Blog | Media Matters for America


  • Fox News describes the congresswomen Trump targeted with racist remarks as extremists and the face of the Democratic Party

    Blog ››› ››› MILES LE

    In the days since Trump launched a racist attack on Twitter targeting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Fox News figures have consistently pushed two parallel lines of attack: that the four are extremists, and that they are now the "face of the Democratic Party."

  • Hugh Hewitt's guest host goes on bigoted rants

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Townhall columnist Kurt Schlichter largely devoted a guest hosting spot on MSNBC contributor Hugh Hewitt's radio show to attacking Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and defending a racist chant that targeted her. He also twice plugged his explicitly racist book series that has direct parallels to The Turner Diaries, a white nationalist book that inspired Timothy McVeigh to bomb an Oklahoma federal building in 1995. 

    The July 19 edition was the 10th time Schlichter has guest hosted The Hugh Hewitt Show this year. The show, which is nationally syndicated by Salem Radio Network, has been widely praised in establishment media for its supposed moderation and tone, but the fact that Schlichter is invited so often to guest host belies that claim. 

    During the broadcast, Schlichter defended audience members who chanted “send her back” while President Donald Trump ranted about Omar during a July 17 rally in Greenville, NC. Schlichter said that the racist chant evidenced “a legitimate frustration by American citizens with the profound ingratitude of people like Rep. Ilhan Omar,” adding, “Does she deserve people being particularly nice to her? No.” (Hewitt has also responded to the chant by promoting Trump’s lie that he disapproved of the chant during the rally and tried to stop it.) 

    Schlichter launched a litany of attacks on Omar, claiming that “she despises this country and she despises you,” that “she hates America,” and that “she is a terrible person.” Schlichter said that when Omar watches Black Hawk Down, she “roots for the bad guys.” (Omar has pointed out that U.S. forces killed large numbers of civilians during the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu in which two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters were shot down and 18 U.S. soldiers were killed.) Schlichter said that Omar “thinks this country’s garbage” and that “she wants to turn it into a socialist hellhole, the same kind of hellhole that she was born in.” He also added that she has done nothing to show she earned her citizenship. 

    During the three-hour show, Schlichter promoted more than 30 times the unfounded rumor that Omar married her brother. As Will Sommer explained at The Daily Beast, “What many of the smear’s promoters never reveal to their audience is both the evidence Omar has provided to disprove their conspiracies and the fact that the completely unproven idea that she married her brother is based entirely on a single, anonymous, unsourced allegation initially made on an obscure internet forum.”

    At the top of the first and second hours of The Hugh Hewitt Show, Schlichter plugged his “Kelly Turnbull” book series. As documented at The Bulwark, the three-book series imagines a second civil war in the United States in which the U.S. government deputizes Black people on government assistance to violently persecute white conservatives. The books feature explicit racism, including a character named Do-Rag who murders white characters and a character named Skinny whose “bladder and his legs were freed from their slavery to his faraway brain when Turnbull’s rounds severed his spinal column.” The Bulwark also found that the books contain direct parallels -- in both plot and language -- to The Turner Diaries

    Importantly, Schlichter has written that he sees his novels not merely for entertainment but as an actual premonition of what will happen in the U.S. In a laudatory blurb for these novels, Hewitt wrote, “Schlichter puts a whole flight of Black Swans in the air --each of them plausible-- and the result is a riveting, page-turner, and a demand from Schlichter for...more.”

  • A bad day for Fox's voter fraud “expert”

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    As part of a settlement in a federal lawsuit, J.Christian Adams, a right-wing activist frequently hosted by Fox News as an expert on so-called voter fraud, will apologize to Virginia citizens falsely identified by his organization as noncitizens who had illegally registered to vote.

    Adams is a Republican attorney who joined the Justice Department during the notorious era when the George W. Bush DOJ practiced illegal politicized hirings. In 2010, he left government and launched the myth that the Obama DOJ demonstrated anti-white bias in purportedly letting members of the New Black Panther Party off the hook for intimidating white voters during the presidential election. 

    Adams subsequently rebranded himself as an elections watchdog. He founded a non-profit law firm, Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), which sues counties to force them to purge their voter rolls and produces reports warning of the possibility of massive voter fraud. He has frequently appeared on Fox to add a purportedly expert voice to the network’s promotion of such conspiracy theories.

    The federal lawsuit Adams’ group is reportedly settling results from a September 2016 report titled “Alien Invasion in Virginia” -- which alleged that its review of data from eight of the state’s 133 counties uncovered “1046 aliens who registered to vote illegally” -- and a follow-up report, “Alien Invasion II,” published the following May. 

    The reports suggest that ballots cast by undocumented immigrants could have changed the results of recent Virginia elections and called for heightened restrictions on voter registration and voter roll purges that would inevitably lead to voter suppression benefitting Republican candidates.

    Cover art from Public Interest Legal Foundation’s September 2016 report.

    Election law experts criticized the reports’ assumptions and methodology, pointing out that Adams was likely misinterpreting flawed data. And in April 2018, four U.S. citizens named in the report sued the group in federal court, saying they had been misidentified as noncitizens who illegally registered to vote. HuffPost reported Thursday that “as part of the settlement reached this week, Adams will offer a written apology” and PILF and Adams would “add a statement to the front [of the reports] acknowledging that they falsely accused people of being noncitizens.”

    When “Alien Invasion in Virginia” was published -- just weeks before the 2016 presidential election -- right-wing news outlets, including Fox, quickly picked it up.  

    “Let’s start with, first, 1,046,” said co-host Brian Kilmeade during a “News by the Numbers” segment on the October 3, 2016, edition of Fox & Friends. “That’s how many illegal aliens were found on voter rolls in the crucial battleground state of Virginia. It’s a felony for illegals to vote in that state. However, people are not required to prove their citizenship when they register. Doesn’t sound like a problem, does it?”

    Since the lawsuit was filed in April 2018, Adams has appeared on Fox’s weekday programming at least 11 times, according to a review of Media Matters’ cable news guest database.

    Indeed, on the evening the lawsuit was filed, Fox anchor Martha MacCallum hosted him on The Story, one of the network’s purported “news”-side programs, but did not ask him about it.

  • Fox News continues to hype Trump’s tax cuts amid news of rising federal deficit

    Fox & Friends called on “the next president” to cut spending and decrease the deficit 

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News reacted to the White House’s projection of a $1 trillion deficit for the 2019 fiscal year by either not acknowledging the news, dismissing it as unimportant, calling on the next president to “cut spending,” or fearmongering about Democratic presidential candidates’ “socialist” policies. Meanwhile, Fox has continued to push President Donald Trump’s tax cuts as great for the economy, even though they are contributing to the elevated deficit and the network insisted when he proposed them that the tax cuts would pay for themselves. Fox’s coverage is also hypocritical given the way the network covered federal deficits under President Barack Obama. 

    On July 15, the White House Office of Management and Budget released its projections that the federal deficit will surpass $1 trillion this year; the only time the deficit has risen to that level in U.S. history was the four-year period following the Great Recession that started in 2007. During the 2016 election campaign, Trump pledged to wipe out the deficit and the entire federal debt. After he became president, he worked with the GOP to pass tax cuts, ignoring projections that they would add $1.9 trillion to the federal deficit over a decade and insisting that the tax cuts would pay for themselves. The Republican tax cut, along with Trump’s proposed spending hikes, “were responsible for 60 percent of this year's budget deficit, according to analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget,” according to Newsweek. A key GOP architect of the bill has even admitted that the tax cuts likely will not pay for themselves. 

    While most programs on Fox News have largely ignored the news -- a news report on Special Report with Bret Baier was one exception -- Fox & Friends has been working to provide cover for Trump. On July 18, co-host Brian Kilmeade said, “Someone, the next politician, the next president, has got to … cut spending.” Kilmeade did not mention the tax cuts, nor did he attribute any responsibility to Trump. Fox Business host Charles Payne agreed, pivoting the conversation to Democratic candidates’ policy proposals and “socialism.” He criticized Democrats, saying they are “not talking about spending less” but are “trying to think of innovative ways to spend more.” 

    On the July 17 edition of the show, Wall Street Journal editor at large and Fox Business host Gerry Baker said that the deficit is “a very big number,” but he dismissed the deficit as “not something that people need to be terribly worried about.” The segment framed the rising deficit as an issue that has spanned years and multiple presidents, which, though accurate, ignores conservative media's history of fearmongering over the deficit and ignores the direct role that Trump has played, despite warnings about the impact of his policies, especially the tax cut. This coverage differs greatly from the way Fox figures presented rising federal deficits under Obama, when they consistently pushed misleading deficit hysteria to undermine Obama’s economic record.

    Since the tax cuts were passed in 2017, Fox has consistently painted them as a win for the middle class and the economy. Fox News went all-in shilling for the tax bill when it was being debated in 2017, including parroting Trump’s false claims that the GOP tax plan would hurt wealthy businessmen. Even when the negative impacts of the tax cut started to show -- such as mass General Motors layoffs, plummeting public support for the law, and the rising federal deficit -- Fox continued to carry the water for the Trump administration, going as far as to insist that repealing the tax cuts would “ruin the economy” and even to call for more tax cuts. 

    It’s clear that the 2017 tax cuts have not been paying for themselves and are partially responsible for the rising federal deficit. Still, Fox News has continued to spend the week hyping the tax cuts as a reason voters should choose Trump in 2020. Since July 15, when the news of the federal deficit was first reported, nearly every day has featured segments across multiple programs that point to the tax cuts as one of Trump’s great victories without noting the impact the cuts have had on the federal deficit.

  • Fox host flip-flops from excusing the racist Trump rally chant to claiming “chants suck”

    Blog ››› ››› JASON CAMPBELL

    During President Trump’s July 17 rally in North Carolina, the crowd chanted “send her back” in reference to Rep Ilhan Omar (D-MN). Immediately following the chants, Fox host Greg Gutfeld downplayed the obvious racism, instead saying it was the type of thing one would hear at a “sporting event.”

    Trump’s attacks toward Omar, and his crowd’s racist chant, reflect the racism and bigotry propogated by Fox News, specifically toward Rep. Omar. Many personalities on Fox have frequently employed xenophobic and racist attacks against Omar. This includes Tucker Carlson’s recent controversial and racist outburst that Omar “hates this country,” Todd Starnes saying that she should go “back to whatever third world hellhole” she came from, and Lou Dobbs claiming that she does not “represent” America. Jeanine Pirro's show was put on temporary hiatus in March after she suggested that Omar's (D-MN) hijab was "indicative of her adherence to sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution.”

    Shortly after Trump blatantly lied that he had tried to stop the chants, Gutfeld reversed his position as well, claiming “chants suck” and purporting his aversion for all mob actions. 

  • Hugh Hewitt’s bad faith defense of Trump and the “send her back” chant

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    If there is one thing that stands out about MSNBC contributor Hugh Hewitt’s brand it’s that he is desperate to be taken seriously as a conservative intellectual. But if that’s true, why did he tweet this clumsy attempt to gaslight people over what happened at President Donald Trump’s fascist rally last night?

    Hewitt’s acceptance and praise of Trump’s explanation is laughable. To see why, you just need to watch video of Trump’s July 17 rally in Greenville, NC, where Trump attacked Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) -- one of four Democratic congresswomen he had singled out for a racist rant over the weekend. As Trump spoke, many in the crowd started to chant, “Send her back.” But instead of stopping the chant, Trump paused his remarks and let the chant build for 13 agonizing seconds, before simply moving on with his remarks, still attacking Omar:

    Today, Trump told the press he disapproved of the chant and even that he tried to stop it, an obvious lie contradicted by video footage of the incident (and one that should cause some tongue twisting at Fox News, where pundits had scrambled to defend the outburst).

    Despite Hewitt’s reputation for seriousness -- he is a contributor to NBC’s Meet the Press and a Washington Post contributing columnist -- his tweet is par for the course for him. As my Media Matters colleague Matt Gertz wrote in a June 2017 article that chronicled softball interviews Hewitt has given Trump on his radio show, Hewitt is actually no different from Trump propagandists Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh. Instead of being bombastic and purposefully outrageous like those right-wing pundits, “he simply puts an intellectual gloss on their same brand of partisan hackery.”

    As Gertz documented, Hewitt has actually been incredibly useful to Trump, stepping in to defend him when the president is at his most unhinged:

    In recent weeks, while pundits who share Hewitt's reputation for erudition have castigated the president as dangerously unlearned and incurious, Hewitt has instead stood alongside the president's media sycophants, laying down cover fire for Trump. Hewitt supported Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey, who was investigating his campaign's connections to the Russian government; he downplayed reports that Trump had revealed highly classified information in a meeting with Russian officials; after numerous outlets reported that Comey had kept notes of a meeting with Trump in which the president suggested he halt an investigation into a Trump aide, Hewitt's focus was on whether Comey, not Trump, had behaved appropriately. 

    Despite his calm and moderate facade, Hewitt has connections to far-right extreme rhetoric. He is a close friend of far-right pundit Kurt Schlichter. As documented in The Bulwark, Schlichter is the author of a racist novel series that imagines a second civil war in the United States where the U.S. government deputizes Black people on government assistance to violently persecute white conservatives. (Importantly, Schlichter has written that he sees his novels not merely for entertainment but as an actual premonition of what he thinks will happen in the U.S.) The series contains a number of direct parallels to The Turner Diaries, an infamous white nationalist novel that inspired Timothy McVeigh to bomb a federal building. In a laudatory blurb for these novels, Hewitt wrote, “Schlichter puts a whole flight of Black Swans in the air --each of them plausible-- and the result is a riveting, page-turner, and a demand from Schlichter for...more.” What’s more, Hewitt has allowed Schlichter to guest host his Salem Radio Network show nine times this year, and in some instances Schlichter has used the spots to promote his book series.

  • Multiple news outlets parrot Trump’s dishonest disavowal of “send her back” rally chant

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Following bipartisan criticism of attendees chanting “send her back” after President Donald Trump renewed attacks on Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) during his July 17 rally, Trump dishonestly claimed today he “was not happy with it. I disagree with it,” also saying he “started speaking very quickly” once the chant began in an attempt to stop it. Multiple mainstream news organizations tweeted out Trump’s claim of disavowal without sufficient context showing his insincerity.

    As Trump’s remarks were being reported, CNN reporter Daniel Dale explained that Trump wasn’t being truthful, as he had taken a long pause before he began speaking again.

    And some media outlets debunked portions of Trump’s excuses or pointed out that his supporters’ chant reflected his own words:

    But many other news organizations published tweets that repeated Trump’s dishonest disavowal without critique:

  • Politico and The Hill amplify Eric Trump's made-up statistic

    Eric Trump baselessly claimed that 95% of Americans supported Donald Trump’s political message

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On Tuesday’s edition of Fox & Friends, Eric Trump absurdly claimed that, in light of President Donald Trump’s racist tweets targeting four congresswomen, “95% of this country” still backs his father’s political message. No recent polling from major political pollsters put Trump’s approval rating anywhere close to 95%, with polls averaging a 44.6% approval rating.

    Politico and The Hill amplified this fabricated statistic on social media, without providing any fact check or qualifier in the headline or post content. Research shows a majority of social media users share links without reading them, which makes fact-checking on social media posts crucial to dulling the spread of misinformation.

    These outlets’ negligence is part of a larger trend of major media outlets amplifying false information by sharing Trump quotes on headlines and social media posts without fact-checking. A recent Media Matters study of major news outlets’ Twitter handles found that 30% of tweets referring to remarks from Trump referenced a false or misleading statement. Of that 30%, nearly two-thirds did not fact-check the statements.

    On Twitter and Facebook, Politico paraphrased Eric Trump’s quote and qualified his claim only by putting it in context with Trump’s recent racist tweets. Although the article did cite RealClearPolitics’ polling averages of Trump’s approval ratings to debunk Eric Trump’s claim, its social media posts failed to mention the claim’s inaccuracy.

    The Hill’s social media accounts quoted Eric Trump’s 95% statistic without providing any qualification for the fabricated statistic. The link did not explicitly debunk the figure, instead writing that it was “unclear what Eric Trump was referring to,” and mentioning other polls that put Trump’s approval rating among all voters and Republicans well below 95%.

  • Fox host calls “send her back” chants at Trump rally “appropriate”

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    After the crowd at President Donald Trump’s July 17 rally chanted “send her back” when Trump referenced Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Fox Nation host Todd Starnes and other Fox figures defended the audience.

    In a July 18 post on his website, Starnes, who has a long history of anti-Muslim bigotry, said: “Quite frankly, I thought the crowd’s reaction was an appropriate response to the incessant un-American rage spewing from the mouth of Rep. Omar.” He added, “Last night was a political rally – not a church service.”

    The audience at Trump’s rally was echoing Starnes’ own sentiment toward Omar. On the July 11 edition of his Fox Nation show, Starnes said:

    TODD STARNES (HOST): As for Congresswoman Omar and other immigrants who find that America, well, just doesn't meet their standards of living, might I just suggest this -- how about a one-way plane ticket back to whatever third-world hellhole you came from? And don't let the door hit you where the good lord split you.

    Fox hosts Jesse Watters and Greg Gutfeld have also defended the rally chant, likening it to the atmosphere at sporting events. Fox prime-time host Laura Ingraham defended the incident by linking to a Twitter thread that denied the “send her back” chant was “an attack on Omar’s race or even an attack on immigrants.”

    However, multiple scholars on fascism agreed Trump’s rally and the crowd’s racist chant has obvious parallels to fascist rallies of history. New York University professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat, an expert on historical fascism and propaganda, told HuffPost: “Trump has created a corps of supporters fanatically loyal to him who turn his latest racist messages into group rituals (chants, slogans) and who hate the people he tells them to.”

  • You don’t get frothing crowds chanting “send her back” without Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The video is difficult to watch, but it’s impossible to fully capture in words. As President Donald Trump lashed out at Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) at a rally in North Carolina on Wednesday night, the crowd took up a new chant. Beginning with a handful of attendees, it crescendoed as the president paused and gave space, until the nativist call echoed through the arena: “Send her back!”

    Commentators will debate the factors that created the bitter brew that led here, to public cries at a presidential rally for the banishment of a U.S. citizen who came to this country as a child refugee from Somalia. They will attribute blame to a craven and complicit Republican Party, to a feckless Democratic one, to the rise of fractured, paranoid social media. To those I’ll add: You don’t get frothing crowds chanting “send her back” without Fox News. 

    This is clear on the micro level. 

    You can draw a straight line from Fox host Tucker Carlson’s xenophobic attacks on Omar last week to Trump’s racist Sunday tweets -- likely spurred by a Fox & Friends segment that morning -- that Omar and three other Democratic congresswomen (all women of color born in the United States) should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” then “come back and show us how it is done.” 

    That kicked off a cycle of escalation. Trump constantly seeks approval from Fox’s stable of commentators. With few exceptions, they gave Trump’s attacks the green light, praising the comments both as political strategy and on their merits while defending him from charges of racism. The president absorbed this feedback and repeatedly escalated his attacks, culminating with last night’s rally.

    Fox’s response to the jeering crowd has largely been a mix of praising the president’s performance, downplaying the chilling implications of the chant, and offering the mildest possible criticism that perhaps the incident provides Trump’s political opponents with an opening. If the president was watching, he saw little that might give him pause from continuing down this horrifying path.

    But the story began long before Carlson’s attacks on Omar last week. The chants of “send her back” are the latest sign of the rise and empowerment of the international nativist right.

    “The right-wing populist wave that looked like a fleeting cultural phenomenon a few years ago has turned into the defining political movement of the times, disrupting the world order of the last half-century,” The New York Times reported in an April feature on Rupert Murdoch. “The Murdoch empire did not cause this wave. But more than any single media company, it enabled it, promoted it and profited from it.”

    In the United States, that tectonic political shift was fueled by Murdoch’s Fox. The right-wing propaganda network featured bigotry as a core part of its business model from the beginning. But the election of Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president, sent Fox into a spiral of bigotry, conspiracy theories, and constant fearmongering about the dangers to the public wrought by Muslims and immigrants. 

    That shift helped turn Trump into a plausible Republican political contender. On the one hand, Fox directly promoted Trump’s racist birtherism and gave him a regular platform to speak to its audience about the issues of the day. On the other, the network’s feverish coverage had primed the Republican base to eagerly support the bigoted, hyperaggressive, anti-immigrant would-be strongman when he sought the presidency. 

    Fox always takes on the character of the GOP of the day. Since Trump’s election, that has meant feeding its audience a toxic slurry of white nationalist talking points. Trump and the network fuel each other's bigotry, while his base come to accept it, then expect it, then demand it. Day after day, night after night, Fox and the president tell viewers that immigrants are dangerous ingrates whose increased presence in this country poses a danger to both their political power and their very lives.

    It’s a short step from there to demanding their removal, citizens or not.