Blog | Media Matters for America


  • Trump is naming the nation’s worst economist to the Federal Reserve

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    I don’t have a degree in economics, but I do know that Stephen Moore -- announced today as President Donald Trump’s pick to fill a seat on the Federal Reserve Board -- is an odious hack.

    Moore, of late a CNN senior economic analyst and Heritage Foundation apparatchik, has spent his career using lofty platforms at media outlets and right-wing think tanks to promote whatever the Republican Party’s line of the day might be on economic policy issues. He is the latest in a long line of TV news pundits to catch the president’s eye and garner a nomination to a powerful federal post.

    Trump’s claim that Moore is “very respected” is, as is typical for this president, a lie. Moore is widely known for being sloppy and dishonest, the kind of shill who spurs a newspaper to promise not to publish his work anymore after needing to append a lengthy correction to one of his op-eds.

    Moore is also a pure partisan, with his economic opinions following from what benefits his party. When Barack Obama was in the White House, that meant calling for tight monetary policy even though that would hurt economic growth; with Trump in the White House, it has meant fervent demands for loose monetary policy, which he says would improve economic growth.

    But for Trump, Moore’s biggest flaw is a feature, not a bug.

    You can count on Moore to support the Fed taking all available actions to keep the economy booming in order to help Trump get re-elected. And in the event that Trump loses and a Democrat takes the White House, you can expect him to immediately turn on the dime and claim that the economy needs to be slowed down to prevent inflation. Economic indicators will mean nothing to Moore; only raw political power will matter to him.

    Let us not forget CNN’s role in this farce. The news network whose tagline is “Facts First” thought Moore’s partisan commentary was so valuable that the network lured him away from his Fox News post after Trump’s election. Moore’s reputation as a hack had been cemented long before CNN hired him, and the network didn’t care.

    This is par for the course for CNN and its president, Jeff Zucker, who were so enamored of providing on-air “balance” that they hired a team of pro-Trump shills and grifters to fill the network’s green rooms. Rather than providing its viewers with information, CNN has preferred pugilistic battles, letting presidential propagandists duke it out with more credible voices.

    And now the president has plucked one of those gladiators from the ring and wants to put him on the Fed’s board.

  • Talia Lavin could teach Laura Ingraham a lot about journalism

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Ordinarily, it would not be considered newsworthy that a private university hired a journalist with extensive experience covering the far-right to teach an undergraduate journalism course based on her expertise. But because said journalist is right-wing outrage target Talia Lavin, Fox News aired multiple segments about New York University hiring Lavin (who formerly worked at Media Matters). In one segment, Fox host Laura Ingraham even referred to Lavin as a “journo-terrorist.”

    Lavin is no stranger to right-wing outrage. About a year ago, she made a mistake while working as a fact-checker for The New Yorker, misidentifying the tattoo on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer and veteran as white supremacist imagery when in fact it was a symbol from his platoon while deployed in Afghanistan. Lavin corrected the error within minutes, apologized, and deleted the tweet she had written about it “so as not to spread misinformation.” Despite the quick correction and apology, ICE’s official Twitter account posted a clarification about the tattoo in question and a press statement that called out Lavin by name. After that, the entire right-wing media ecosystem followed suit.

    They found Lavin an irresistible target for far-right audiences: a Jewish, progressive female journalist who had publicly made a mistake. She resigned from her job after making the error, but that didn’t stop right-wing media from giving the events wall-to-wall coverage. What ensued was anti-Semitic and misogynistic harassment targeting Lavin online for weeks, with her pictures posted to anonymous message boards and her Twitter mentions flooded with violent threats and insults. Nazi sympathizer Milo Yiannopoulos even bragged about harassing her with a coded neo-Nazi symbol.

    All of which explains why right-wing media jumped at a new opportunity to feed the many anti-Semitic, misogynistic trolls in their audience, using Lavin’s upcoming teaching position at New York University’s journalism school. Fox News aired multiple segments with the news of Lavin’s hiring, with Ingraham focusing on it during prime time. The hypocrisy of Ingraham’s outrage over Lavin was underscored by an earlier segment in which Ingraham painted conservatives as martyrs of liberal attacks against free speech on college campuses.

    With its history of airing blunders, inaccuracies, sycophantic propaganda, and downright stupidity, Fox News is hardly the best messenger to promote journalistic integrity and best practices in reporting. And unlike Lavin, Fox repeatedly refuses to apologize. The network’s record of catering to the far-right and fostering extremism shows the hollowness of its concern about who is teaching a journalism course on covering the far-right. And as someone who has actually worked closely with Lavin in covering extremism, I can confidently attest that the mistake she made -- which right-wing media continue to hypocritically weaponize against her -- hardly tarnishes her journalistic talent, her wide-reaching knowledge of the far-right and its insidious mechanisms, or her relentlessness in the face of the harassment that right-wing media continue to incite. In short, many at Fox News, including Ingraham, should take Lavin's class.

  • Fox News’ Gillibrand distortion is a perfect example of how the propaganda machine works

    Blog ››› ››› PARKER MOLLOY

    Meliss Joskow / Media Matters

    At her March 19 presidential campaign event in Davenport, IA, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) fielded a series of questions from potential voters on a wide range of topics. However, it was a very specific part of her answer to a broadly worded question about immigration that made news.

    That night, the Republican National Committee’s “GOP War Room” YouTube channel posted a link to an 18-second clip in which Gillibrand says, “We need comprehensive immigration reform. If you are in this country now, you must have the right to pay into Social Security, to pay your taxes, to pay into the local school system, and to have a pathway to citizenship.”

    Gillibrand was pretty clearly saying that she supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, noting that these are people who in many cases already make contributions into Social Security and local school districts via taxes. The YouTube clip was deceptively titled “Sen. Gillibrand: Expand Social Security To All Illegal Immigrants,” a distortion of what she said.

    The clip was posted to YouTube at 9:33 p.m. EDT. Less than 90 minutes later, Fox News’ Laura Ingraham played the clip for her audience, adopting the RNC’s misleading interpretation.

    “A 2020 Dem wants to give illegals, you kidding me, another benefit?” said Ingraham before throwing to a commercial. Upon returning, she played the clip and added, “Anything else, Kirsten? Well, there you have it. She wants to expand Social Security benefits to illegal immigrants.”

    That, of course, is untrue and gives the impression that Gillibrand wants to start cutting checks to undocumented immigrants. In reality, what she’s proposing would result in more money being paid in to Social Security, with more people who are currently undocumented being able to do things aboveboard.

    On March 20, Hannity covered the story, inviting Trump supporters Mike Huckabee and Larry Elder on to thrash the nonexistent radical policy proposal. Huckabee took things even further when he said that this would be the equivalent of giving undocumented immigrants “grandma’s Social Security,” telling the audience that this policy would result in people currently on Social Security losing out on benefits because “we’re going to be giving it to people who broke into this country illegally.”

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Doesn't a sanctuary state or city, governor, aren't they aiding and abetting criminal activity? Isn't this a case of rewarding illegal activity? And if we only pay attention to the laws we want, can we have a system of laws?

    MIKE HUCKABEE (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Sean, you are so outdated. You are going to have to get in the groove, man. Don't you know that if a person comes here illegally, not only should -- well, listen, Sean, let's not only give them grandma's Social Security, let's toss in a car and maybe rent for, you know, a nice home.

    I'm just amazed that people are applauding this kind of stuff. And I hope Kirsten Gillibrand has to go out and talk to people in their 70s who can barely afford food and tell them that they're going to get not their Social Security raised because we're going to be giving it to people who broke into this country illegally. I can't wait to see whether she gets applause in a roomful of retirees, living off of Social Security, when she makes that ridiculous proposal.

    Up to this point, Fox News had covered the story only on what it bills as its “opinion” shows. That changed when Fox News @ Night picked it up.

    Fox News @ Night is described as “a live hour of hard news and analysis of the most compelling stories from Washington and across the country.” In a 2017 interview with TVNewser, host Shannon Bream, who is scheduled to headline a conservative group’s fundraiser next month, was clear: “I’m in the news division, so it will be all straight news, not opinion.”

    During the March 20 show, Bream delivered the story while a series of chyrons appeared on the screen below her, each hyping the RNC-crafted distortion and with one even including a fabricated quote about Social Security being a right (Gillibrand said people should have the right to pay into Social Security, not that Social Security benefits were a right). The segment was barely distinguishable from the network’s “opinion” side commentary.  

    The following morning, the story appeared on “news” and “opinion” programs, doing away with the illusion that there’s a line between the two. This could be a big problem for Fox.

    Fox & Friends and America’s Newsroom both covered the story during their March 21 broadcasts (and Fox & Friends did again on March 22), both repeating the spin put on it by the RNC.

    In an effort to keep advertisers from walking out the door over the white nationalist rhetoric of the likes of Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, the anti-Muslim commentary of Jeanine Pirro, or the conspiracy-mongering of Sean Hannity, Fox has been trying to emphasize the work of its news division. But there’s only so much Shepard Smith and Chris Wallace can do for the channel’s credibility, as others who the network has put forward as able to handle tasks such as debate moderation -- namely Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum -- are either dangerously sloppy or overtly partisan. While the network’s No. 1 fan, who happens to be the president of the United States, would almost certainly love it if Fox were to run even more opinion programming, the news side serves a purpose as a smokescreen.

    The truth is that there’s no real distinction between what counts as news and opinion at Fox. The two sides feed into each other, and in this case, both were fed by the RNC. Fox News is a propaganda network, and it’s starting to reflect poorly on the skittish advertisers that remain.

  • Fox mostly ignores report Jared Kushner used private email, messaging app for government business

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News has virtually ignored reporting that White House senior adviser Jared Kushner used private email and a messaging app to conduct government business and even communicate with foreign leaders and that other current and former administration officials have also used private email. The conservative network has a years-long history of ignoring, whitewashing, or delaying reporting on stories that could make President Donald Trump look bad.

    CNN reported that on March 21, House oversight committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) sent a letter to the White House requesting more information in an investigation into the use of personal email and private messaging apps by Trump administration officials. In the letter, Cummings “alleged that Jared Kushner, who is also a senior White House adviser, had been using WhatsApp, a popular messaging application, to ‘communicate with foreign leaders’ -- something he said that Kushner's attorney had confirmed in a private meeting. He also contended that Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump, also a senior adviser, may be in violation of the Presidential Records Act by her use of private emails.”

    A search of the SnapStream video database revealed that since the existence of Cummings’ letter was first reported on March 21, only Shepard Smith Reporting and America’s Newsroom have covered the allegation against Kushner on Fox News, for a total of 2 minutes and 26 seconds. The rest of Fox’s supposed news shows did not report on it -- neither Special Report with Bret Baier nor The Story with Martha MacCallum had a segment on the story, despite both of the shows airing hours after Shepard Smith Reporting. Fox’s prime-time lineup completely ignored the story.

    According to Cummings’ letter, this allegation stemmed from a December meeting with Kushner’s personal attorney Abbe Lowell. Cummings also alleged in the letter that Lowell could not answer whether Kushner transmitted classified information through the private messaging app WhatsApp, which Cummings reportedly would consider a “major security breach.” Lowell denied that he had told Cummings that Kushner messaged foreign officials on WhatsApp, saying, “I did not specify who” Kushner was contacting through the private messaging app. CNN reported that the other Trump administration officials accused of using personal email for government business include former chief strategist Steve Bannon and former deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland.

    Despite Fox News’ minimal coverage of the Kushner email story, Fox & Friends found time this morning to talk about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails yet again.

  • CNN and Fox News contributors are appearing in numerous Trump campaign videos

    In campaign video, Lara Trump thanked CNN commentator for “fighting for the president”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has been producing news-style videos featuring numerous media figures, including commentators for CNN and Fox News.

    The president’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump has been hosting the video series “Real News,” which includes guest interviews and campaign propaganda. The videos, which are posted on the president's Facebook page and carry “paid for by Donald J. Trump for president” disclaimers, ask viewers to sign up for mobile alerts from the campaign, a list-building activity that the 2020 campaign can use to raise money and organize get-out-the vote activities.

    The Hollywood Reporter’s Jeremy Barr reported on March 19 that conservative commentators and sisters Diamond and Silk appeared in a recent video with Lara Trump. Fox News attempted to distance itself from the campaign video by stating that Diamond and Silk “license short weekly videos to Fox Nation – they are not Fox News contributors or employees. When they appear on FNC and FBN, they do so as guests." That explanation contradicts Fox News’ own identifications of the two as “Fox News Channel contributors,” “Fox Nation contributors,” and “Fox Nation hosts.”  

    Regardless of Diamond and Silk’s employment classification, several Fox News contributors have appeared in Trump campaign videos with Lara Trump. They include Deneen Borelli, Alveda King, David Bossie, and Mike Huckabee.

    CNN analysts have also appeared in Trump campaign videos despite the president’s frequent trashing of the network as “fake news.”

    CNN's David Urban and Stephen Moore with Lara Trump. 

    David Urban is a CNN commentator who previously worked as a paid consultant for Trump’s 2016 campaign. During a March Trump video appearance, the campaign identified him as the president of American Continental Group, a major lobbying firm that lobbies the Trump administration and Congress on a variety of issues. (Urban has used his CNN gig to specifically push a lobbying client and its interests without disclosing the connection to viewers.)

    In that video, which did not mention his CNN role, Urban spoke like a Trump surrogate. The Republican commentator, who directed Trump's 2016 operation in Pennyslvania, said that “Pennsylvania is always a tough state to win. I predict, I'll say it here again, I think we’re going to win in 2020. It’s going to be close, but we’re going to win, the president’s going to put the time in; you know, we’re going to work hard and we’re going to win. I have no doubt that he will win in 2020 in Pennsylvania." He also lied about the Green New Deal, claiming that “you’re not going to have a car; forget, you know, no cows ever again.” (Urban’s firm does lobbying work on behalf of oil and gas interests.)

    At the conclusion of the video, Lara Trump thanked Urban for “the job you do every single day out there fighting for the president. You really do an incredible job, and we are so lucky to have you.” Urban responded by saying that he loves President Trump and relayed that people tell him, “You may not hear it on the mainstream media, but we really like” the president. Urban also appeared in a June 2018 video and touted Trump ahead of the then-upcoming midterm elections.

    Stephen Moore is a senior economics analyst for CNN who advises Trump (during a recent appearance, CNN described Moore as “an informal White House adviser”). He has made several appearances on Trump’s video program and promoted Trump’s economic message.

    Other media commentators who have appeared in the Trump campaign’s videos include Fox 5 DC host, Daily Caller video columnist, and Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Stephanie Hamill; Talking Point USA’s Candace Owens; conservative troll Dinesh D’Souza; and Trump sycophant Bill Mitchell.

  • Fox News’ audience believes its “deep state” attacks

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News host Sean Hannity opened his show last Friday by accusing the FBI under former Director James Comey of engaging in a criminal conspiracy aimed at preventing President Donald Trump’s 2016 election through a purportedly illegal investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia. “And according to my sources, tonight, good news is in the horizon,” Hannity concluded. “James Comey, I warned you, you have the right to remain silent.”

    These sorts of conspiracy theories have taken hold with Hannity’s audience, according to new poll from Navigator Research. The group’s memo reports that “the Fox News echo-chamber” has created “an alternative reality in American politics,” with Republicans who watch Fox News a few times a month or more showing significantly more radical views than others on a host of issues.

    Notably, the poll shows a staggering divide between Republicans who watch Fox and the rest of the public on the question of whether Trump is the victim of a conspiracy at the hands of what Fox personalities call the "deep state." Among GOP Fox viewers, 79 percent say that “people within the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies are trying to sabotage President Trump.” That’s compared to 49 percent of Republicans who don’t watch Fox, 24 percent of non-Republicans who watch Fox, and 8 percent of non-Republicans who don’t watch Fox.

    It’s possible that the network simply attracts viewers predisposed to believe that the president is being assailed by forces within the federal investigative and intelligence agencies rather than convincing them that is the case. But whichever way the causality arrow points, Fox has been serving up this kind of conspiracy theory to its audience on a nightly basis for years.

    While this sort of coverage has permeated Fox’s programming, Hannity -- perhaps the most fervent Trump supporter at the network -- has led the way. In May 2017, as special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to oversee the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Hannity began identifying the “deep state” as a key part of what he called the “Destroy Trump Alliance,” a shadowy cabal of Trump foes. The Fox host argued that the “deep state must be purged” because its members “are now the biggest threat to this republic, and of course, the free election of Donald Trump.”

    Hannity’s program began revolving around a single, terrifying idea: The Mueller probe is a sprawling conspiracy that justifies Trump using any means to stop it -- including the prosecutions of the “deep state” officials who started it. Nearly 200 Hannity segments over the first year of Mueller’s investigation alone included claims that top federal law enforcement officials involved in the creation of the probe had broken the law.

    And Hannity has begun claiming that he’s going to get his way. After the Senate confirmed William Barr as attorney general, Hannity declared that according to his sources, “things are happening as we speak.” He went on to identify dozens of crimes he said had been committed by 10 “deep state actors,” including Comey, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

    While Hannity has been the ringleader, he’s been joined by a large cast of fellow travelers at Fox who have adopted the same storyline. From Jeanine Pirro’s calls for a “cleansing” of the FBI and Justice Department, to Lou Dobbs’ calls to imprison Mueller, to Gregg Jarrett’s declaration that the FBI’s pursuit of Trump’s associates made it akin to “the old KGB,” Fox’s airwaves have been filled with over-the-top denunciations of the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies.

    That effort has extended to Fox’s so-called “news side,” where the network’s reporters have played their typical role. Congressional Republicans put sensational spin on documents they released to undermine the special counsel’s probe by suggesting that the DOJ was out to get the president. The story doesn’t really add up, but the network’s “news side” journalists run with it, and soon the opinion side’s talkers have something new to freak out about. From an anti-Trump “secret society” at the FBI to a memo that was supposedly going to bring the Mueller investigation to its knees, Fox keeps falling in line.

    Fox’s spin on the Mueller probe has largely been quarantined to its own airwaves, and as the Navigator Research poll shows, contained to its own audience. But the overwhelming support among Fox viewers for the notion that the president is being sabotaged by the FBI and intelligence agencies is nonetheless quite concerning. Fox is inculcating Trump’s base with the notion that the results of the Mueller probe are invalid. That could have a drastic effect as the investigation moves toward its conclusion.

  • Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups Family Research Council and American College of Pediatricians were on Capitol Hill fighting the Equality Act

    The meetings follow a history of FRC and right-wing media inaccurately presenting ACPeds as a legitimate source and giving the group a platform to discredit trans-affirming science

    Blog ››› ››› KAYLA GOGARTY

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ group the Family Research Council (FRC) brought American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) Executive Director Michelle Cretella and ex-trans activist Walt Heyer to meet with members of Congress to advocate against the Equality Act within a day of the bill’s introduction on March 13. The bill would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to existing civil rights nondiscrimination protections.

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups and right-wing media have regularly and inaccurately portrayed ACPeds as a legitimate medical organization to add a veneer of credibility to the broader anti-trans agenda, even though the group is a small, right-wing organization that traffics in extreme anti-LGBTQ animus.

    While there is limited information available on the substance of these congressional meetings, FRC’s public discussions with Cretella and Heyer around the time of the meetings pushed the debunked myth that trans-inclusive policies threaten the safety of women and girls and promoted an unvalidated hypothesis that transgender youth are coming out as a fad.

    In appearances around the lawmaker meetings, FRC and ACPeds pushed anti-trans myths

    In the day after the introduction of the Equality Act, Cretella participated in two interviews with FRC to discuss their shared opposition to the bill and to promote anti-trans policies. During those interviews, Cretella and FRC leaders acknowledged that they met with members of Congress and their staffs to discuss the bill.

    Outside of those appearances, FRC has not published materials about the meetings, so there is little information on which lawmakers the groups met with or what they discussed. On March 13, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) tweeted a picture with FRC President Tony Perkins, writing that the two discussed the work of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (for which Perkins is a commissioner).

    During the March 14 edition of Perkins’ podcast, he revealed that ACPeds joined FRC in meetings with members of Congress and their staffs to discuss anti-trans policies:

    TONY PERKINS (FRC PRESIDENT): So here’s the question: Is this transgenderism or gender dysphoria -- is it an issue of the mind, or is it an issue of the body?

    MICHELLE CRETELLA (ACPEDS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR): You know, Tony, that is the foundational question, and the answer is gender dysphoria, transgender belief is in the mind. And what we are facing in medicine, and psychology -- and as you said, from pre-K to the halls of Congress -- is a top-down tyranny of -- It’s basically a cult. It’s a cult that is telling us that children are born with the belief that they are trapped in the wrong body, and it’s simply not true.

    PERKINS: Now you joined us the other day on Capitol Hill for some briefings with lawmakers, and I -- you know, I deal with this stuff almost every day. But we can always learn, and I learned a lot from listening to you more about this where -- and you made some illustrations which I think are very important. When someone has anorexia or another type of situation that is really psychological, physiological, we treat it a certain way.

    Perkins’ comments comparing transgender identities to having an eating disorder mirror talking points from the flawed concept of so-called rapid-onset gender dysphoria, an unvalidated hypothesis that suggests teenagers are coming out as trans due to “social contagion.” However, the original study that promoted the concept was re-evaluated following complaints about its research and methodology, and on March 19, the academic journal which published it issued a correction to note that the study only “serves to develop hypotheses” and that the concept has not been validated.

    In addition to Perkins’ interview, FRC senior fellow Peter Sprigg also interviewed Cretella and Heyer in a Facebook video on March 14. During the interview, Sprigg acknowledged the Capitol Hill meetings, and Cretella falsely claimed that being trans is comparable to having anorexia. She also falsely claimed that trans-inclusive policies threaten the safety of women, a myth that has been repeatedly debunked. From the March 14 video:

    PETER SPRIGG (FRC SENIOR FELLOW): I want to move on to now to some of the policy issues, public policy issues, and you’ve been gracious enough to share on Capitol Hill today with members of Congress and their staffs who are considering a number of pieces of legislation that would make gender identity into a protected category under civil rights laws, notably one called the Equality Act, which would include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories.

    Dr. Cretella, I wanted to ask you about one of the issues that has come up with respect to gender identity protections in public accommodation laws, which is: What does this do for the privacy and safety of women and girls?

    MICHELLE CRETELLA: Sure. You can’t -- if we protect gender identity as if it were a trait like sex, you eliminate girl and women rights. There are no women’s rights. Why? Because any man, any boy can simply proclaim, “I’m a girl.” All you have to do is say it. Being transgender -- OK, transgender people are real in the same sex that anorexic people are real. An anorexic person is a man or a woman who has anorexia, which is an emotional or mental disorder. Transgender people are a man or a woman, men or women, who have a disorder. So in public accomodations, if we protect gender identity, any man can walk into a woman’s restroom. Any man can walk into a women’s locker room, a women’s domestic shelter, homeless shelter, a -- women’s prisons, they can be housed with the women.

    Women and girls’ safety goes out the window, and this is not a bigoted statement. It is reality. Women have fallen prey to male violence for eons. It’s just a fact. It’s a biological fact that men are bigger, taller, stronger, faster. That’s biology, and that is why we’ve always protected women’s spaces and women’s sports.

    Anti-LGBTQ groups and right-wing media have elevated ACPeds’ bad science as an alternative to the legitimate American Association of Pediatrics

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups such as FRC regularly tout ACPeds as an expert source on scientific and medical issues related to LGBTQ people despite the fact that it is a discredited, partisan organization.

    ACPeds is a small and extreme anti-LGBTQ group of physicians that broke off from the legitimate American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) after it began supporting the right of same-sex couples to adopt children and provide foster care. While AAP is a professional organization of 67,000 pediatricians, ACPeds reportedly has only a few hundred members. Cretella and ACPeds have worked for years to discredit trans-affirming science, and right-wing media and anti-LGBTQ groups have elevated ACPeds’ bad science by presenting the group as a medical authority.

    Right-wing media add to the false perception of ACPeds’ credibility by citing the group as an alternative to trans-affirming AAP guidelines and by using Cretella as a source to dispute trans-affirming care and other trans-inclusive policies. For example, in response to an Associated Press interview with the lead author of AAP’s transgender policy about the differences between sex and gender, the American Family Association’s outlet OneNewsNow quoted Cretella disputing AAP’s points and calling the author a “transgender activist.”

    FRC in particular has given ACPeds a national platform to push anti-trans narratives for years, including hosting Cretella on a panel at its 2018 Values Voter Summit to compare affirming trans identities to “child abuse” with FRC’s Sprigg. In the last six months, Cretella has been on Perkins’ radio show at least three times to discuss the Equality Act, so-called rapid-onset gender dysphoria, and the Trump administration's anti-trans policies.

    FRC and other anti-LGBTQ groups have increasing influence over the Trump administration’s policies and enjoy regular access to members of Congress. For instance, Perkins played a leading role in crafting the Trump administration’s ban on trans service members in the military, and he was appointed as a commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

  • Fox “news side” anchor Shannon Bream is keynoting a fundraiser for a Koch-linked group alongside Ron DeSantis

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Update (3/22/19): The James Madison Institute announced on March 22 that “Bream has had to cancel her appearance at our annual dinner.” JMI announced that the keynote speaker will instead be Jason Riley, “a Wall Street Journal columnist, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Fox News commentator, and best-selling author.”

    Fox News anchor Shannon Bream, who is part of the network’s “news division,” is scheduled to keynote a fundraiser for a conservative group alongside Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

    Bream and DeSantis are set to speak at the James Madison Institute’s 2019 annual fundraising dinner on April 3. Tickets for the event start at $150. JMI also stated that sponsors to the event “get access to our VIP reception before the dinner with special guest Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody,” who is a Republican.

    JMI is a nonprofit organization that describes itself as “Florida’s premier free-market think tank.” The organization has ties to billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. In 2016 and 2017, the Charles Koch Foundation gave JMI a combined $392,000 for general operating support.

    While the organization states that it is nonpartisan, it has heavily praised Republican officials and their policies:

    In 2013, Progress Florida and the Center for Media and Democracy issued a report criticizing JMI on issues such as its anti-environmental policies and funding by the Kochs. From the report:

    Over the years, JMI has released several “studies” and reports that deny global warming is happening, call for an end to clean energy programs, advocate for expanded offshore drilling despite the risks to Florida’s shores from deeper wells (like BP’s Deep Water Horizon), and push for corporate tax breaks, all of which would directly benefit the Koch brothers’ corporate and personal interests.

    Bream is part of Fox’s purported “news division,” which Fox News executives point to when touting the channel’s alleged independence (in reality, the "news" and opinion sides are both cogs in the same propaganda machine). She said in a 2017 interview with TVNewser about her then-upcoming program Fox News @ Night: “I’m in the news division, so it will be all straight news, not opinion. Certainly we’ll have people on the program from all sides of the story, but it’s really about giving our viewers another straight hour of news.”

    DeSantis has frequently appeared on Fox News, including on Bream's program. Fox News helped DeSantis win both his Republican primary and general election campaigns and host Sean Hannity campaigned for DeSantis in Florida. 

    Media Matters has documented Bream’s long history of misinforming viewers about reproductive rights topics. She has also helped champion right-wing efforts to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

  • Fox News described Diamond and Silk as "hosts" and "contributors" until they appeared in a Trump campaign video

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News attempted to dodge questions about Diamond and Silk appearing in a video produced by President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign by claiming that “they are not Fox News contributors or employees.” That explanation may come as a surprise to some of their Fox News colleagues, who previously identified them as “Fox News Channel contributors,” “Fox Nation contributors,” and “Fox Nation hosts.”  

    Diamond and Silk, who joined Fox Nation as hosts in November, are North Carolina-based sisters whose official biography describes them as “Video Vloggers, Internet Sensations,” and “Influencers” who are known for “their out spoken and loyal support for President Donald J Trump.” They gained attention last year after falsely claiming that Facebook and YouTube censored them online.

    The Hollywood Reporter’s Jeremy Barr reported on March 19 that the conservative duo appeared in a campaign video for Trump’s reelection campaign, noting that the network previously suggested that host Sean Hannity shouldn’t have appeared in a September 2016 campaign video for Trump. Fox News public relations responded by claiming “the duo are not employees of the network: ‘Diamond & Silk license short weekly videos to Fox Nation – they are not Fox News contributors or employees. When they appear on FNC and FBN, they do so as guests.’"

    Yet Fox News has identified Diamond and Silk as “Fox Nation contributors” and “Fox News Channel contributors.” And here are four screenshots of them being identified on-screen as “Fox Nation hosts”:

    Diamond and Silk’s website states: “They Currently Work as Contributors on Fox Nation.”

    Fox hosts such as Jeanine Pirro, Pete Hegseth, Greg Gutfeld, and Lou Dobbs have been paid by Republican groups to headline fundraisers in recent years, as Media Matters has previously documented.

  • To attempt to make sense of QAnon, Politico turned to Pizzagate conspiracy theorists

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In what seemed like an attempt to demonstrate the rise of the QAnon conspiracy theory movement within the right-wing establishment, Politico tweeted out a video about QAnon “true believers” filmed at the most recent Conservative Political Action Conference. Unfortunately, the outlet missed an opportunity to truly explain the oversized impact that weaponized misinformation can have over entire political movements by relying on two notorious far-right conspiracy theorists for their expertise.

    The 8chan-originated conspiracy theory that developed around anonymous posts signed by “Q,” an anonymous poster claiming to hold a high security clearance, holds that there is a behind-the-scenes scenario in which President Donald Trump is kneecapping a ring of powerful pedophiles connected to “the deep state.” The theory -- and the movement of followers it has inspired -- deserves media coverage and expert analysis to explain its influence on right-wing politics. But Politico interviewed far-right conspiracy theorists Jack Posobiec and Mike Cernovich to make sense of QAnon, taking their opinions at face value, ignoring their own involvement in uncritically amplifying the conspiracy theory during its early stages, and downplaying their involvement in promoting the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory by noting just that they have been criticized for pushing the theory, rather than stating what they did to promote it.

    Similar to QAnon, “Pizzagate” is a conspiracy theory that smeared powerful Democratic figures -- in Pizzagate’s case by accusing them of hiding a child trafficking network behind a Washington, D.C., pizzeria. It turned dangerous (as QAnon could) after a man claiming he wanted to “self-investigate” opened fire with a rifle inside the restaurant. Before that, Cernovich had told his audience that “Pizzagate is real” and Posobiec had livestreamed from the D.C. restaurant, speculating that “they have a big secret to hide.”

    Because Posobiec and Cernovich are grifters focused on sustaining their careers (which include publishing books and making films attacking the media), and they have recently made efforts to sanitize their public images and pivot away from the bigoted slurs, misogyny, conspiracy theories, and alliances with extremists that allowed them to grow their platforms during the rise of the MAGA internet. Politico’s decision to feature them talking about a conspiracy theory they played a role in creating -- without mentioning that connection to the audience -- helps them continue rebranding without any accountability.

    QAnon is misinformation being weaponized for political purposes, and it absolutely merits the attention and coverage of political media. But outlets can and must seek the expertise of real journalists and social media experts who understand the conspiratorial right without having been an unrepentant part of it. Don't just give a platform to two known grifters with long histories of weaponizing misinformation themselves.