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  • In an apparent bid to protect Roger Stone, Infowars has been waging a war on former employee Jerome Corsi

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Alex Jones’ Infowars outlet is waging a public relations campaign against its own former Washington, D.C., bureau chief Jerome Corsi, who appears to be increasingly entangled in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

    After reports surfaced on September 5 that Corsi had been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury convened by Mueller, Infowars used its website and social media account to signal how Corsi should testify. The since-suspended Infowars Twitter account tweeted on September 5, “Want to know what former InfoWars DC bureau Cheif (sic) Jerry Corsi will tell Mueller’s grand jury?” The tweet linked a 2017 Infowars article authored by Corsi that attempted to defend Donald Trump confidant and Infowars host Roger Stone -- who is also embroiled in the Mueller investigation -- against accusations that Stone was involved in the release of emails that Russian intelligence officers stole from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. The implicit suggestion of the tweet was that Corsi, a former Infowars employee, should give testimony absolving Stone, a current Infowars employee, of any wrongdoing.

    The Infowars tweet presaging Corsi’s testimony echoed a tactic employed by President Donald Trump during Mueller’s investigation. On December 3, Trump tweeted: “‘I will never testify against Trump.’ This statement was recently made by Roger Stone, essentially stating that he will not be forced by a rogue and out of control prosecutor to make up lies and stories about ‘President Trump.’ Nice to know that some people still have ‘guts!’”

    Trump’s public coercion of Stone raised questions about whether the tweet constituted criminal witness tampering.

    Later, as Corsi’s legal woes increased -- beginning in November when Corsi said he expected to be indicted -- Infowars turned on him and labeled him a traitor, with Stone driving the majority of attacks.

    In evaluating the conflict between Infowars and Corsi, it’s hard to know whose claims about the hacked emails to believe -- if any -- because the major players are all inveterate liars. But it's clear that after trying to play nice with Corsi, Infowars has taken out its knives.

    How Corsi and Stone got tangled in Mueller's investigation

    Corsi and Stone are both reportedly under investigation by Mueller’s team for the same reason. On October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks released emails stolen from Podesta just hours after news broke of a 2005 recording in which Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women. According to U.S. intelligence agencies, the emails were hacked by individuals working on behalf of the Kremlin. Part of Mueller’s investigation is to determine if Trump associates colluded with Russia, and Corsi and Stone’s contacts with WikiLeaks in 2016 have brought them both under scrutiny. Stone, who testified about WikiLeaks before a closed session of the House Intelligence Committee in September 2017, has denied having knowledge of the hacked emails before they were released, but he has also offered an ever-changing story in public remarks about what happened in 2016. Corsi is under investigation because Mueller reportedly has emails suggesting that he served as an intermediary between Stone and Wikileaks.

    Background: Jerome Corsi and Infowars

    Corsi, a conspiracy theorist best known for driving the “birther” smear about President Barack Obama that Trump later championed, joined Infowars as the outlet’s Washington, D.C., bureau chief on January 30, 2017. Corsi had spent years working at conspiracy website WND, and he was friendly with Infowars prior to joining the outlet. (For example, a July 2015 Infowars article references an appearance Corsi made on The Alex Jones Show in support of then-candidate Trump.)

    Corsi’s role with Infowars helped the fringe outlet gain additional access within the Trump administration. In May 2017, Infowars announced that Corsi had been granted temporary credentials to attend press briefings at the White House, and controversy quickly erupted because of the outlet’s history of pushing conspiracy theories about the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting and numerous other tragedies. Sure enough, on May 22, 2017, Corsi broadcast live from an empty James S. Brady Press Briefing Room and discussed his hopes of obtaining a permanent pass. Infowars founder Alex Jones, clearly pleased with the imbroglio, told his listeners that the press pass wasn’t that important because “most of the meetings don’t happen at briefings, they happen at dinners, like he was at one with the vice president a few nights ago,” adding, “Oop, maybe I’m not supposed to say that.”

    In March 2018, when Corsi still worked at Infowars, he threw a major on-air tantrum about Mueller. Corsi was upset about reports that the FBI had recently detained and questioned Ted Malloch at the direction of Mueller’s team. Malloch, an informal Trump campaign adviser and frequent Infowars guest, was reportedly questioned about Stone and about WikiLeaks’ release of the hacked Podesta emails. (When Malloch was detained, Infowars called him an “Infowars Correspondent” in an article.)   

    Corsi repeatedly tweeted about the detention on March 28 and 29, writing that he was going to “POUND” Mueller, claiming, “MUELLER in PANIC MODE grabs Ted Malloc (sic),” and writing that he was joining an “EMERGENCY BROADCAST” on Infowars to talk about the detention. In an appearance on the March 29 broadcast of The Alex Jones Show, Corsi challenged Mueller to a fistfight, saying, “I'm fed up with this. I want to say to Mueller, let's go out in the backyard of the Justice Department. You got to have some -- let's duke it out. I mean, you want to behave like a thug? … Well this is what you deserve.”

    Perhaps it was Corsi who was in “PANIC MODE.” In November, it was revealed that Mueller is in possession of emails that suggest Corsi and Stone knew that WikiLeaks had Podesta’s stolen emails before they were released. Stone emailed Corsi in 2016 telling him to “get to” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and Corsi forwarded the message to Malloch before later reporting back to Stone to share what he said Assange’s future plans were.

    A January 17 Infowars article claimed that Corsi was dismissed by the outlet in June 2018 “because of his failure to adequately establish a Washington bureau, his failure to maintain White House press credentials, and his generally poor work performance.” The article further claimed that “The Washington Post is set to publish a false story claiming that Jerome Corsi was hired by Infowars at the behest of Roger Stone as part of a ‘hush money’ operation and that this is a line of inquiry for the Mueller investigation into Russian collusion.”

    Did Infowars attempt to influence Corsi’s testimony before Mueller’s grand jury?

    Infowars’ response to the September 5 report that Corsi had been compelled to testify could easily be interpreted as an attempt to influence Corsi’s dealings with Mueller’s team. The since-suspended Infowars Twitter account tweeted on September 5:

    The tweet linked to an Infowars.com article authored by Corsi and published in March 2017, which denied that Stone had anything to do with WikiLeaks’ release of hacked emails.

    Then on September 12, Infowars published a video with the headline “What Will Jerome Corsi Tell Mueller’s Grand Jury?” that teased Stone’s appearance with “Alex Jones live via Skype to discuss former Infowars Bureau Chief Dr. Jerome Corsi’s upcoming testimony before Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury.” In the video, both Jones and Stone claimed that they had not spoken to Corsi since Mueller subpoenaed him. Stone went on to say that if Corsi testified “truthfully,” it would be “entirely exculpatory” for him “because you see it was Dr. Corsi who educated me to the fact that Tony Podesta along with his brother John were deeply involved in Ukraine.” Stone’s reference to Podesta and Ukraine is an attempt to argue that his infamous August 2016 tweet that “it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel” was not a reference to having foreknowledge of the hacked emails, but instead referred to a different matter. As with the September 5 Infowars tweet, the article and video appear to pressure Corsi to testify in a certain way about Stone.

    Infowars turns on Corsi

    As Corsi’s legal troubles worsened over the following months -- on November 26, Corsi said he would reject a plea deal from Mueller, and in January, it was reported that several Corsi associates, including his stepson, had also been subpoenaed -- Infowars turned on its former Washington, D.C., bureau chief. A search of Infowars.com shows headlines about Corsi began to take on a more negative tone in November (i.e., “Explosive! Roger Stone Responds To Corsi’s Flip-Flop Concerning Working With Assange”).

    In January, Infowars has turned up the heat even more. On January 2, it published an article with the headline “Roger Stone Believes Jerome Corsi Works for Mueller,” and on January 17, it posted an article titled “Roger Stone Explains His Beef With Jerome Corsi and Larry Klayman.” The outlet also promoted a video where “Roger Stone calls out Jerome Corsi for lying about fabricating a cover story together to hide foreknowledge of Wikileaks publishing of the Podesta emails.”

    Here’s a list of all the Infowars headlines and subheads mentioning Corsi since September:

    September 2018

    [9/5/18]

    [9/12/18]

    November 2018

    [11/26/18]

    [11/27/18]

    [11/27/18]

    [11/27/18]

    [11/28/18]

    [11/28/18]

    [11/29/18]

    [11/30/18]

    January 2019

    [1/2/19]

    [1/17/19]

    Infowars broadcasts have followed a similar pattern; the January 2 broadcast of The Alex Jones Show was advertised with the tagline: “Joining today’s broadcast is Roger Stone breaking down what he calls the ‘treachery’ of Dr. Jerome Corsi.”

    Jones set up Stone’s appearance by making a number of very personal attacks on his former employee Corsi. He began by claiming that “I don’t go after Corsi with any pleasure” before saying that he fired Corsi after encountering him at a Washington, D.C., restaurant “drunk off his ass.” Jones also said that Corsi started “talking massive crap about me, Roger, everybody” at the restaurant, that Corsi is a “lunatic,” that he is “like fruit, his expiration date has hit,” and that he has no respect for Corsi.

    For his part, Stone said that Corsi “was perfectly willing to bear false witness against me on multiple points that are complete fabrications.” Jones ended the segment with a rant, screaming, “I will not sit there and watch some piece of crap Russian agent like Mueller accuse [Stone] and me of being goddamn -- I said I wouldn’t do it, lord, I apologize -- accuse me of something I haven’t done. I’m sick of it.”

  • WSJ editorial board published a hit piece against striking Los Angeles teachers 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Tens of thousands of teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) went on a strike on Monday, January 14. The same day, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board published an editorial attacking the local teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), and suggesting that teachers are both unrealistic and selfish.

    The educators began their strike after months-long contract negotiations with the district failed. Among the union’s demands are smaller class sizes; more support staff such as nurses, librarians, and academic counselors; a 6.5 percent pay raise; and better regulation of charter schools in the district. Class sizes in Los Angeles high schools often exceed 45 students, and almost 80 percent of schools in the district don’t have full-time nurses on staff. And while California is the fifth largest economy in the world, it ranked 40th in the nation in per-pupil spending in 2017. The strike follows a year of educators activism across the country -- teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, and Colorado all walked out last year, and many won hard-fought concessions for themselves and their students.

    Not everyone is supportive of the teachers’ strike for better funding, however, as The Wall Street Journal proved in a January 14 editorial titled “Unions in La-La Land.” In the piece, the Journal’s editorial board suggested that both the district and the state are so overburdened by paying for teachers’ pensions and health care plans that they could not possibly afford to meet the union’s demands. The editorial noted that the district commands a $1.8 billion reserve -- money that teachers want to see put toward better school resources -- but claimed that the district is “spending about $500 million more each year than its annual revenue,” suggesting that it is creeping “toward insolvency due to unaffordable labor contracts.” The Journal published an op-ed that same day by LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner, who similarly claimed that the district would go bankrupt if it attempted to meet union demands and suggested that the real issue inadequate funding from the state government.

    Teachers and UTLA representatives have repeatedly explained why they don’t find the argument that there isn’t enough money credible, especially in the face of underfunded and overextended classrooms -- but you won’t read about that in the Journal’s editorial. UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl told CNN that the union is in contact with the governor’s office about the need for more state funding, but he also claimed that the district has “always been wrong in [its] projections” of its monetary reserves size. In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Caputo-Pearl wrote, “Three years ago, district officials projected that the 2017-18 reserve would be $105 million. They were off by more than $1.7 billion.” He also noted that over the past five years the district has overestimated its spending on books and other supplies “to the tune of hundreds of millions, meaning more money is available.” It also bears mention that some of the union’s demands wouldn’t cost the district any money -- including  reducing standardized testing and giving parents more control over how money is spent at their children's’ schools -- but the Journal’s editorial didn’t address these demands at all.

    The editorial also complained that the teachers union campaigned for “soak the wealthy” tax increases to raise money for education that was instead spent on teacher pensions. But while pensions are undoubtedly a big expense for the state, they’re necessary not just as compensation for years of educating students, but as important tools for recruiting new teachers -- a particularly crucial task given the nation’s teacher shortage and the extremely high housing and cost-of-living expenses in California. While the editorial repeated Beutner’s talking point that “schools can’t spend money they don’t have,” it didn’t once mention that Southern California’s inflation rate is at a 10-year high, or that California ranks 47th in student-to-teacher ratio, or that its student-to-counselor ratio is 945:1.

    The editorial concluded by criticizing the teachers union for calling for increased regulation of charter schools, claiming that “the union wants to stop” their expansion “lest [they] embarrass the failing results in union-run schools.” While it managed to malign public school teachers, the editorial didn’t find space to mention that charter schools in the district expanded 287 percent between 2005 and 2015 and cost nearly $600 million, money that is drained away from public schools, each year. As Los Angeles public school teacher Adriana Chavira explained, competition from charters -- which operate with less oversight and regulations than traditional public schools -- is draining the public system and leading to lower enrollment, less funding, and fewer resources for students.

    The Journal’s assault on the teachers union shouldn’t come as a surprise given the paper’s regular hostility toward unions in general, and teachers unions specifically. But the editorial does a great disservice to the paper’s readers -- not to mention teachers and their students -- by ignoring the sorry state of Los Angeles schools to focus on an anti-union screed.

  • Fox & Friends downplays bombshell report that Donald Trump instructed his lawyer to lie to Congress about business dealings in Moscow

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A January 17 BuzzFeed News report revealed bombshell allegations that “President Donald Trump directed his former longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.” Trump’s favorite morning show, Fox & Friends, downplayed the report despite the serious and potentially impeachable nature of these allegations.

    Two federal law enforcement officials familiar with the matter told BuzzFeed News that Trump supported a plan for him to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to negotiate the Moscow tower deal during the 2016 presidential campaign. The sources also said that Cohen has told special counsel Robert Mueller that Trump personally instructed him after the elections to lie about the timeline of the negotiations “in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.” Since 2016, Trump has repeatedly asserted to the public that he had no knowledge of any business dealings with Russia. But, according to BuzzFeed News, “Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.” In November, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the details of the Moscow deal.

    Despite these serious allegations, Fox & Friends barely covered the report, dedicating just three headlines, which together totaled 73 seconds, and one interview segment to the report. The brief headline reports were centered on Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s current lawyer, denying the allegations. During the interview segment, Fox contributor Newt Gingrich vehemently pushed back on the allegations, calling the report “an absurdity” and “a hypothetical.” Gingrich also tried to discredit BuzzFeed News, saying that BuzzFeed is “the equivalent of those tabloids you buy at the grocery stores … that introduce you to Martians” and that “to take BuzzFeed seriously is a sign of how desperate we are for news.” Gingrich also said Cohen was “wildly delusional” and that he was “trying to please the investigators [because] he was desperately trying to avoid jail.”

    This is not the first time Fox & Friends has ignored or downplayed reports that are negative for Trump. In addition to downplaying the BuzzFeed News report, the show has also almost entirely ignored Giuliani’s bombshell CNN interview on January 16 in which he refused to say whether or not there had been collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

  • Chris Christie and the new Trump mythology

    Trump cannot fail; he can only be failed

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Chris Christie, the scandal-plagued former governor of New Jersey who left office with historic disapproval ratings, has a new book coming out later this month detailing his life in politics. The book’s title, Let Me Finish, is a nod to the disgraced governor’s self-styled reputation as a combative brute who theatrically berated his constituents, and it accurately presumes that the only person who wants to hear Chris Christie speak at this point is Chris Christie.

    Christie, who is now a contributor for ABC News, wrote this book mainly to settle some old scores. Early excerpts obtained by Axios and The Guardian detail Christie’s lengthy broadsides against Jared Kushner, son-in-law and top adviser to President Donald Trump. Christie was once considered a top candidate for a senior position in the Trump White House, but he writes that Kushner interceded and blocked his ascent as retaliation for Christie’s prosecution of Kushner’s father for tax evasion and witness tampering.

    Christie’s beef with Kushner is sordid but generally uninteresting. His treatment of the president and his administration, however, is worth highlighting. Per Axios, Christie heaps invective on pretty much everyone in Trump’s immediate orbit, describing a “revolving door of deeply flawed individuals — amateurs, grifters, weaklings, convicted and unconvicted felons — who were hustled into jobs they were never suited for.” According to The Guardian, however, “one central character escapes relatively unscathed: Trump himself. The president is utterly fearless and a unique communicator Christie writes – and his main flaw is that he speaks on impulse and surrounds himself with people he should not trust.”

    This servile treatment of Trump previews a mythology we’re likely to see from right-wing figures seeking to rationalize an increasingly chaotic and disastrous presidency: Trump did not fail; he was failed by those around him.

    It’s an appealing and useful fiction for figures like Christie who once adamantly opposed Trump before publicly debasing themselves to hop on the Trump bandwagon. When Christie endorsed Trump for the presidency in February 2016, his political future looked bleak: His own presidential campaign had foundered, his top aides were under indictment in the Bridgegate scandal, his approval rating at home was in the low thirties (on its way to bottoming out in the mid-teens), and the pundit class (once his most reliable constituency) was no longer marveling at the size of his shoulders. Getting behind Trump early was Christie’s longshot bid at staying politically relevant, and according to Christie, it would have paid off had Jared Kushner not sabotaged him.

    Ever the striver and ingratiator, Christie’s response to the chaos of the Trump administration is to praise Trump’s vision while pushing responsibility for his failures a couple of rungs down the ladder. That way, Trump remains largely blameless and Christie gets to sidestep prickly questions about his own judgment. Trump, for his part, is a big fan of this blame-diffusing mentality.

    The scenario Christie sketches is at war with itself. On the one hand, Trump is a bold and determined leader of unparalleled vision. On the other, he’s more or less a bystander to his own administration’s inner workings. The turmoil, grifting, and incompetence Christie describes at the highest levels of the administration can be corrected by precisely one person: the president. The decision to fill a White House with incompetent, untrustworthy senior staffers who violate the law can be made by precisely one person: the president. Trump’s responsibility for these failures is clear, but Christie is too much of a self-interested coward to say as much.

    As the Trump presidency sinks deeper into scandal and corruption, we’re likely going to see more of this mythmaking take hold. The conservative movement and the Republican Party sold the Trump presidency as both a curative to establishment corruption and a needed exercise in bold, singular leadership -- “I alone can fix it,” as Trump himself put it during his speech accepting the Republican nomination. Both claims were ludicrous; Donald Trump’s legacy to that point was defined by corruption and failure, and his reputation for business savvy was a concoction of reality TV.

    But the right aligned itself behind Trump and built up these fictions as the core of Republican Party politics. Conservatives can’t abandon Trump, and they can’t acknowledge that the central promise of Trumpism was a massive scam. The only way to maintain the myth of Trump’s leadership as it crumbles under the weight of investigation and incompetence will be to slap together still more fictions. As Chris Christie’s example shows us, that means divorcing all responsibility from the president who boasted that he was the only person capable of fixing the country.

  • Fox News spent months on end declaring there was "no collusion" between Trump's campaign and Russia

    Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani is now trying to move the goalposts

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE, BOBBY LEWIS & MILES LE

    In a January 16 appearance on CNN, President Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani appeared to reverse course from his usual rhetoric on the Trump campaign and Russia, claiming that he has “never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or between people in the campaign,” and Russia. Giuliani insisted that he had only stated previously that Trump himself had not colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election. The following morning, Giuliani appeared on CNN again to attempt to clarify what he meant, but he instead doubled down on his assertion that "neither [Trump] nor I can possibly know what everyone on the campaign was doing."

    Despite numerous indictments and mounting evidence of possible collusion, Giuliani and Trump have long insisted there was “no collusion” between Russia and the campaign. These claims have been amplified by a chorus of Trump’s strongest supporters on Fox News, who have tried making the same argument for the last couple years.  

    • Guy Benson: Regardless of whether or not collusion would be a crime, is it still the position of you and your client that there was no collusion with the Russians whatsoever on behalf of the Trump campaign?

               Rudy Giuliani: Correct. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 7/30/18]

    • Dan Henninger: But if he does issue this report, the two things at the center of it is whether the president's campaign colluded with the Russians at a very high level, and whether President Trump obstructed justice. On both those counts, I think the answer is going to be no. [Fox News, The Journal Editorial Report, 1/6/19]

    • Byron York: For example, one of the big parts of the dossier has Michael Cohen, very close to President Trump, or candidate Trump at the time, going to Prague in Europe and meeting with Russians and agreeing on a payoff in which the Trump campaign would pay the Russians for all the hacking they were doing, helping the Trump campaign. Michael Cohen said this is patently false. Now, Michael Cohen has since been charged with all sorts of things. Has been investigated.

      Laura Ingraham: By not lying about that.

      York: Correct. Not only investigated by the special counsel's office and prosecutors in New York, been charged and pleaded guilty and sentenced, and nobody said a word about Prague.

      Ingraham: Yeah. No collusion. I mean, and Andy, I mean, unless something really wild happens, no collusion. [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 12/18/18]

    • Corey Lewandowski: And whatever other people had done, whether it's Michael Cohen or Paul Manafort, it had nothing to do with the campaign, which is what Bob Mueller was supposed to be looking into, which is the collusion, which never existed between Trump's campaign and the Russians. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 12/9/18]

    • Byron York: But there haven't been any convictions that point to actual collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 campaign. [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 12/3/18]

    • Kayleigh McEnany: There's no evidence of collusion. Millions of pages of documents have been reviewed, there's no collusion. We were told Papadopoulos is going to show us collusion now that he's cooperating with Mueller. Papadopoulos only showed us that the Trump campaign, after dozens of requests, refused to meet with Russia. We were told Cohen would find collusion. Lo and behold, no collusion there. The Lanny Davis story was a fabrication and a lie. There is no collusion. Millions of pages of documents reviewed. The Trump campaign has done nothing wrong, and this is just the latest attempt by Democrats to find collusion where there is none. [Fox News, Fox News at Night, 9/14/18]

    • Sean Hannity: No Mueller, and neither of these men, Michael Cohen or Paul Manafort, would have to deal with this. No Russia, no collusion, no campaign, no Trump involvement. [Fox News, Hannity, 8/20/18]
    • Sean Hannity: Finally tonight, our last topic covers day seven of the trial of the century, the 2005 tax and bank fraud charges against Paul Manafort. Remember, no collusion, has nothing to do with Donald Trump, nothing to do with the campaign, nothing to do with Russia. [Fox News, Hannity, 8/8/18]
    • Corey Lewandowski: Let's prove once and for all that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and anyone in Russia to impact the outcome of the election because that is the fair thing to do. [Fox News, MediaBuzz, 8/5/18]
    • Anthony Scaramucci: I think [the American people] believe the president, take him at his word that there was absolutely no collusion inside the campaign. 

               Jeanine Pirro: Well, yeah. [Fox News, Justice with Jeanine Pirro, 6/16/18]

    • Corey Lewandowski: The American people know there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. [Fox Broadcasting, Fox News Sunday, 6/3/18]
    • David Bossie: First of all, if there were spies in the campaign, they found nothing because there was no collusion, cooperation -- [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 5/22/18]
    • Hogan Gidley: Look, The New York Times obviously is a failing publication as we all know, but it's for reasons just like this. I mean, they can't get out of their own way. The coverage on this president has been completely negative. We are entering now into the second year of this investigation. We have given over millions of pieces of paper, countless hours from our own folks in the administration from the campaign for conversations with the investigation. We have no collusion, no corruption, no obstruction. None of those things exist and yet it still leads a lot of newscasts. [Fox News, MediaBuzz, 5/20/18]
    • Katrina Pierson: This is another reason that we know there was no collusion, Martha, because they keep trying to associate Carter Page with the campaign. He was never an employee of the campaign, he volunteered to sit on a board and didn't even show up to the meeting. [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 3/5/18]
    • Tucker Carlson: Close to 20 people have been indicted in this investigation so far. Still not a single piece of evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Putin. [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 2/16/18]
    • Sean Spicer: I want the investigation to play out only because I do believe that the president has been very clear from the beginning, and everyone involved in the campaign, that there was no collusion. So at some point you run out the clock. [Fox News, Hannity, 2/9/18]
    • Trish Regan: And I guess one of the things I'm amazed by is if they're so into leaking, how come we haven't heard more about this so-called collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians? [Fox News, Sunday Morning Futures, 12/31/17]
    • Kimberly Guilfoyle: They persisted to try to demonize him, to say there was collusion, that this was an election that was totally influenced by the Russians, that there was direct collusion on part of his campaign, the president, but none of that materialized. [Fox News, The Five, 12/15/17]
    • Gregg Jarrett: And so now that we know there is no collusion in the political campaign, the question is was there collusion in the transition? No. [Fox News, Hannity, 12/13/17]
    • Corey Lewandowski: The reason we don't even talk much about the Russia investigation [in] Let Trump Be Trump is because it didn't occur during the campaign. There was no collusion. [Fox News, MediaBuzz, 12/10/17]
    • Brad Blakeman: There is good news in this plea that was taken by Flynn, and that is what your guest alluded to in your earlier segment. And that is that there doesn't seem to be any there there with collusion, coercion, conspiracy with regard to the Trump campaign and the Russians trying to influence the election. [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 12/1/17]
    • Sean Hannity: We will show you, right here, how there is zero evidence of Trump-Russia collusion. Zero evidence of campaign collusion. [Fox News, Hannity, 10/30/17]
    • Steve Cortes: Was there collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia? The evidence is utterly no, is emphatically no. No collusion. No collusion of any kind between the Trump campaign and any foreign source for that matter. [Fox News, Fox News Tonight, 10/25/17]
    • Brit Hume: The allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign itself and the president -- the man who is now president -- and the Russians, is virtually nonexistent. [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 10/24/17]
    • Tucker Carlson: [Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s] committee has not found evidence of collusion between Putin and the Trump campaign. The whole thing is a dry well, a crock, a fraud, a scam, a politically induced hallucination. It's totally nuts. [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 10/23/17]
    • Lou Dobbs: “I saw no direct evidence of political collusion between the campaign in the Trump campaign and the Russians." Cuomo's follow-on question -- are you ready? He says, ‘Now clarify that point.’ This point has been clarified for seven doggone months. [Fox News, Hannity, 6/6/17]
    • Sean Hannity: Since this Russia conspiracy theory has started, not a single shred of evidence that there was any collusion with the Trump campaign. [Fox News, Hannity, 5/11/17]
    • Sean Hannity: For eight months, we've had this media conspiracy theory being pushed and advanced without any evidence whatsoever of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. [Fox News, Hannity, 4/11/17]
    • Sean Hannity: Hey, Don [Lemon], there's no evidence of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign, and you guys have been harping on that conspiracy for eight months. [Fox News, Hannity, 4/4/17]
    • Michael Needham: There's absolutely no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians on the election. [Fox Broadcasting, Fox News Sunday, 3/12/17]
    • Jason Riley: I mean there is no evidence of direct collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. [Fox Broadcasting, Fox News Sunday, 3/12/17]
    • Sean Hannity: They found no evidence at all whatsoever of any collusion between the campaign and the Russians. True?

               Sara Carter: Absolutely true. [Fox News, Hannity, 3/8/17]

    • Jonathan Turley: See, the problem is that we don't have any evidence of collusion. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 3/3/17]
    • Bill O’Reilly: Any fair-minded person has to acknowledge there’s no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, at least at this point. Correct? [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 3/6/17]
    • Bill O’Reilly: [Former National Intelligence Director James] Clapper clearly said -- and I know you heard it, so don’t spin -- that there’s no evidence produced to him of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. He said it clear as day. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 3/6/17]
    • Rudy Giuliani: You know, I was a big part of that campaign. I'm trying to figure out who was the spy. Now I'm wondering, is it this person or that person or this person? Now, if there's a spy, they got nothing from it. Look, they’d be able to bring their case right now if the spy had any incriminating information. That spy should have been enough to tell them, these people were not talking to the Russians. There was no collusion with the Russians. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/17/18]
  • Right-wing media attack Rep. Ilhan Omar for something she never said

    Omar criticized Sen. Lindsey Graham, and right-wing media accused her of homophobia

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On January 15, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) shared a video of a 2015 CNN interview in which Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called then-candidate Donald Trump “a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot,” commenting that Graham had since been “compromised.” (Her tweet was a retweet of another that linked to the video, noting, “I can’t even imagine what they have on Graham.”) Two days later, Omar clarified her comments on CNN, arguing that Graham’s shift in rhetoric on Trump over the past three years is evidence that he is “compromised to no longer stand up for the truth.” Some right-wing media figures twisted Omar’s tweet and claimed that the congresswoman was suggesting Graham was being blackmailed over his sexuality.

    Omar did not come close to making this argument. In fact, during her interview with CNN she suggested three things that could be held over Graham’s head in order to change his behavior: “his funding when it comes to running for office,” polling information from his district, and leadership positions in the Senate. But that didn’t stop Breitbart and right-wing media figures from putting words in her mouth. Tom Elliott, founder of the TV monitoring platform Grabien, tweeted Omar’s interview in which she explained her original tweet, but still suggested that she had claimed Trump was blackmailing Graham over “his homosexuality.” (Graham has previously said that he is not gay.)

    Many right-wing figures picked up Elliott’s tweet and ran with it:

    • Radio host Buck Sexton claimed Omar insinuated “Graham is gay to undermine him, which is grossly homophobic.”

    • Conservative host Steve Deace shared Elliott’s tweet and added: “Just imagine if this were an evangelical Republican saying this on television about a Democrat’s sexual proclivities…”

    • Commentary magazine’s Noah Rothman also shared Elliott’s tweet and commented: “The best part about this clip is that it begins with Omar offering some unobjectionable bromide about ‘inclusive societies.’”

    • Conservative CNN host S.E. Cupp also retweeted Elliott, writing, “This is ignorant, homophobic and unacceptable, @IlhanMN. Democrats, this is becoming a very bad look.”

    • Mediaite’s Pardes Seleh: “A sitting member of congress publicly theorizing, with ZERO basis, that senator lindsay graham is secretly gay and trump is blackmailing him for being gay. watch this video and tell me she doesn't sound like a kook.”

    • The Daily Wire’s Amanda Prestigiacomo: “Homegirl is batshit crazy pushing homophobic conspiracy theories abt Graham.”

    • Other right-wing media figures, including right-wing troll Jack Posobiec, Newsmax’s Joe Walsh, and National Review’s Rich Lowry re-tweeted Elliott and wrote disapproving comments without noting that the original tweet was fallacious. Fox’s Lisa Booth replied to Elliott’s tweet, writing, “WTH is wrong with this woman. This is reprehensible.”

    Many journalists and media figures pushed back on the lie.

    Omar herself responded to the bad-faith criticism:

    Intercept columnist Mehdi Hasan added:

    The Atlantic's Adam Serwer pointed to another reason right-wing voices were eager to run with a lie about Omar:

    Serwer also added that Graham is just "acting like a Republican" and is not being coerced.

  • Five things to know about the deceptive anti-abortion poll released ahead of the March for Life

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Anti-abortion group Students for Life of America (SFLA) released a new poll ahead of the 2019 March for Life protest alleging that millennials now overwhelming support anti-choice positions. Right-wing media have hyped the poll, but they have failed to note the extent to which SFLA set up the survey to present a favorable outcome. In fact, the poll demonstrates just how much misinformation the anti-choice movement has to present in order to get most millennials to agree with anti-abortion views.

    SFLA, which oversees student chapters of anti-abortion groups across the country, released a poll on January 13 claiming to represent millennials’ “views on abortion, Roe v. Wade, and Planned Parenthood.” SFLA’s poll focused on millennials, who it defined as 18-34 years old, because they are both “the largest voting bloc in America” and allegedly “the target market of abortion vendors.”

    Polling on abortion has always been notoriously complicated, and support for both abortion rights and anti-choice restrictions has frequently been shown to depend heavily on how certain questions are asked. As Tresa Undem, founder and partner at the public opinion research firm PerryUndem, wrote for Vox, most “standard measures used to report the public’s views on abortion ... don’t capture how people really think” about the issue, but rather measure a binary viewpoint of right or wrong, legal or illegal. Conducting accurate polling on abortion requires asking questions “in a more real and accurate way” that takes into account “how people actually experience abortion.” When polls use real-life examples, audiences report greater support for abortion access, and new polling from PerryUndem (albeit from a broader audience than just millennials) shows “voters' support for abortion rights is as high as we have seen in years: 73% of voters do not want Roe v. Wade overturned and 67% say abortion should be legal in ‘all’ or ‘most’ cases.”

    SFLA’s poll not only lacks consideration of real-life scenarios, but it explicitly inserted anti-abortion misinformation with the goal of influencing respondents’ opinions. In a memo released alongside the poll, SFLA explained that questions originated with the group’s “own experience and conversations on campuses” and were intended to influence and measure “changes in attitude on subjects such as Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood both before and after participants were provided the real facts.” As a result, the poll attempted to measure views on these topics by first asking a baseline question about respondents’ views on Roe and Planned Parenthood, and then asking their views again “after learning” a series of right-wing talking points about abortion and Planned Parenthood, which SFLA calls “real facts.” In other words, SFLA measured how much anti-abortion misinformation respondents had to be presented with before they adopted more anti-choice views on abortion and Planned Parenthood.

    Given that SFLA’s poll promotes many right-wing myths as “real facts,” it’s unsurprising that right-wing outlets ran with the results. Breitbart News proclaimed that the poll “found that 70 percent of millennials support limits on abortion” while The Washington Examiner said in its daily health care newsletter that the poll “found that only 7 percent of those polled supported both allowing abortion without any exceptions and using government funding to pay for them” -- a position which The Gateway Pundit erroneously characterized as “the Democratic Party platform.” The College Fix similarly claimed “a plurality of millennials supports the full reversal of Supreme Court decisions that enshrined abortion on demand until fetal viability” once “survey participants were told exactly what Roe v. Wade” supposedly allows. SFLA President Kristan Hawkins later went on Eternal World Television Network’s News Nightly to talk about the poll and make the skewed claim that millennials “lean politically liberal on almost every issue out there -- except abortion” because they “see abortion as violence.”

    Other anti-abortion groups quickly began promoting the SFLA poll, with Susan B. Anthony List, the March for Life, and the Family Research Council all tweeting about it. Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins wrote about the poll for The Daily Signal, claiming that “7 in 10 support restrictions on abortion, with 42 percent opposing abortion ‘broadly.’ That’ll come as a shock to the Democrats’ system, which is betting most of its credibility on a surprisingly pro-life age group.”

    Right-wing media and anti-abortion groups are going to keep spreading this deceptive poll, so here are five things to know about it:

    1. SFLA likely released the poll ahead of the March for Life 2019 as an attempt to drive inaccurate media coverage, just as anti-abortion groups and right-wing media have previously done.

    SFLA released this poll during the week of the 2019 March for Life, the annual anti-abortion march against the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. Anti-abortion groups and media outlets often use deceptive polling to argue that anti-choice positions have overwhelming popular support. For example, as Media Matters reported during last year’s march, several media outlets spread misinformation about the American public’s alleged support for anti-abortion policies by sharing polling data without proper context or analysis. SFLA’s poll, with its leading language and anti-choice misinformation, appears to be another attempt to drive inaccurate media coverage. Hawkins, in particular, has already used the dubious top lines from the poll to place op-eds in The Washington Times and USA Today.

    2. It manipulates people’s views on Roe v. Wade by inserting the inaccurate claim that the decision allows abortions “up until the moment of birth.”

    SFLA claimed that its poll accurately measured respondents’ views of Roe v. Wade. However, during baseline questioning the poll found that 40 percent of respondents supported the Roe decision and only 12 percent opposed it. After pollsters posed a series of misleading statements that SFLA calls “real facts,” support for the decision dropped to 35 percent and opposition rose to 41 percent. To influence this shift, the poll’s questions relied on the anti-abortion movement’s favorite right-wing media talking points about Roe.

    For example, one statement claimed: “Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, companion Supreme Court cases, allow for abortions to be performed in all nine (9) months of pregnancy, up until the moment of birth.” This is an inaccurate description of both cases. So-called abortion “up until the moment of birth” is a common right-wing myth (sometimes used interchangeably with “abortion on demand” or the nonexistent practice of “partial-birth abortion”) meant to fearmonger about legal later abortion. In reality, later abortions are extremely rare and people have them for a variety of personal and medical reasons.

    Another misleading statement from SFLA’s poll claimed: “Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton have been used to justify sending your tax dollars to be used to perform abortions or off-set other expenses of abortion providers.” Despite what this statement implies, under the Hyde Amendment, taxpayer money is prohibited from funding abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or if the life of the pregnant person is at risk -- a harmful policy that primarily hurts low-income individuals who cannot pay out of pocket for abortion care. Similarly, claiming that money is “off-set” for abortion providers is just another way to repeat the common anti-abortion argument that taxpayer money is “fungible,” implying that federal funds indirectly support abortions through Planned Parenthood. Such an argument demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding about how federal money is used to support health care organizations like Planned Parenthood, which receive it as reimbursement when serving Medicaid patients.

    Another statement in the SFLA poll claimed: “Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton allow for abortions to be performed simply because the mother doesn’t like the sex of the baby or the mother wants to use abortion as a form of contraception.” So-called “sex-selective” abortions are a concept used by anti-choice legislators to justify restricting abortion access, even though these bans have no basis in scientific research or the medical practices of abortion providers and are instead frequently used to vilify Asian-Americans seeking abortions.

    Given that it included such stigmatizing and inaccurate language, SFLA’s poll can hardly be considered representative of a wider audience’s support for Roe.

    3. It also lies about the safety of medical abortions to suggest that abortion pills should not be made more accessible.

    In an one-off question that was not about Roe or Planned Parenthood, SFLA’s poll asked:

    Today, about one-third of abortions take place using the drug RU-486. RU-486 can be deadly to women who don't know they are later in pregnancy than they really are, or who are experiencing an ectopic pregnancy. While surgical abortions require an exam by an physician, abortion advocates are asking that RU-486 be sold to women on-line, without a doctor's exam. Do you support/oppose these abortion pills being widely available on-line and sold to women without a doctor's exam?

    Though the ability to end a pregnancy at home can be an empowering choice, SFLA’s question omits that the calls for the abortion pill (also known as RU-486) to be available online or over-the-counter were necessitated because the anti-abortion movement pushed to further restrict abortion access, as well as by the potential of a Supreme Court with Justice Brett Kavanaugh overturning Roe. Although SFLA suggested that medication abortions are unsafe, both medication and surgical abortion are actually extremely safe. In fact, medication abortion is safer that alternative procedures since it takes place earlier in the pregnancy and has minimal risks.

    4. The poll pushes the right-wing narrative that federally qualified health centers could replace Planned Parenthood clinics.

    Beyond a set of questions about Planned Parenthood’s favorability, SFLA’s poll also asked respondents to choose between Planned Parenthood and federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), asking which “is more deserving of our tax payer dollars.”

    Anti-abortion groups and right-wing media frequently cite the number of FQHCs to suggest that Planned Parenthood is not an essential health care provider. But despite outnumbering Planned Parenthood clinics in the United States, FQHCs would not be able to handle the influx of patients if Planned Parenthood was stripped of federal funding and low-income patients were forced to go to FQHCs. In addition, the Guttmacher Institute found in 2015 that Planned Parenthood is the only “safety-net health center” able to provide publicly subsidized contraceptive services in 103 U.S. counties. Planned Parenthood’s focus on reproductive health care -- including abortion, which is not provided at FQHCs -- makes it uniquely positioned to provide irreplaceable services in the health care field.

    5. The poll was done by White House counselor Kellyanne Conway’s old polling firm.

    Beyond SFLA’s involvement in shaping the questions, the organization commissioned a potentially biased firm to actually conduct the poll. The Polling Company Inc./WomanTrend was founded in 1995 by now-White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. As Rewire.News’ Ally Boguhn explained, Conway “spent nearly two decades as a conservative talking head pushing her anti-choice claims under the guise of credibility offered by her work as a pollster,” with her firm advising anti-abortion politicians and “working on behalf of anti-choice groups such as the Susan B. Anthony List, the Heritage Foundation, and Focus on the Family.” The National Catholic Register wrote that anti-abortion activist David Daleiden hired Conway’s firm in 2015 to “conduct two focus groups in Colorado,” helping to “craft the message” around the now-discredited claim that Planned Parenthood illegally sold fetal tissue. The anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List has recently used Conway’s firm to conduct polling in support of the organization’s various anti-choice initiatives. A Republican public relations firm acquired The Polling Company in 2017.

    Anti-abortion groups and right-wing media will spend this year’s March for Life claiming that SFLA’s poll proves that millennials are overwhelmingly “pro-life.” Instead, it proves just how much right-wing misinformation these groups have to push before people will support their extreme anti-choice agenda.

  • Social Security Administration removes official from staffing charts following Media Matters reports about his toxic commentaries

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Robert W. Patterson, a right-wing commentator who argued that married working mothers have hurt society and that condoms rob women of “remarkable chemicals” in semen, has been removed from staffing charts posted on the Social Security Administration's (SSA) website.

    The SSA previously listed Patterson on its website as its acting associate commissioner at the Office of Strategic and Digital Communications. Those references to Patterson are now gone and the position is listed as vacant. One staffing chart listed a date of January 16. The SSA has not responded to Media Matters' requests for comment about Patterson

    Media Matters first reported that Patterson has been working for the SSA since 2017 despite his history of toxic remarks as a commentator. He has:

    • argued against contraceptives because “condom use robs” women of the “remarkable chemicals” in semen;
    • said married mothers in the workplace have undermined society;
    • suggested that homosexuality is a mental disorder and that sexual orientation can be forcibly changed;
    • lauded the police officers who beat Rodney King, claiming that "the entire video reveals the officers putting themselves in harm’s way to restrain King when they could have just shot him. For that restraint, the cops were subject to relentless prosecution”;
    • attacked the “diversity agenda” of U.S. immigration law that, he said, has led to “millions of foreigners from the Muslim Middle East and dysfunctional Third World countries” coming into the United States; and
    • claimed that “hordes of Central American migrants” are threatening public health (a xenophobic and false right-wing trope).

    Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) responded to news of Patterson’s remarks by tweeting on January 14: “Reports of disgusting comments and attitudes from inside this Administration are far too common. President Trump sets the tone from the top so sadly none of these reports are too shocking, but that doesn’t make them acceptable.”

    Patterson got a job in President Donald Trump's administration despite his resignation from a senior job in then-Pennsylvania Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration.

    In 2012, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Patterson both worked in state government and edited a right-wing journal, where he weighed in on “what he described as a woman's ideal role in society: married and at home raising children.” The paper added that he also “wrote about research that he said showed that if women wanted to find ‘Mr. Right,’ they should shun birth control pills; and if they wanted to improve their mood, they should not insist that their men wear condoms lest they miss out on beneficial chemicals found in semen.” After the Inquirer asked the state government about “Patterson's side job as editor,” he resigned and Corbett’s “administration swiftly distanced itself from the views expressed in the journal he edits.” The Inquirer later wrote: “Department officials said Patterson had decided to resign because he had been denied his request to remain the editor of the Family in America journal while working for the state.”

    Patterson is another example of the staffing disaster posed by the Trump administration’s reliance on media commentators.

  • Fox & Friends ignored Rudy Giuliani's collusion bombshell

    Fox & Friends First read one headline on Giuliani's appearance, saying he was "firing back at CNN"

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On January 17, Fox News’ Fox & Friends failed to report on  President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani refusing to deny that there was “collusion” between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. 

    The night before, Giuliani told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that he didn’t know if members of the Trump campaign up to and including manager Paul Manafort had colluded with the Russian government. Giuliani said that he “never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign," only that “the president of the United States” did not collude.

    Giuliani’s admission that members of the Trump campaign may have colluded with the Russian government to win the 2016 election was treated as a bombshell by CNN and MSNBC, which  led both of their morning shows with the story. At 4:24 a.m. EST, Fox & Friends First did feature a brief headline segment about Giuliani “firing back at CNN” in the interview, however the much more influential Fox & Friends did not mention the story once. Instead, the show:

    Pressed Trump to keep the government shut down:

    Threw free Chick-fil-A sandwiches at the studio audience:

    And sang “God Bless the U.S.A.” with singer/songwriter Lee Greenwood: 

    Fox & Friends is a propaganda mill masquerading as a news show, and the hosts mostly aim to please just one viewer: the president of the United States. 

  • Anti-abortion groups will claim science is on their side during the March for Life. Media shouldn't let them.

    The Charlotte Lozier Institute is one such group, trying to push its anti-abortion activism as impartial research

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Anti-abortion groups will gather in Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life protest on January 18 under this year’s theme, “Unique from Day One: Pro-Life is Pro-Science,” which claims that “medical and technological advancements continue to reaffirm the science behind the pro-life cause.” This framing is an attempt by the anti-abortion movement to allege that scientific consensus supports anti-choice policies -- an effort shepherded in large part by the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI), the research arm of the anti-choice group Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List). Although CLI and SBA List attempt to portray the organization’s members as impartial scientific experts, media outlets should be wary when citing them given the explicit mission of both organizations to oppose abortion.

    For years, the anti-abortion movement and its allies in right-wing media have erroneously and frequently claimed that anti-choice arguments are supported by science. In fact, CLI was created as part of one such effort to frame anti-abortion research as impartial. Though other anti-choice groups often portray CLI as an independent nonprofit similar to the Guttmacher Institute (which was founded as an official arm of Planned Parenthood before becoming entirely independent), CLI is actually still operated as part of SBA List. CLI filed its federal 990 tax forms as the “Susan B Anthony List Education Fund” and even ran Facebook ads for SBA List during the 2018 midterm elections. CLI reported that its anti-abortion work involves putting “expert testimony before legislatures across the U.S.” by dispatching its associate scholars, as well as helping anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers with research to maximize the “outreach and effectiveness” of these fake health clinics.

    Most recently, SBA List and CLI attempted to push their anti-science agenda during a congressional oversight committee hearing on fetal tissue research. Although both of the witnesses called by Republicans were CLI representatives, only one of these affiliations was disclosed during the hearing. As the communications director for the committee’s ranking Democrat told ThinkProgress, "While not untoward, it is unusual and telling for one hearing to have two expert witnesses affiliated with the same research tank," and Politico called the move “irregular … as lawmakers usually try to demonstrate broad support for a policy.”

    Despite being branded as the “research arm” of the anti-abortion movement, CLI “has so far produced little in the way of original research and data-gathering and has instead published more commentaries and analyses of others’ research that support its agenda on abortion and end-of-life issues," Rewire.News wrote in 2014. Little has changed since then. In 2018, CLI’s vice president published a study challenging the methodology of previous research showing recent increases in Texas’ maternal mortality rate. Another 2018 study by CLI’s vice president claimed that “Planned Parenthood has had a long-term and accelerating inflationary effect on the incidence and prevalence of abortion in the US.” SBA List summarized the research in a press release claiming that Planned Parenthood was “responsible for 3 Million+ ‘extra’ abortions” because Planned Parenthood’s rate of abortions hasn’t followed the same trend as other abortion providers. The rate CLI and SBA List identified likely has more to do with the rapid closure of independent abortion clinics than with Planned Parenthood performing “extra” abortions. Additionally, right-wing media outlets often publish pieces in which CLI associate scholars who lack backgrounds in scientific research claim to offer scientific analyses of reproductive rights issues.

    Despite CLI's obvious bias, mainstream media coverage in the past has presented the organization as a legitimate research institution. Before the 2018 March for Life, The Atlantic published a piece downplaying the group’s involvement with SBA List, describing CLI as “a relatively new D.C. think tank ... which employs a number of doctors and scholars on its staff” and merely “shares an office with Susan B. Anthony List, a prominent pro-life advocacy organization.” As a result of this whitewashing of CLI, Rewire.News listed the Atlantic article in its 2018 “Hall of Shame” for reporting on reproductive rights because it was “aiding in the deception” of the anti-abortion movement’s attempts to gain legitimacy. Other outlets have cited CLI without disclosing its role as an anti-abortion group -- a CNN story about the recent committee hearing offered no description of the organization, while The Birmingham News merely described it as “a Washington DC health think-tank.”

    Other recent media coverage has also given CLI a platform to present scientifically unsupported views on various abortion-related issues. For example, as part of the debate over the Trump administration’s push to end fetal tissue research, outlets such as ABC News, The Hill, and NPR each quoted CLI officials who claimed that fetal tissue research is obsolete or unnecessary when, in fact, such a view is unsupported by the larger scientific community. In another example, The Washington Post allowed CLI President Chuck Donovan to claim that the rate of abortions performed in the United States is declining in part because “pro-life views are more prevalent.” Donovan’s claim is unsupported by the actual research cited in the story.

    Groups like CLI and SBA List often point to media coverage like this as a way of validating their anti-choice viewpoints, further perpetuating the ruse that CLI members are impartial scientific experts worthy of citation. With the anti-abortion movement using this year’s March for Life to allege that “science” supports various anti-choice policies, media outlets have a responsibility to interrogate the qualifications and associations of their sources.