news sources by offering a constant stream of bizarre, bellicose statements designed to whet the appetites of click-hungry editors. And even when he hasn’t had Fox News airtime to put forth half-baked provocations, reporters themselves often engender such cycles of controversy with their questions; the president has never met an incendiary query that he didn’t like. Could liberal philanthropist George Soros be funding the migrant caravan? Sure. Banning birthright citizenship? We’re looking into it. As Deadspin editor David Roth put it in a recent piece, “Reporters shout something at Trump about a thing he said or did or his response to someone’s else response to something, and then he shouts that he did it because he felt like it or actually didn’t do it at all,” a ritual that repeats itself over and over again amid press scrums on the White House lawn. “If there is a purpose here,” Roth wrote, “it is the theater of it—the theater of Trump’s strange fey boorishness and the towering and obvious lies he tells.” The headlines generated by fragmented, aggressive statements during Trump’s freewheeling and infrequent press conferences are information-noise too; there is little to add beyond the easily verified fact that the president said something and that it had little substance but much fury. 

    Perhaps the ultimate example of Trumpian infoshum is the issue of the caravan -- a group of migrants headed toward the U.S. border seeking asylum -- which became a singular focus of Trump’s screeds leading up to the midterm elections. Trump’s aggressive anti-immigrant tweets and statements were dutifully picked up and accelerated by his loyalists at Fox News, and subsequently bled over into mainstream outlets where caravan coverage surged, as Media Matters’ Matt Gertz has illustrated. In this way, a partisan talking point thrummed into the national consciousness via an ongoing stream of info-noise issuing from the White House.

    RTVI contends with infoshum by siloing it in a separate section tagged as “noise,” reserved for stories that are thinly sourced and make inflammatory claims -- such as “The US is on the brink of a new civil war” or “Improvements in cell phones provokes the development of cancer.” While it’s tempting to cover presidential statements with gravitas that would preclude this treatment, Trump’s well-established penchant for furthering baseless conspiracy theories, inciting shallow but debasing cultural conflicts, and generally inducing a click-driven news cycle to gravitate in his sullen orbit means that such treatment is well-warranted. Absent material policy changes -- whose substance, consequences, and impacts on different communities should be reported on with appropriate seriousness -- most of Trump’s eruptions should be treated as exactly what they are: Noise.

  • National broadcast TV news mentioned climate change in less than 4 percent of California wildfire coverage

    While ABC, CBS, and NBC again dropped the ball, local TV news programs in California brought up climate change numerous times during wildfire reporting

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    This month’s catastrophic California wildfires garnered significant media coverage, with major national news programs on ABC, CBS, and NBC airing more than 100 segments about the unfolding disasters. But Media Matters found that just 3.7 percent of those segments mentioned the link between climate change and worsening wildfires. That's a minuscule improvement over their coverage of Western wildfires this summer, when the networks incorporated climate change into less than 2 percent of their segments.

    On the local level, TV news programs on California stations included discussion of climate change in numerous segments about the ongoing wildfires. News shows on major TV network affiliates in the state’s three largest media markets aired 44 episodes that addressed how climate change exacerbates wildfires.

    Climate change is a critical factor contributing to the growing severity of wildfires in the United States, according to researchers. Scientists have documented an increase in both the number of large fires and the total area burned per year in the U.S. Fifteen of the 20 largest wildfires in California’s history have occurred since 2000, as rising temperatures in the West have lengthened wildfire season by several months. Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist and dean of the University of Michigan’s environmental school, told The Associated Press that the increasing severity of fires is “much less due to bad management and is instead the result of our baking of our forests, woodlands and grasslands with ever-worsening climate change.”

    NBC mentioned climate change in just two segments, while ABC and CBS each made only one mention

    The three national broadcast TV networks -- ABC, CBS, and NBC -- aired 107 segments about the California wildfires on their major morning and evening news programs from November 8 to 13. Only four of these, or 3.7 percent, included discussion of climate change. NBC aired two of the segments that mentioned climate change, while ABC and CBS aired one each.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Both of NBC’s climate change mentions came from weather anchor Al Roker on the November 12 episode of Today. During the show’s 7 a.m. hour, Roker discussed the factors that have made the fires so bad: “July was the hottest month ever recorded in California. That hot weather dries out the vegetation. They’ve had no rain to speak of really in the last three months. Parched conditions. And this is all due to climate change.” He noted that the annual number of large fires in the state has more than tripled since 1970, and that there have been six times as many acres burned per year on average since then. He made many of the same points in a later segment during the same episode. Here's the first segment:

    CBS’ climate change mention came on the November 11 episode of CBS This Morning, during a segment by WCBS New York weather anchor Lonnie Quinn. He said researchers believe that “both forest management and the changing climate play a role” in worsening wildfires. “California’s temperatures have increased 2 to even 3 degrees over the last century," he explained. "Making matters worse, there was a five-year drought from 2011 to 2016. That drought killed more than 129 million trees. That's just fuel for the current fires that are out there."

    ABC's coverage was the weakest, seeming to downplay the effect of climate change on the wildfires. On the November 10 episode of ABC’s Good Morning America, anchor Eva Pilgrim said to ABC senior meteorologist Rob Marciano, “It seems like these fires are getting worse and worse every year. Is this climate change? What’s the deal with all this?” Marciano responded, “This summer we saw excessive heat waves and drought in some cases, you can link a little bit of that to climate change. But this is a Santa Ana season, so this is not unusual to get winds blowing flames like this, and this is a dry season as well.”

    Even this fleeting mention of climate change is a slight improvement for ABC, which rarely brings up climate change at all in its coverage of extreme weather. During this past summer's dramatic wildfire season, ABC's coverage didn't mention climate change a single time, and the network made no mention of climate change earlier this year in its coverage of both a deadly heat wave and Hurricane Florence.

    CBS and NBC also did poorly when it came to incorporating climate change into their reporting on this summer’s wildfires in the Western U.S., even though they didn't completely strike out like ABC. From June 21 to September 21, the main morning and evening news programs on ABC, CBS, and NBC aired a combined 471 segments discussing the wildfires, and only nine of them, or 1.9 percent, mentioned climate change -- six on CBS and three on NBC.

    California local news shows mentioned climate change numerous times in their wildfire coverage

    Media Matters also analyzed news coverage of the wildfires on local affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox in the three largest California media markets: Los Angeles, San Francisco-San Jose-Oakland, and Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto. From November 8 to 13, we found 44 news show episodes that mentioned climate change in relation to the wildfires -- 16 in Los Angeles, and 14 each in the Sacramento and San Francisco areas. Over half of these episodes featured a clip of California Gov. Jerry Brown blaming climate change for the destructiveness of the wildfires during a November 11 press conference.

    One example of such coverage came from Los Angeles’ KTTV Fox 11 noon news program on November 12. The segment was wholly focused on Brown's comments about climate change and wildfires:

    A more muddled example aired on Sacramento’s KXTV ABC 10 Morning Blend show. The segment discussed a tweet from President Donald Trump that blamed the fires on poor forest management. The hosts noted Brown's comments about climate change, then invited viewers to take a poll and vote for either forest management or climate change as the bigger contributor to the fires. Most of the poll takers selected forest management:

    Both of these segments would have been better if they had informed viewers of what scientists and other experts actually say: Climate change is a significant contributor, and, in the case of the current fires, forest management is not.

    Still, it's notable that many local news stations made a point of discussing climate change in the context of the fires. Local stations have a greater responsibility than national ones to report on the immediate dangers that wildfires pose to their community members, including evacuation orders and specific details about how fires spread. And yet this month in California, many local programs still found time to report on how climate change worsens wildfires. There's no excuse for national networks not to do the same.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis and iQ Media for broadcast network TV news segments that covered wildfires using the search terms wildfire(s), forest fire(s), or fire(s), and then we searched within those segments for mentions of climate change or global warming. Our analysis covered morning news shows (ABC's Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, and NBC's Today) and nightly news shows (ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News) from November 8-13. For local California coverage, we searched IQ Media for news shows between 4 a.m. and midnight on affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox in the media markets of Los Angeles, San Francisco-San Jose-Oakland, and Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto.

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

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

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

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

    It is not understated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Fox's obsession with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR

    Since New York Democratic Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ primary win in June, Fox personalities have spent a remarkable amount of time and energy focusing on her. The network has complained about her platform (Medicare for everyone, green jobs, housing as a human right, women’s rights, etc.), claimed Democrats support her only “because she’s a woman,” and generally devoted breathless coverage to the newly elected congresswoman from Queens and the Bronx. Here’s a sampling:

  • Trump’s Fox propagandists are trying to scuttle the bill to protect Mueller

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox hosts with close ties to President Donald Trump are denouncing Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) legislative effort to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, blasting the senator for insufficient loyalty to the president and claiming his bill is unnecessary because Trump has said he does not plan to curtail the probe.

    Trump forced out Attorney General Jeff Sessions last Wednesday, replacing him with Matthew Whitaker, a Trump loyalist who had frequently criticized the Mueller investigation before joining the Justice Department. In response, a bipartisan group of senators tried to pass legislation to protect the probe yesterday, but they were blocked by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who argued that the bill was unnecessary because Trump has said he does not intend to fire Mueller.

    Flake, a co-sponsor of the bill, has said that he will not vote to advance judicial nominations in the closely divided Judiciary Committee or support them on the floor until the legislation receives a floor vote.

    The president’s Fox propagandists responded with fury last night.

    Trump confidant and Fox Business host Lou Dobbs argued that the “great president deserves the support of all Republican officeholders” and those pushing the Mueller bill are “separating themselves from his agenda and making, really, some rather silly and preposterous noises rather than standing tall and shoulder-to-shoulder with the president.”

    Sean Hannity, a close adviser to the president who appeared at a Trump election rally last week, smeared “Sen. Jeff Snowflake” for having “again today exposed himself, well, not as a conservative.” The Fox News host condemned Flake for “threatening the president” in support of a bill that “supposedly protects Mueller from being fired by the president, which isn't happening,” and said that the senator “should be ashamed” for “blocking conservative judges, breaking a promise to the people you represent in Arizona.”

    And Laura Ingraham, who was once considered for the post of White House press secretary, told her Fox News audience Flake was “trying to further harm his party before he leaves.” She asked Fox News contributor Andrew McCarthy about whether the bill is unconstitutional and discussed with former independent counsel Ken Starr the “young lawyers” whose confirmations will be put on hold due to Flake’s move. All three agreed that there is no real threat to the Mueller probe.

    Since Mueller’s appointment in May 2017, Fox hosts including Dobbs, Hannity, and Ingraham have told their audiences night after night that his work is illegitimate and intended to damage the president and that it should be halted as soon as possible. Now that the president is taking steps to curtail the probe, they are doing everything they can to prevent any action to stop him.

  • 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 broadcast 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 and anti-Semitic and racial slurs and invites followers to “fuck shit up” legally by pushing and spreading the misinformation campaign 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.