Blog | Media Matters for America


  • Kevin Williamson is dreadful, and The Atlantic should feel bad for hiring him

    Williamson has a history of making misogynistic, extreme, and outrageous claims on a number of issues


    On March 22, National Review writer Kevin Williamson announced he had been hired by The Atlantic. Williamson announced his departure in a post for National Review titled “On My Departure” in which he wrote:

    As some of you have heard by now, I’ve accepted a position at The Atlantic, and my regular duties here at National Review and the National Review Institute will come to a close after ten very happy and fruitful years for which I am and always will be grateful.


    When asked why he sometimes wrote for Playboy, Bill Buckley said that he wanted to be sure that at least some of his work was seen by his son. I can’t say I know Christopher Buckley very well, but he never has struck me as the kind of pervert who reads Playboy for the articles. Still, I get the sentiment. And even though The Atlantic was founded by a bunch of sometime Republicans (Ralph Waldo Emerson et al., from whom our modern Republicans could learn a thing or two of value) it isn’t exactly what you’d call conservative. So like St. Paul, who also benefited from the services of a good editor, I will be an apostle to the Gentiles. I am very much looking forward to raising a brand new kind of hell.

    As Splinter noted, “The Atlantic’s former editor, James Bennet, has been busy in the past year turning the New York Times opinion page into an even bigger source of frustration for its newsroom. His old place of employment is apparently looking to top those efforts.” And indeed, Williamson has quite a history of making misogynistic points, pushing anti-abortion extremism, and offering outrageous views on a number of other issues.

    Williamson once called for women who had abortions to be hanged

    In 2014, Williamson tweeted that “the law should treat abortion like any other homicide.” Although Williamson has since deleted his Twitter account, the exchange was immortalized by Rewire.News Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson, who explained that Williamson not only advocated for abortion to “be treated as premeditated homicide,” but also that “women who have had abortions should face capital punishment, namely hanging.”

    The comments sparked enough outrage that Salon created a quiz for readers: “Can you tell the difference between National Review’s Kevin Williamson and a 4chan troll?”

    Beyond this, Williamson has a history of making extreme, anti-abortion commentary.

    In 2014, Williamson also wrote a piece claiming that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has a “desire to see as many poor children killed” as possible through abortion.

    In 2015, Williamson urged lawmakers to support a 20-week abortion ban (a medically unsound bill that anti-choice Republicans are still pushing in 2018). As justification, Williamson suggested that although he did “sympathize with women who feel that they are not ready for a child," he had also “had many developments in life for which I was not ready.”

    In 2013, Williamson argued against “exceptions for rape and incest” in anti-abortion restrictions, saying that “invites the very critique that feminists would like to make” because “if we are going to protect unborn human lives, then we are going to protect them regardless of the circumstances of their conception.”

    Most recently, Williamson wrote an article for National Review this year about the annual anti-abortion event March for Life. In the article, Williamson argued that he could tolerate many things other than abortion, writing: “Smoke weed, snort cocaine, watch porn, but don’t kill a living human organism, for any reason, ever.”

    Williamson also has a history of misogyny

    In an article titled “Like a Boss,” Williamson claimed that “from an evolutionary point of view, Mitt Romney should get 100 percent of the female vote,” including “Michelle Obama’s vote,” because “the ladies do tend to flock to successful executives and entrepreneurs.” Williamson concluded that although Americans “don’t do harems … Romney is exactly the kind of guy who in another time and place would have the option of maintaining one.”

    Williamson also launched an ad hominem attack on actress Lena Dunham for writing a piece that encouraged people to vote. Williamson’s 2014 post, headlined “Five Reasons Why You’re Too Dumb to Vote,” attacked Dunham as “distinctly unappealing" while calling her piece “a half-assed listicle penned by a half-bright celebrity and published by a gang of abortion profiteers" directed toward Dunham's "presumably illiterate following."

    And this line of criticism was not limited to attacks on Dunham. That same year, Williamson also penned a criticism of feminism, including attacks on then-California state Senate candidate Sandra Fluke and Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. As Media Matters noted, Williamson defined feminism in this piece as “the words ‘I Want!’ in the mouths of three or more women, provided they're the right kind of women."

    Williamson also has a checkered history of offering problematic commentary on sexual assault and harassment. In 2015, Media Matters called out Williamson for declaring the epidemic of campus sexual assault “a fiction” and arguing that efforts to curb incidents were somewhat akin to the “mass hysteria” during the Salem witch trials.

    This sentiment goes back even further. In 2008, Williamson wrote a tribute to newspaper advice columnist Miss Manners that included such gems as “As every female police officer knows, there is something maddeningly sexy about a woman enforcing rules, and something sexually repugnant about a woman without any rules at all” and “Miss Manners is sexy for the same reason that librarians and teachers and nurses can be sexy: she is an authority — it's fun to play with authority.”

    Also in 2008, Williamson claimed that Hillary Clinton’s “true-believers understand that they and their grievances will never merit the free upgrade to first-class victimhood.” In the National Review article, Williamson also wrote that Clinton was “getting in touch with her inner dominatrix (which does not seem to have been much of a reach for her.)”

    More recently, Williamson wrote an article for National Review headlined “The Treasury Secretary’s Wife” in which he attacked Louise Linton, wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, as a “D-minus-list never-was CSI-extra actress.”

    Williamson has a history of making anti-LGBTQ comments

    In 2014, Williamson attacked transgender actress and advocate Laverne Cox, writing that she was “not a woman, but an effigy of a woman," because transgender identity is a "delusional tendency." This was not the first time Williamson expressed anti-trans sentiments. In 2013, he penned the article “Bradley Manning Is Not A Woman.”

    Williamson also used his platform at National Review to praise and admit to a “sneaking admiration for Kim Davis” -- the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Although he did note that her position was “wrong, inarguably” and that her sentence was justified even “as much as one might admire Davis’s conviction,” Williamson still compared her “principled noncompliance” to that of Martin Luther King Jr.

    Williamson has made racist and Islamophobic comments

    Following the Paris terror attacks in 2015, Williamson argued that the Paris attackers should spur "more scrutiny and surveillance of Muslim immigrant communities.”

    This year, in an National Review article headlined “The Intellectual Emptiness of ‘White Supremacy,’” Williamson wrote that although “‘white supremacy’ … used to mean something: the Ku Klux Klan, Nazis and their imitators, race-science crackpottery, etc.,” it no longer has the same meaning. As Williamson argued, now “‘white supremacy’ is only another in the progressive parade of horribles, up there with Islamophobia and transmisogyny, the terrible sin straight men commit if they forgo dating ‘women’ with penises and testicles.”

    Williamson has expressed callous views around gun violence and gun violence prevention

    Writing for the National Review, Williamson criticized former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) for writing a New York Times op-ed by stating, "It should be noted that being shot in the head by a lunatic does not give one any special grace to pronounce upon public-policy questions." Williamson added that Giffords' op-ed was "childish" and "an embarrassment." Williamson doubled down on this criticism of Giffords when he said on HuffPost Live that “the fact that something terrible happens to you doesn’t give you any special understanding of the situation.”

    On a 2011 episode of former Fox Business show Following the Money with Eric Bolling, Williamson said that if current economic policies continued, “you’re going to want to have a very good gun.”

    After protesters took to the streets in Baltimore in 2015 following the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, Williamson wrote on Twitter, “I wonder if any of my lefty friends in the DC suburbs are rethinking their Second Amendment rights this week.”

    Williamson has made questionable comments about environmental protection policies

    In 2015, Williamson claimed that emissions standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to curtail vehicle pollutants were “phony moral imperatives” and thus Volkswagen’s cheating on the standards should be expected.

    Williamson wrote a shining profile of EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt, saying that Pruitt “is in fact a true believer … principled” and that he “is genuinely excited about the possibilities we have for improving the environment.”

    Williamson has made other outrageous claims

    On a 2009 episode of the former Fox News program Glenn Beck, Williamson asserted of the Obama administration’s environmental protection policies, “The left always needs an emergency because they can't get this stuff done through normal democratic means.”

    In 2014, Williamson compared Cliven Bundy, who got into a armed standoff with law enforcement after refusing to pay grazing fees for his cattle, to “every fugitive slave” and "every one of the sainted men and women who enabled them."

    Williamson claimed in 2015 that the arrest of teenager Ahmed Mohammed for bringing a homemade clock to school was "a phony case of Islamophobia.," Williamson then attacked President Barack Obama and other public figures for expressing support for Ahmed, calling their actions "cheap moral preening," and arguing that the story received attention only because it "can be used to further a story" about racism in the United States.

    In 2015, Williamson compared Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to a Nazi, writing that Sanders’ political views equate to “national socialism,” which Williamson said made him “queasy and uncomfortable” to write because of Sanders’ Jewish heritage and the fact his family was killed in the Holocaust.

    Williamson wrote in 2014 that rich Americans “work more -- a lot more” than low-income Americans, pointing to a study claiming that top-bracket income workers inherit a smaller percentage of their wealth than low-income Americans do.

    In a 2017 article for National Review, Williamson wrote about “the myth of the idle rich,” saying that wealthy people’s “fortunes do not build themselves” and that “those who are truly passive in their economic lives tend to end up at the unhappy end of the income-distribution curve.”

  • Mark Zuckerberg’s apology PR tour and why now is our best opportunity yet to push for change

    Facebook to everyone: our bad

    Blog ››› ››› MELISSA RYAN

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is sorry. Specifically, as he told CNN, he’s “really sorry that this happened.”

    “I think we let the community down, and I feel really bad and I’m sorry about that,” he told Recode’s Kara Swisher. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, appearing on CNBC, also offered an apology: “I am so sorry that we let so many people down.”

    Zuckerberg and Facebook have a lot to apologize for. In addition to the numerous other problems plaguing Facebook under Zuckerberg’s watch, he allowed Cambridge Analytica to obtain and exploit the Facebook data of 50 million users in multiple countries. When the platform discovered the stolen data, it took the firm’s word that the data had been deleted (it hadn’t). Facebook made no attempts to independently verify that the data was no longer being used, nor did it notify users whose data was exploited. Even after the news broke, it took Zuckerberg and Sandberg six days to face the public and give interviews.

    In addition to offering their apologies, both Sandberg and Zuckerberg acknowledged that trust between Facebook and users had been breached. Sandberg said on CNBC, “This is about trust, and earning the trust of the people who use our service is the most important thing we do. And we are very committed to earning it.”

    What surprised me most, however, was their acknowledgment that regulation was coming and that perhaps Facebook needs to be checked. Zuckerberg in his CNN interview suggested that regulation of tech companies like Facebook might be necessary. Sandberg went even further: “It's not a question of if regulation, it's a question of what type. ... We're open to regulation. We work with lawmakers all over the world." At first this read to me like another attempt at passing the buck of responsibility onto another entity, and while that might still be partially true, there’s more to it. Facebook is responding to public outrage, including the growing calls for regulation. Facebook executives have concluded they’re not getting out of this mess without regulation, and their best path forward is to try to get the best deal they can get, given the circumstances.

    Were Zuckerberg and Sandberg forthcoming enough? No. I don’t think anyone was convinced that Facebook is telling us everything it knows, nor did the company present much of a plan for protecting consumers moving forward. But consumers have the momentum. Facebook will change only as much as its users demand. The fact that Facebook’s leadership is on a full-blown apology tour means that public pressure is starting to work. After months of bad press and user backlash, Facebook is finally acknowledging that some things need to change.

    Facebook failed to protect users from a consulting firm so shady that it bragged to a potential client about entrapping candidates for office, potentially breaking U.S. election laws to help Donald Trump win in 2016, and avoiding congressional investigations. Consumers are outraged, many to the point of quitting Facebook entirely. Cambridge Analytica probably isn’t the only problematic company that Facebook allowed to exploit user data, but from an organizing perspective, we couldn’t ask for a better villain. After months of outrage, Facebook is on the defensive. This is the best opportunity we’ll have to force it and other tech platforms to make systemic change.

    Here’s a good place to start: Media Matters is calling on Facebook to ban any entity, be it the Trump campaign or any other, that is using a copy of Cambridge Analytica's data or any other data set acquired by cheating.

    Click here and join our call to action.

  • NRATV taunts Parkland students over their dead classmates

    Colion Noir to Parkland survivors: If an armed guard had stopped the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, “your classmates would still be alive, and no one would know your names.”

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    NRATV host Colion Noir taunted the survivors of the Parkland, FL, school shooting who have been speaking out against gun violence, telling them he wished an armed officer had been there to stop the attack because then “no one would know your names.”

    The season-seven premiere of NRATV’s Noir comes amid repeated calls for stronger gun safety regulations after the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and just days before the student-led March For Our Lives event in Washington, D.C.

    During the March 22 episode, Noir brought up the recent Great Mills High School shooting in Maryland and told Parkland survivors he wishes an armed guard had stopped the shooting at their school because “your classmates would still be alive, and no one would know your names”:

    COLION NOIR (NRATV host): To all the kids from Parkland getting ready to use your First Amendment to attack everyone else’s Second Amendment at your march on Saturday, I wish a hero like [Great Mills High School resource officer] Blaine [Gaskill] had been at Marjory Douglas High School last month, because your classmates would still be alive, and no one would know your names. Because the media would have completely and utterly ignored your story the way they ignored his.

    There was an armed police guard at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, but he did not attempt to confront the shooter, contrary to what police are trained to do in an active shooter situation. Hours after NRATV published the Noir episode, 16-year-old Jaelynn Willey, a victim of the Maryland school shooting, died from her injuries.

    During the episode, Noir also slammed the upcoming March For Our Lives as “one-sided, logic-deprived, and intellectually dishonest” and called it a “festival masquerading as a march.” Noir went on to question what the students are marching for, claiming that it “looks like a march to burn the Constitution and rewrite the parts that you all like in crayon.”

    In a March 19 teaser for his newest season, Noir used the Parkland shooting to suggest that school staff should be armed with assault weapons, asking, “What if the football coach who heroically sacrificed his life” during the Parkland shooting “had an AR-15 instead of empty hands?”

    Noir has a history of attacking people who speak out after being impacted by gun violence. These latest videos follow Noir’s 2015 warning to the parents of slain Virginia journalist Alison Parker to not become “so emotional” that they turn their child’s murder “into a gun control dog-and-pony show minutes after the shooting because you can’t make sense of what happened.”

    And in a video on his personal YouTube page, Noir criticized Kim Kardashian West’s support for National Gun Violence Awareness day by baselessly suggesting she has “severe mental illnesses” including “PTSD” after being robbed at gunpoint in Paris.

    After the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, FL, Noir attacked calls for stronger gun laws by writing on Twitter, “Even children aren't short sighted enough to think gun control is a rational response to terrorism. They say make the monster go away.”

  • Executive Time: Are we about to have a Fox News shutdown?

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Welcome to Executive Time, a recurring feature in which Media Matters senior fellow Matt Gertz explores the intersection between President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed and the hours of cable news he reportedly consumes daily, with a special focus on his favorite morning program, Fox & Friends. You can follow Matt’s work on Twitter @mattgertz and see previous installments in this series here.

    UPDATE: After several hours of panicked uncertainty, Trump signed the omnibus bill.

    The omnibus spending bill was supposed to be a done deal. The legislation, which provides $1.3 trillion in spending, passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives by wide, bipartisan margins. Three different senior administration officials had assured reporters over the past two days that President Donald Trump supported the bill and would sign it. Fears of the third federal shutdown this year, which would begin at midnight tonight without new funding legislation, abated.   

    And then this morning, just before 9 a.m. ET, the president tweeted that he was having second thoughts:

    It’s hard to say what spurred his tweet. But earlier this morning on Fox & Friends, co-host Pete Hegseth savaged the legislation in similar terms:

    Trump watches Fox & Friends regularly and has sought out Hegseth -- reportedly a top contender to join his cabinet -- for advice. This might be a case of the Trump-Fox feedback loop in action, with the network’s personalities effectively changing White House policy by influencing the president through the television. The president "obviously turned on Fox News this morning, saw people criticizing the deal, and got mad," a White House official told Politico

    Hegseth isn’t the only Fox Trump supporter to savage the omnibus. Last night, Tucker Carlson claimed that it “reads like something the Democratic leadership put together” and slammed its immigration provisions, particularly the lack of border wall funding. Laura Ingraham likewise savaged it as a “boondoggle” and a “rotten piece of fish” that violated Trump’s wall promise, adding that it was “an embarrassment to the president” and “not what the American people voted for.” (Sean Hannity, a sometime Trump adviser, has claimed that he has “some insight” that makes the bill acceptable.) Both before and after Trump's tweet, other Fox personalities have also encouraged Trump to veto the bill.

    If it sounds absurd that the president might shut down the government based on a Fox segment, recall that in January, Trump appeared to withdraw his support for major surveillance legislation on Twitter after watching a Fox contributor turn to the camera and say, “Mr. President, this is not the way to go.”

    While the president walked back his tweet and signed the surveillance bill, some reporting indicates that the president is serious about the omnibus, with a White House source telling Politico there is an "extremely high" chance of a shutdown.

    As the president becomes more comfortable in his role, he has also become more combative, pushing out staff who try to rein him in and demanding that his preferences -- like the tariffs his top economics staffers opposed -- become policy. As of yet, there’s no sign that Trump intends to turn back. Which means we could be headed for federal government shutdown triggered by the president’s favorite cable news channel.

  • Fox & Friends hosts YouTube personality "Roaming Millennial" who has made "horrendously inaccurate" claims about race

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    On the March 23 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Ainsley Earhardt interviewed far-right YouTube personality Laura Tam, known on YouTube as “Roaming Millennial,” effectively elevating Tam’s hate-filled online platform.

    Tam appeared on Fox to express her discontent with the decision by all-female Mount Holyoke College to provide professors with techniques to facilitate a friendlier environment for transgender and gender nonbinary students. The segment misrepresented the college’s actions, but more insidiously, it acted as a de facto endorsement of Tam’s vitriolic online platform, where she has associated herself with Milo Yiannopolis’ anti-trans statements, boosted anti-Muslim extremist Tommy Robinson, hyped a false narrative about Sweden’s immigrant-induced “fall,” and embraced the “alt-right” “soy boy” trope. Tam has also been criticized for making “horrendously inaccurate” claims about race, at one point falsely claiming that black people are more likely to commit crimes than white people:

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): An all-women’s college is telling their professors not to say the word “women” in the classroom, instead to use more gender-neutral terms.


    What was your reaction to this when you heard this story this week?

    LAURA TAM: Honestly, I can't help but chuckle when I hear about things like not wanting to talk about the fact that there are two genders or anything to do with this nonbinary gender stuff. And as funny as I think it is, and I think it is a natural reaction to kind of laugh about, the fact is that this is becoming increasingly common across campuses all over the country and in Canada as well. We have these administrators, these leftist progressives who take their own ideological opinions, their political views and insert them into things like speech codes and diversity classes. They try to codify their opinions into school policies to try to indoctrinate students.

    EARHARDT: Do you think they should open the door then for any gender then, because they are considered an all women's school? Actually, I'm not even allowed to say "women." An all-student school.

    TAM: Right. And that's what's ironic about this. You have this school that doesn't have gender-inclusive admissions policies, but they're trying to have a gender-neutral environment. I mean, what are they going to do when some high school male footballer decides that he wants to just go and dominate their entire sports team and decides to identify as, I don't know, gender fluid? Because they can't be noninclusive, and they have to accept that. So it's kind of strange now that they're accepting all genders but still not males. I'm not sure how they're really, I guess, rectifying that in their own ideological system.

    EARHARDT: Mount Holyoke [College], they sent us a statement. They say, "As we know not every Mount Holyoke student identifies as a woman, but every student has a right to live and learn in an inclusive environment that is free from hostility and respectful of their identity." What's your reaction?

    TAM: Well, I guess it's great that they're trying to be inclusive, and they're trying to be accepting. And I respect that. But the fact of the matter is you can't have an all-female school, which is what they're still going to be. I doubt they're going to be opening their admissions to males. You can't have an all-female school when saying things like, "Yeah, you don't have to be female to be here. Once you're actually a student, you can identify whatever you want." I mean, you're kind of going to have to pick one. And I think this is an example of how inconsistent their ideology is.

  • Donald Trump’s new legal team comes straight from Sean Hannity’s greenroom

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    As special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference gets closer to President Donald Trump, he is shaking up his defense team. Fox News reports that as part of an ongoing shakeup that included the departure of lead lawyer John Dowd, the president’s legal team is adding Victoria Toensing. Toensing joins a group that includes her husband, Joseph diGenova, hired earlier in the week, and Jay Sekulow. All three share a common theme: Each was hired after making regular appearances on Fox News in which they vigorously defended the president and attacked the Russia probe.

    This is the legal team Fox News host Sean Hannity built. As Fox has remade itself as a pro-Trump propaganda machine, working to delegitimize Mueller’s probe and defend the president on all counts, the network has brought on several lawyers who try to put a legal gloss on its tactics. These figures are especially prevalent on Hannity’s program, which has led the charge in denouncing the special counsel. Trump appears to be tearing down his legal team and reassembling it with lawyers pulled from the Fox greenroom.

    Sekulow, a longtime fixture on right-wing TV who joined Trump’s team in June, was reportedly hired to serve as “the omnipresent TV face of Trump's defense” because the president liked the way that Sekulow, who had characterized the president as the victim of a “deep state bureaucracy” and a “shadow government,” defended Trump in cable news appearances.

    Toensing and diGenova probably have their jobs for the same reason -- both are conservative activists who regularly use Fox appearances to offer a staunch defense of the president and lash out at the president’s investigators in ways that mirror Trump’s own attacks on the FBI and special counsel. (Toensing has made at least 21 appearances on the network since mid-October, while diGenova has appeared at least 12 times over the same period, according to Media Matters data.) DiGenova has argued that Trump was framed by FBI officials and the Justice Department while Toensing has called for the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate Mueller himself. Adding them to the team may signal that the president wants his lawyers to engage in a scorched-earth offensive.  

    Trump, who watches hours of cable news each day, has long had an affinity for television personalities, with several playing key roles as campaign advisers or joining the administration after his inauguration.

    Trump’s legal team shakeup is part of a broader pattern, in which Trump is becoming increasingly confident in his role, removing senior staff he believes were thrust upon him, and bringing in more cable news personalities. National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and national security adviser H.R. McMaster have been replaced by CNBC contributor Larry Kudlow and Fox News contributor John Bolton, whose TV hits the president reportedly enjoys, with Fox host Pete Hegseth reportedly a leading contender to replace Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin.

    Some of the president’s key outside advisers are also cable news propagandists whose programs Trump regularly watches. These include Fox’s Jeanine Pirro, who was reportedly interviewed for deputy attorney general during the transition and blasted Attorney General Jeff Sessions during an Oval Office meeting with Trump and top White House staff last year; Fox contributor Newt Gingrich, who was reportedly a finalist to be Trump’s running mate; and Hannity, with whom the president regularly consults. Notably, Hannity has previously retained both Sekulow and diGenova as his personal lawyers.

    But while the president has frequently hired cable news personalities, they have not found great success -- former Fox News contributors K.T. McFarland and Monica Crowley both bowed out from high-profile Trump administration roles due to scandal, while cable news fixture Sebastian Gorka was forced out of the White House in part due to a concern that he had “no clear duties.”

    Trump may think that filling his legal team with cable news personalities is a great idea, but it has one clear downside. Sekulow has “virtually no experience in law enforcement investigations or white-collar matters,” diGenova “is not expected to take a lead role” but instead to “serve as an outspoken player for the president,” and Toensing’s addition is seen as “a sign that Trump wants to flip the script and investigate his investigators.” Who is going to do the actual work of defending the president as the Mueller investigation takes the debate from the greenroom to the courtroom?

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to make a comeback. It's time to talk about his long reported history of sexual harassment and groping.

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS

    Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has a long list of sexual misconduct allegations against him, wants to raise his public profile as a climate activist. He made headlines last week when, during an interview with Politico, he threatened to sue oil companies “for knowingly killing people all over the world” by selling a product that contributes to climate change. What didn’t make headlines, though, was that Politico also asked Schwarzenegger about past behavior that "some women" had "called offensive," a reference to charges of groping, sexual humiliation, and harassment made against Schwarzenegger in previous years.

    The accusations against Schwarzenegger, many of which were aired during his 2003 gubernatorial campaign, are similar to accusations that have come out against other high-profile men in the #MeToo era, including charges of nonconsensual groping and verbal harassment. Schwarzenegger also reportedly benefited from a "catch-and-kill" nondisclosure agreement drawn up by the publisher of the National Enquirer, the same kind of agreement that helped Donald Trump avoid the exposure of an alleged extramarital affair.

    Here's an overview of Schwarzenegger's history of alleged sexual misconduct and harassment:

    2003: Sixteen women came forward with allegations of groping or sexual humiliation by Schwarzenegger, the LA Times reported

    On October 2, 2003 -- five days before the recall election in which Californians elected Schwarzenegger as governor -- the Los Angeles Times published a lengthy investigative article that detailed sexual harassment allegations against Schwarzenegger:

    Six women who came into contact with Arnold Schwarzenegger on movie sets, in studio offices and in other settings over the last three decades say he touched them in a sexual manner without their consent.

    In interviews with The Times, three of the women described their surprise and discomfort when Schwarzenegger grabbed their breasts. A fourth said he reached under her skirt and gripped her buttocks.

    A fifth woman said Schwarzenegger groped her and tried to remove her bathing suit in a hotel elevator. A sixth said Schwarzenegger pulled her onto his lap and asked whether a certain sexual act had ever been performed on her.

    According to the women's accounts, one of the incidents occurred in the 1970s, two in the 1980s, two in the 1990s and one in 2000.

    "Did he rape me? No," said one woman, who described a 1980 encounter in which she said Schwarzenegger touched her breast. "Did he humiliate me? You bet he did."

    The LA Times story also cited a 2001 article published in Premiere magazine in which another woman accused Schwarzenegger of inappropriately touching her breast and other people recalled incidents of groping and harassment.

    Schwarzenegger's campaign spokesperson told the LA Times that the candidate had not engaged in improper conduct toward women.

    On the day the LA Times article came out, Schwarzenegger himself told a crowd of supporters that "a lot" of what was reported was "not true," but admitted that he had "behaved badly sometimes" and apologized:

    I know that the people of California can see through these trash politics. Yes. And let me tell you something -- a lot of those, what you see in the stories is not true. But at the same time, I have to tell you, I always say that wherever there is smoke, there is fire. That is true. So I want to say to you, yes, I have behaved badly sometimes. Yes, it is true that I was on rowdy movie sets and I have done things that were not right, which I thought then was playful. But now I recognize that I have offended people. And to those people that I have offended, I want to say to them I am deeply sorry about that, and I apologize, because this is not what I tried to do.

    In the days after the initial LA Times story was published, more women spoke out, making for a total of 16 women coming forward before the election with allegations that they had been groped or sexually humiliated by Schwarzenegger.

    One of the women named in the Premiere story and the initial LA Times story, Anna Richardson, filed a libel suit against Schwarzenegger and two of his aides in 2004. After Richardson alleged that Schwarzenegger groped her, Schwarzenegger's staff told the LA Times that she had encouraged the behavior, a claim that Richardson said damaged her reputation. The suit was settled out of court in 2006.

    2005: The publisher of the National Enquirer paid a woman to keep silent about an alleged affair with Schwarzenegger that began when she was 16

    The LA Times reported that American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, promised to pay $20,000 in 2003 to a woman who allegedly had a seven-year affair with Schwarzenegger in exchange for the woman signing a confidentiality agreement that blocked her from talking about it to any other media outlets. The National Enquirer had published a story about the affair two years earlier, in 2001, in which it claimed that the woman was 16 years old when the affair began. But after the confidentiality agreement was signed, American Media never followed up with the woman or gave her the opportunity to tell her story.

    The confidentiality agreement was signed two days after Schwarzenegger announced his intention to run for governor, during a period when Schwarzenegger and American Media were negotiating a multimillion-dollar consulting deal that would have Schwarzenegger serve as executive editor for bodybuilding and fitness magazines owned by the company.

    This is the same kind of "catch-and-kill" arrangement -- in which a company buys a story so as to prevent its release -- that American Media used to silence a woman who had an affair with Trump, as The New Yorker reported in February 2018. The New Yorker story named Schwarzenegger as another person involved in American Media's catch-and-kill arrangements.

    LA Times columnist Steve Lopez summed up the paper's story about Schwarzenegger and American Media in an August 12, 2005, piece:

    My colleagues Peter Nicholas and Carla Hall report that while Schwarzenegger was running for governor and negotiating a multimillion-dollar contract to shill for muscle magazines owned by the company that publishes the National Enquirer, the same outfit was paying Arnold's alleged former "masseuse" $20,000 not to go running her mouth.

    2016: Schwarzenegger said he would not vote for Trump after the Access Hollywood tape came out, but he still partnered with Trump on Celebrity Apprentice

    On October 8, 2016, the day The Washington Post revealed that Donald Trump had been caught on video bragging about sexually assaulting women, Schwarzenegger posted a statement on Twitter announcing that he would not be voting for the Republican candidate and calling on fellow Republicans to "choose your country over your party."

    But Schwarzenegger still went forward with plans to replace Trump on NBC's reality show Celebrity Apprentice, and he defended Trump for retaining an executive producer title on the show after he became president.

    2017: Common Cause canceled plans to give an award to Schwarzenegger after being pressured by activists

    The good-government nonprofit Common Cause had planned to honor Schwarzenegger on December 1, 2017, with an award for work he did as governor to combat gerrymandering. But activists started a petition demanding that the group not give the award to a "serial harasser," arguing, "By honoring Arnold Common Cause is enabling harassers and silencing victims."

    Common Cause then reversed course and announced that it would not give an award to the former governor.

    2018: Schwarzenegger praised the #MeToo movement and touted the benefits of sexual harassment awareness classes during his Politico interview

    On March 11, 2018, Schwarzenegger sat down for a live, hour-long interview at the SXSW Conference in Austin, TX, with Politico's Edward-Isaac Dovere. Five minutes of the interview were about sexual misconduct allegations against Schwarzenegger and about the #MeToo movement. Here's a transcript of those five minutes:

    EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE: I want to ask you about maybe a little bit less of a comfortable topic. We've been talking about your time as governor. When you were running initially in 2003 -- this was 15 years ago, right -- towards the end of the campaign there were some women who spoke out about behavior of yours that they called offensive. You apologized for it and said you didn't mean to offend. But obviously, not only is it 15 years ago but it's the last six months have really changed the conversation that we're having about what's going on. What is the difference between that moment and now?

    ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, I think that first of all the movement, if you're talking about the #MeToo movement, it is about time. I think it's fantastic. I think that women have been used and abused and treated horribly for too long. And I think that now all of the elements came together to create this movement and that now finally puts the spotlight on this issue and I hope that a lot of people learn from that. And I remember that when I -- for instance, when this happened to me, just before the election, with the groping charges, I realized you know, even though you say this was very politically motivated, it was just the day before, two days before the election and all this stuff. But the fact of the matter is you got to take these things seriously because you got to look at it and say, OK, I made mistakes, and I have to apologize. And this is why the first thing that I did when I became governor was that we had a sexual harassment class. Because I said to myself, this is extremely important of an issue, and now we’re representing the people of California, so no one should get into this kind of trouble, no one. And so we had these people come in as experts. And it was really the most unbelievable education. And I recommend for anyone that is confused about this issue, after all of these complaints that women have, and the outcry of women, I would suggest to everyone, if you're still confused about it, that women are treated the right way, to go in to take one of those classes. Because when we took this class and the guy walked in -- it was two women and two guys that were holding this class -- and they said, let me just open up and just say very simply, if a woman comes through this door, and you, governor, say to her, "I love your beautiful red dress," she can take this as sexual harassment.

    DOVERE: Has it made you rethink your own--

    SCHWARZENEGGER: And so here's the important thing. Then he said, but, if you go at the same breath and say to the man, "I like your green tie," he says then it wouldn't be. So there were so many subtle kind of things that you needed to know that you would make mistakes. And the entire time that we were in office we never had one single problem because we had those sexual harassment classes on an ongoing basis. And just educate everyone.

    DOVERE: Has it made you rethink your own things that you did, even in the last couple months?

    SCHWARZENEGGER: No. I just think that we make mistakes, we don't take it seriously, but then when you then really think about it, you say to yourself, yeah, maybe there was I went too far. You know if you do sex scenes in a movie, you know scenes in bed, if you're in the gymnasium and you teach someone how to train and you maybe touch them in an inappropriate way -- whatever it is, you realize you've got to be very sensitive about it and you've got to think the way women feel, and if they feel uncomfortable, then you did not do the right thing and you've got to be sensitive about that. And so--

    DOVERE: Is the problem--

    SCHWARZENEGGER: It just made me think totally differently. And then when the whole spotlight came about, and the spotlight was put on this issue, you know, I could, I said to myself, you know, finally, because I think it is really good that now the spotlight is on it. And it is no different than the spotlight was on it like on equality in America, you know in the '60s, or if it is about the environmental issues, where you talk and talk and talk about it but then finally it clicks and people realize. I mean, for how long have I thrown things out of the window when I was a kid and then eventually the spotlight was put on it and it made you feel bad that you're doing the wrong thing and now you start thinking about it and you never do it again. So I think this is going to put the spotlight on it to such an extent that guys are going to think twice about it to make those mistakes. And I think that everyone should take a sexual harassment class because we've got to go and not ever do those kind of things.

    DOVERE: Is the problem worse in politics or in Hollywood?

    SCHWARZENEGGER: I think it is across the board. I think it is nothing with Hollywood, it is nothing with politics. It can be somebody in the factory, it can be in the military. It can be anywhere, this abuse and this kind of where guys flex their muscles and use their power in order to get certain things. And I just don't think it is right, and I think this is why it's good that women are letting their voice be heard.

  • New report confirms abortion is safe. Fox News immediately claimed the opposite. 

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    The inaccurate notion that abortion is an unsafe or “risky” medical procedure was put to rest this month, with the release of a new report from The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), The Safety and Quality of Abortion Care in the United States. But as usual, Fox News didn’t let facts stand in the way of a sensationalist segment attacking abortion as unsafe.

    Following Supreme Court oral arguments in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra -- a case involving a California law attempting to regulate the deceptive practices of anti-abortion fake health clinics -- Fox News’ Shannon Bream hosted commentator and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. During the March 20 segment on Bream’s show Fox News @ Night, Bream and Huckabee took a rapid detour from the specifics of the California case to mislead audiences about the overall safety of abortion. According to Huckabee, abortion “has a detrimental effect on health of women, both physically and emotionally.” He continued:

    And I try to say if, so many times, if there's two victims in every abortion, one is the baby and the other is that -- a birth mother who may have been talked into this by some provider because it's good business for them. Maybe by a boyfriend, a husband, a mother, a grandmother, or a good friend. But they're not telling them the full picture, either what this is doing to them physically or emotionally for the short as well as for the long term.

    In reality, Huckabee’s assertions about the safety (and the alleged negative effects) of abortion could not be further from the truth. In the March 16 report, NASEM “assessed the quality of abortion care with respect to the six attributes of health care quality: safety, effectiveness, patient-centeredness, timeliness, efficiency, and equity” and found that “legal abortions—whether by medication, aspiration, D&E, or induction—are safe. Serious complications are rare and occur far less frequently than during childbirth.” According to an analysis of the report from Women’s Health magazine, researchers found:

    • Ninety percent of all abortions take place in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
    • The safety and quality of abortions is highest when they are performed as early in the pregnancy as possible.
    • Complications from abortions are rare.
    • There’s no reason why nurse practitioners and physicians assistants can’t perform abortions, given that they can do them as safely as doctors.
    • Abortions have no long-term effects on a woman’s physical and mental health.
    • Having an abortion does not increase a woman's risk for infertility or breast cancer.

    Notably, NASEM also concluded that the restrictions passed by anti-choice lawmakers “create barriers to safe and effective care.” As the press release for the report stated, “These regulations may prohibit qualified providers from performing abortions, misinform women of the risks of the procedures they are considering, or require medically unnecessary services and delay care.”

    Even without these harmful regulations, the economics of abortion access greatly disadvantage already marginalized communities. Salon’s Christina Cauterucci wrote in 2016, “Studies show that poor women take up to three weeks longer than other women to secure an abortion” partly because of the time necessary to gather the money for the procedure. She continued that “the further along the fetus, the more expensive her abortion will be and the more likely she is to experience health complications.” Financial and other barriers, such as the restriction on federal funding support for abortion care (thanks to the Hyde Amendment), ineffective mandatory waiting periods, forced ultrasounds, and more, put early access to abortion care out of reach for many. 

    Despite an ongoing effort by right-wing media and anti-abortion lawmakers alike to attack abortion as unsafe, NASEM’s comprehensive assessment underscores the realities that it is a safe medical procedure, and that attempts to regulate abortion in accordance with ideology has an undeniably harmful effect on patients.

  • Bill Press on his new memoir and why you're wrong about CNN’s Crossfire

    In From The Left, Press reflects on an unorthodox life in media and politics

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    It might surprise listeners who tune into The Bill Press Show or who read Press's syndicated column to know that the progressive commentator believes he could have easily ended up a Donald Trump voter. Press's new memoir From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire is the story of how a "misguided young redneck" raised in a segregated, blue-collar Delaware town became a "liberal counterpuncher" instead. In crisp prose, Press describes a career of constant evolution, as a Catholic seminarian, activist, political candidate, and journalist.

    In an email interview, Press and I discussed the rise and fall of CNN’s Crossfire, which he co-hosted from 1996 to 2002, his relationships with his conservative former co-hosts, how journalists can best respond to President Donald Trump, and why he’s still optimistic about the country’s future. Our conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

    Your book describes your varied experiences in both politics and the media. After moving back and forth between the two, you write that in 1996, you had to choose. You were a host on CNN’s Crossfire when you had a shot to become the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. And you write that your conservative co-host, Robert Novak, is the one who told you, “It’s about time you decided what you want to be when you grow up. Do you want to be a journalist? Or do you want to be a politician?” Why did you decide to take the journalism path?

    That was some of the best advice I ever got in my life. I decided to stick with journalism for two reasons. One, a very practical one. After working for three years as the “volunteer” chair of the California Democratic Party, I was now getting a paycheck from CNN. Yes, I’m a bleeding-heart liberal, but I still like getting paid! Two, I realized that for advancing the progressive causes I really cared about, I could have more influence on nightly cable television than I could as just another member of Congress, or even Democratic National Committee chair. I still believe that. On one condition: provided I use that powerful microphone to fight hard for core Democratic values and never back down.

    Do you ever look back on that decision and wonder what might have been?

    Yes. I would have served for two years as national chair, then I’d have been out of a job, just another political hack, with no way to get back into journalism. I’d probably be driving Uber in San Francisco today.

    But instead you stayed at Crossfire, depriving a lot of people of some very interesting rides! Let's talk about that show a bit. You were there, I think, from 1996 to 2002. You write that the show was “the first -- and is still the best -- of all political shows.” People in my generation and younger are probably more familiar with the Paul Begala-James Carville years -- which you describe as “amateur hour,” and which ended which Jon Stewart famously telling Begala and then-co-host Tucker Carlson that they were “hurting America” -- or even the revival in 2013, which did not last long. So make the case for the show when you were there -- what did it bring to the table?

    Crossfire was the first and, in my humble opinion, in its original form, the best of all political debate shows. What made the original Crossfire so compelling was its straightforward, single-purpose approach. The set was simple: four people, two expert guests, two co-hosts, seated at a round table, before a black curtain, for a half-hour, live and unscripted, on one topic only. No fancy graphics, no glitz, glamour, no rushing from topic to topic. At the end of the show, audience knew a lot more about the topic and had enough information to make up their own mind. After Larry King Live, Crossfire was CNN’s most highly rated program.

    All that changed when Walter Isaacson, then-president of CNN, decided he could improve Crossfire’s ratings by putting it before a live audience at George Washington University and, literally, turning it into a gong show. They painted it up like a boxing match, with bells announcing each new round, each new topic. It was a disaster. Co-hosts and guests played for laughs from the audience. There was no continuity, no substance, no heft. Jon Stewart was right when he appeared on set and trashed the show. CNN pulled the plug shortly thereafter.

    I was only co-host of the original Crossfire for its last six years, but I still think canceling that format was one of the biggest mistakes made in cable television.

    Do you think news executives learn the wrong lessons from Crossfire? It seems like most of cable news is now dominated by the left versus right debate style that Crossfire popularized. (I just watched a shoutfest between pro-Trump and anti-Trump conservatives on CNN.)

    Yes, there’s a lot cable news execs should have learned from the demise of Crossfire, but didn’t. Contrary to what they all seem to believe, viewers CAN tolerate serious discussion of serious issues. They don’t have to be fed a steady diet of one-and-a-half-minute soundbites on silly, sensational topics. Not only that, viewers do indeed follow an argument better when not everybody is shouting at each other at the same time. We actually had a rule on Crossfire NOT to interrupt, unless the other person simply refused to shut up. Another lesson they’ve never learned: You can’t just put somebody with no political experience on the air and expect them to know what the hell they’re talking about. Most people I see on cable today identified as “political strategist” have never stepped foot in a campaign headquarters. They’re total frauds.

    CNN seems to have a particular problem in that respect -- they've hired a lot of people who don't have lengthy resumes, but are willing to defend Trump on virtually everything he says and does. I’m curious what you think about the criticism the network has taken over that. They say they need to represent the president’s supporters, but the panelists end up derailing segments by pushing obvious misinformation.

    I think, overall, CNN has a good mix, but a few bad apples. As contributors, they have some of the sharpest political minds in the country, like David Axelrod and Ron Brownstein. They also have a couple of Trumpers who are nothing but mouthpieces for the administration. It’s good to have conservative voices in the mix, but even Trumpers should have some credibility. A couple of CNN’s Trumpers have zero.  

    I have a couple questions about your former CNN co-hosts. Tucker Carlson is now a big star over at Fox, taking over Bill O’Reilly’s old time slot and producing a show that spends a lot of time detailing the evils of diversity and the victimization of white people in America. What do you think of Carlson’s Fox show and the arc of his career?

    Tucker Carlson and I bonded over fighting the management at CNN, and we’ve been fast friends ever since. We meet often for lunch at The Palm and, believe it or not, we don’t talk politics. I watch his show a couple of times a week and disagree with almost everything he says. But, as a fellow media creature, I admire his success on Fox. Catapulting to the second-most watched show on cable news in less than a year is a remarkable achievement. I also admit a tad bit of envy. Tucker made the trifecta: hosted shows on CNN, MSNBC, and FOX. I only made CNN and MSNBC. Somehow, FOX never called. Wonder why?

    You and Pat Buchanan were colleagues at CNN and MSNBC, from which he was fired in 2011 after his latest book brought new attention to his homophobic, anti-Semitic, and racist commentary from Media Matters and others. You write that while you strongly disagree with Buchanan’s views, MSNBC made a mistake. “No matter how vile or incorrect, Pat’s views deserved to be aired. The correct answer was not to silence Pat but to challenge him, debate him, and prove him wrong.” Are there views too horrific to deserve that treatment? Where do you draw the line?

    I have a real problem with censorship of any kind. One, because it’s wrong. Two, because: Who decides? Three, because you never know which way the axe is going to swing. Obviously, I’d draw the line at advocating anything illegal, but, short of that, I think the best way to confront obnoxious points of view is to let others air them, then expose, repudiate, and destroy them. Pat’s been saying that stuff for a long time. Nobody but the most die-hard Trumpers believe it.

    As a member of the White House press corps in the Trump era, you write that journalists need to figure out “how to be a fair and objective reporter while covering a president who ... has declared war against you.” Your argument is that journalists play into the president’s hands by complaining about his attacks on them, and should instead just do their jobs and report out the facts. But the attacks on the media seem to be working -- support for the press is sinking among the president's supporters. So how can reporters maintain the trust of the American people when they are under this constant bombardment from the president?

    I still believe that the best way for the media to respond to Donald Trump’s constant, repetitive, and boring attacks is (1) to ignore them; and (2) to do our jobs as aggressively and as thoroughly as possible. Sure, Trump’s base may not like us. So what? They never will. Conservatives have always played the “liberal media” they way they play the refs. But the vast majority of the American people understand the importance of a free and fearless media and support their work. And, in the end, what has Trump produced? The best investigative reporting we’ve seen in this country since Watergate. The Washington Post and The New York Times, in particular, have excelled. So have The Guardian, Daily Beast, BuzzFeed, The Intercept, and others. In the end, that’s what counts.

    You have a pretty bleak, though I think accurate, assessment of the current political moment. You write that following Newt Gingrich’s ascendence to Speaker of the House, Republicans broke the political system, with the result that we have a “failure to make progress on any of the critical policy challenges facing this nation” that will end only if Republicans come to their senses. “For my grandchildren’s sake, I hope that happens in my lifetime. But I’m not holding my breath.” Are there any reasons to be optimistic for the future?

    I’m the eternal optimist. Even as bad as things are today, I still believe they’ll get better. Largely because I think Republicans, having let Donald Trump take over their party, are doing a good job of self-destruction. Democrats have a good chance of taking back both the House and Senate this year. And then we get rid of Donald Trump in 2020, if Robert Mueller doesn’t get him first. Of course, that presents a different challenge: how to convince Democrats to grow a pair and get something done about climate change, health care, gun safety, infrastructure, and other challenges facing the country. But I’d rather fight that battle than suffer the fools now in charge.

  • How Scott Pruitt's EPA is attacking journalists and stifling the media

    EPA takes up Trump’s war on the press by insulting media outlets, withholding information, and flouting public records requests

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Since Scott Pruitt took the helm of the Environmental Protection Agency in early 2017, the EPA has consistently refused to release basic information, blocked reporters from attending agency events, and attacked journalists and outlets whose coverage it didn't like. This antagonistic stance toward the media mirrors President Donald Trump’s unprecedented war against the press, which Media Matters has chronicled.

    Seeking a reset after a year of the agency’s attacks and obfuscation, the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) sent a letter to the EPA’s press office in January in the hopes of improving journalists’ access to EPA information and “begin[ning] a conversation about journalists’ basic needs.” The letter made five requests, which the group summarized on its website:

    1. Respond to inquiries in a meaningful and timely manner, arranging interviews with subject matter experts.
    1. Distribute all press releases and advisories, to all who request them, not just to a select audience.
    1. Hold open press briefings on significant news. Invite all regular beat reporters to in-person briefings held at EPA headquarters; provide web conferencing and teleconference access for all interested reporters outside the Washington area.
    1. Reinstate the practice of publishing a weekly list of the EPA administrator’s scheduled public appearances.
    1. Resume the practice of publishing an up-to-date calendar of all the EPA administrator’s meetings — not just public events.

    The EPA failed to respond to SEJ’s letter -- or to a follow-up inquiry -- so the group released the letter publicly in March.

    Here are more than a dozen examples of Pruitt's EPA assailing the press or frustrating journalists' efforts to cover the agency's actions.

    EPA withholds Pruitt’s schedule from the press. Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who headed the agency under President Barack Obama from 2013 to early 2017, shared her schedule on the EPA website every day, but Pruitt, like many other members of Trump's cabinet, withholds basic information about his activities. According to Politico, the EPA has refused “to provide schedules or advisories of his upcoming meetings, confirm his attendance at specific events, or say what city he plans to be in on a given day.” As a result, news outlets and watchdog groups have filed multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and lawsuits to obtain his calendars. When the EPA has eventually responded and released information about Pruitt's schedule, it has generally been bare-bones, partially redacted, or months late.

    EPA spokesperson: “Pruitt does not want open press.” While coordinating logistics for a roundtable discussion Pruitt held at the University of North Dakota with the state's senior senator, John Hoeven (R), and governor, Doug Burgum (R), EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox asked that reporters not be permitted to attend, E&E News reported. Hoeven had wanted to include media, but Wilcox wrote to Burgum’s staffers that “most importantly Pruitt does not want open press." After being informed that reporters had already been invited to the last 15 minutes of the event, Wilcox insisted, “We can't have anything open.”

    EPA spokesperson called police on North Dakota reporters trying to cover Pruitt event. EPA spokesperson Wilcox threatened to call the police on two reporters from the Grand Forks Herald who were attempting to cover Pruitt’s August 9 visit to the University of North Dakota. The Herald reported that after Wilcox made his threat, “A UND Police officer then arrived to insist the building and its grounds were private property before demanding the reporters move away from the center's front door. … The EERC is not private property and is owned by UND.”

    EPA asked radio host not to take listener calls during interview with Pruitt. During his August 9 visit to North Dakota, Pruitt sat for a joint interview with Gov. Burgum, conducted by local talk radio host Scott Hennen. Hennen normally takes listener calls during his show, but documents obtained by E&E News show that EPA spokesperson Wilcox asked him not to during the Pruitt interview, and Hennen acquiesced.

    EPA terminated funding for a nonprofit newspaper after it reported that Trump's budget cuts would hurt the Chesapeake Bay. The Bay Journal, a nonprofit newspaper that covers environmental issues in the Chesapeake Bay region and reaches approximately 100,000 readers, has been partially funded by the EPA since 1991. Last June, the paper reported that Trump's proposed budget would slash funding for Chesapeake Bay programs and harm restoration efforts. In August, the EPA abruptly canceled a previously approved $325,000 grant to the paper due to a “shift in priorities." The Bay Journal requested records pertaining to the termination, which EPA failed to produce, so the paper sued. Under pressure from Maryland's Democratic senators, the EPA restored the Bay Journal’s funding in March.  

    EPA attacked NY Times reporters in press release over pesticide story. On August 18, The New York Times published a story detailing how the EPA disregarded the advice of agency scientists by refusing to ban a harmful pesticide after Pruitt met with farming industry executives and told them he was listening to their pleas. Three days later, the EPA issued a press release attacking the story and accusing the reporters, Eric Lipton and Roni Caryn Rabin, of reporting "false facts" and omitting “inconvenient facts.” Though the EPA did not dispute any of the story’s specific factual claims, the press release also stated that "the New York Times never lets the truth get in the way of a good story."

    EPA attacked AP reporter in press release over toxic-site story. On September 2, The Associated Press published a story on toxic sites flooding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which Washington Post media critic Eric Wemple later declared to be "factually sound." But the EPA issued a press release criticizing the story and attacking the credibility of the AP and Michael Biesecker, one of the reporters who wrote it. "Unfortunately, the Associated Press’ Michael Biesecker has a history of not letting the facts get in the way of his story," the agency’s release read. The press release also included a statement from EPA spokesperson Liz Bowman that accused the AP of attempting to “mislead Americans” by “cherry-picking facts.” To bolster its attack on Biesecker and the AP, the release cited a Breitbart News article. 

    EPA dropped AP reporter from its email list and criticized him for not opening positive emails about Pruitt. The EPA had been unhappy with AP reporter Biesecker even before he published his story about toxic site flooding after Harvey. When The Washington Post's Wemple asked the EPA about its ongoing conflict with Biesecker, an agency official said that the EPA had removed Biesecker from its master email list, explaining, “We don’t think he’s a trustworthy reporter.” An EPA official also told the Post that the agency monitored which journalists opened its emailed press releases: “We are able to see who opens our emails,” the official said. “Michael [Biesecker] very rarely opens a positive story about [EPA Administrator] Scott Pruitt. He only opens stories where he tries to create problems.”

    EPA warned employees against leaking to the press. The EPA required employees to attend training sessions that warned them of the dangers of leaking sensitive information to the media, The Associated Press reported. During the mandatory training, employees were given a fact sheet that detailed how leaks have harmed America in the past and warned, "Enemies of the United States are relentless in their pursuit of information which they can exploit to harm US interests."

    EPA spokesperson misled NY Times reporter. In a talk at Yale, New York Times climate reporter Lisa Friedman recounted an instance in October when an EPA spokesperson gave her inaccurate information. Per the Yale Daily News, Friedman "said a spokesman for the EPA disputed the claim that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt planned to announce the decision [to roll back the Clean Power Plan] in Kentucky with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. The spokesman told her that 'it was not accurate' to say that Pruitt was going to make such an announcement.” Friedman then told the audience, “Except for it was absolutely accurate, and Fox News was invited.” Friedman also said, “Covering the EPA is like covering the CIA. It is so secretive. It is so difficult even to get basic information.”

    EPA accused NY Times reporter of being “biased” and “writing elitist click bait.” When Times reporter Lipton sent detailed questions to the EPA about the agency loosening regulations on toxic chemicals, EPA spokesperson Bowman refused to answer his queries. Instead, she sent a caustic comment by email: “No matter how much information we give you, you would never write a fair piece. The only thing inappropriate and biased is your continued fixation on writing elitist click bait trying to attack qualified professionals committed to serving their country.” Lipton quoted her comment in his article.

    EPA refused to confirm basic facts to NY Times reporter, then accused him of stealing from other news outlets. The Washington Post's Wemple reported further details on Lipton's back-and-forth with the EPA about his story on toxic chemical regulations. Lipton asked EPA spokesperson Bowman to confirm reports that Michael Dourson, Trump's nominee to head the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, began working at the EPA before being confirmed by the Senate. Bowman referred Lipton to stories published by USA Today and E&E News, which Lipton took as confirmation. Then EPA spokesperson Wilcox jumped into email chain, interjecting, “If you want to steal work from other outlets and pretend like it’s your own reporting that is your decision.” After Lipton explained to both spokespersons that basic fact-checking is critical to avoiding “Fake News,” Wilcox, ccing USA Today’s and E&E News’ reporters, replied to Lipton, “Adding the two outlets who you want to steal their work from to this email.”

    EPA had police remove reporter from Pruitt event in Iowa. Ethan Stoetzer, a journalist with InsideSources Iowa, never received a response after trying repeatedly to contact the EPA to RSVP for a December 1 event where Pruitt would be speaking at a cattle company headquarters in Iowa. The event was invite-only, but media were permitted to attend. According to his reporting, Stoetzer showed up to the event site and was initially allowed to enter the press booth. But then he “was approached by a Story County Sheriff’s Deputy, as well as several staff members of both the EPA and Couser Cattle Company, who did not give their names when asked, and was told that he had to leave the premises.” He reported that other members of the media who had not RSVP’d were allowed to remain at the event. EPA spokesperson Wilcox did not reply to repeated questions about why Stoetzer was forced off the premises.

    EPA hired Republican opposition-research firm to conduct "war room"-style media monitoring. The EPA awarded a no-bid contract worth $120,000 to an opposition-research firm, Definers Corp, that not only has deep connections to the Republican establishment, but is also tied to a research group that had been “looking for information that could undermine employees who had criticized the E.P.A.,” as The New York Times reported. Under the contract, Definers would provide the EPA with “‘war room’-style media monitoring, analysis, and advice,” Mother Jones reported. The controversial contract was rescinded after media reports led to political outcry.

    EPA misled press about Pruitt's travel, then stonewalled. After journalists reported in February 2018 on Pruitt’s exorbitant travel expenses, EPA spokesperson Wilcox initially told Politico that Pruitt had received a blanket waiver to travel first or business class. But a spokesperson for the General Services Administration, which oversees rules about officials' travel, told Politico that it does not issue blanket waivers. Wilcox then changed his story and said that Pruitt submits a request for a waiver for each trip. Refusing to answer further questions about Pruitt’s travel, Wilcox directed reporters to use FOIA to request additional information, "a process that can take months or years," Politico noted.

    EPA to reporters: You'll have to wait a year for responses to your FOIA requests. The EPA has been slow in responding to FOIA requests about Pruitt's office from media organizations and other groups, according to an analysis by the Project on Government Oversight. The agency has closed only about 17 percent of records requests related to Pruitt’s activities, Politico reported in February. This aligns with the anecdotal stories of journalists who, when not ignored by the EPA, were informed that it would take a year to receive responses to their records requests. The Washington Post also reported that "high-level officials" at EPA are "keeping closer tabs" on FOIA requests. And CNBC reported on a lawsuit filed against EPA alleging the agency "has systematically refused to document 'essential activities' under Pruitt, and higher-ups are creating a culture in which career employees are discouraged from creating written records."