Blog | Media Matters for America

Blog

  • Harry Houck, who used CNN position to push racist tropes and defend police brutality, is out at network

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Harry Houck no longer works for CNN as a law enforcement analyst, according to his recently updated LinkedIn profile. The apparent departure is good news for CNN viewers: Houck has been an apologist for police brutality and pushed racist tropes about black criminality.

    Houck recently changed his LinkedIn profile to state that he is now a “Former CNN Law Enforcement Analyst" who worked for the network from May 2015 to February 2018. CNN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Houck frequently used his position at CNN to portray blacks as prone to criminality and defend police misconduct. Former Media Matters research fellow Carlos Maza -- now a correspondent for Vox’s Strikethrough -- wrote in 2016 of Houck:

    Since being hired as CNN’s law enforcement analyst in May 2015, Houck has used his national platform to defend police officers accused of violence and other misconduct by peddling racist tropes about black criminality, demonizing the Black Lives Matter movement, and blaming black victims of police violence.

    One month after the death of Freddie Gray -- as cable news networks debated racial bias in the criminal justice system -- CNN hired former New York Police Department Detective Harry Houck as a “law enforcement analyst.” During one of his first appearances on the network as a paid analyst, Houck specifically thanked anchor Anderson Cooper for helping get him the job, saying, “This man is responsible for this occurrence.”

    Houck appeared on CNN 204 times between May 18, 2015, and August 1, 2016. And while he’s often invited to discuss crime stories like active shooter situations, Houck is best known for his absurd defenses of police officers accused of mistreating African-Americans. In dozens of segments, Houck has found ways to blame black victims of police violence, deny the existence of racial profiling in law enforcement, and peddle racist tropes about black criminality.

    The racial justice organization Color of Change had called for the network to fire Houck, writing that his "blind support of police abuse and reinforcement of racist stereotypes is dangerous." 

    Additionally, after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, last August, he tweeted that “the left has to take some responsibility” for the death of anti-racism activist Heather Heyer. He also claimed that “haters on both the far left and far right invaded what was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration in VA yesterday.”

    And in December, Houck shared a fake news story on Facebook that claimed actor Denzel Washington called former President Barack Obama the “criminal-in-chief” and claimed that CNN isn’t “discussing the facts.”

    Washington’s publicist confirmed to Media Matters that the actor never made the remarks. Houck later deleted his post and wrote: “I apologize for retweeting a fake news story re: Denzel Washington I didn't even read.”

  • Leaked Discord footage shows how far-right trolls game YouTube's algorithms

    Far-right trolls use Discord to organize and launch harassment campaigns against their political opponents

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Far-right German trolls are organizing to game YouTube algorithms into making far-right video content trend and orchestrate harassment campaigns against political opponents, as evidenced by leaked online communications from the chat platform Discord. Though Discord -- a voice chat app originally designed for gaming -- has promised to do a better job in curtailing extremism within its servers (or chat rooms), YouTube’s Trending problem seems to have only gotten worse.

    In September 2017, a far-right German YouTuber Reconquista Germanica, whose real name is Nikolai Alexander, invited his 33,000 subscribers to join a Discord server by the same name. As BuzzFeed found, far-right trolls used it to communicate their attempts to bolster support for Germany’s far-right part in the upcoming elections. But the attempt was largely a flop. Now, the group is targeting YouTube, probably because it sees YouTube’s algorithm as an easy target.

    In clips of an audio chat from Discord published by the Alt-Right Leaks Twitter account, members can be heard discussing the use of fake accounts or “sock accounts” (also known as “sock puppets”) numbering in the hundreds to “raid” YouTube videos by commenting on those they seek to popularize and by using the “dislike” button to bury those of their political opponents. Members of the Discord server have also used the chat platform to organize harassment against German freelance journalist Rayk Anders.

    In one leak, a member explained how he decided to join the group after reading Adolf Hitler’s autobiographical book, Mein Kampf. In another, members joked about whether a surgeon’s assistant among their ranks should let political opponents -- including German Chancellor Angela Merkel -- whom he is forced to treat, die in surgery.

    The far-right ideologies expressed in these chat rooms do not exist in a vacuum. They are representative of a wider network of European extremists. In at least one video, prominent Scottish white supremacist Colin Robertson (who is known online as Millennial Woes) can be heard asking questions about the activities of the Reconquista Germanica Discord server. (Robertson is slated to attend an alt-right conference in Estonia on February 23.). And Alt Right Leaks has also previously published translated audio clips from the German Alt-Right Discord, of which Austrian Identitarian Martin Sellner is “a ‘VIP’ member.” Sellner gained international infamy last year after his anti-immigrant group Defend Europe attempted to disrupt humanitarian migrant rescues in the Mediterranean.

    Discord has become a popular platform among the “alt-right.” Last August, after white supremacists used the platform to plan events for the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, VA, that left one woman dead, Discord shut down the “alt-right” server and promised to remain vigilant about the use of its platform for nefarious purposes. However, the continued use of Discord by “alt-right” groups -- in this case German far-right activists -- for organizing shows the platform still has a long way to go in preventing its service from being exploited for global information warfare and organization of harassment campaigns. Earlier this month, Discord claimed it is addressing the use of its platform to organize algorithm manipulation “raids” in a statement to non-profit news site Unicorn Riot:

    We are aware that there are users who are attempting to organize raids and circumvent detection, which is against our Terms of Service. We employ a variety of measures to detect this activity and stop this behavior, and those measures resulted in the server being detected and shut down. We will continue to be aggressive in addressing violations to our TOS and investigating and taking immediate action against those bad actors.

    For its part, YouTube is seemingly ineffective in dealing with the exploitation of its vulnerabilities, partly because those vulnerabilities are baked in YouTube’s “democratic” model: the platform’s “trending” mechanism is determined by an algorithm that does not account for the accuracy of a video’s content or or whether it is intended as harassment. Those vulnerabilities were most recently exploited when a conspiracy theory claiming one of the survivors of the Parkland, FL, high school shooting was a “crisis actor” was boosted into YouTube’s trending category overnight, despite its demonstrably false content and clear intent to harass a student speaking out about gun violence.

    Google -- which bought YouTube in 2006 -- -- did not respond to Unicorn Riot’s request for comment on Reconquista Germanica’s activities.

  • NRA fundraises off of its ridiculous claim that “the mainstream media love mass shootings”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    The National Rifle Association (NRA) is trying to raise money off of its idiotic claim that “the mainstream media love mass shootings.”

    Since the deadly February 14 shooting in Parkland, FL, the NRA and its affiliated personalities have repeatedly lied about guns; pushed the conspiracy theory that the school shooting survivors are crisis actors (they obviously are not); and argued that more teachers should be armed in schools -- an idea that lacks any backing evidence but would surely serve to increase the profits of gun manufacturers who support the organization.

    The organization is also attempting to divert attention from its own role in the country's culture of gun violence by attacking the “mainstream media” for its purported “love” of mass shootings.

    The NRA’s media arm, NRATV, sent a February 23 email with the subject “Help Us Fight The Dangerous Media” and featuring the statement from NRA commentator Colion Noir that the media loves mass shootings. That claim is also part of a recent NRA ad, in which Noir says that “mass shootings have become [the media’s] Game of Thrones, their House of Cards, their Seinfeld, and their Friends, all wrapped into one.” The quote is superimposed over a composition of television screenshots and includes a “Donate Now” button:

    NRA national spokesperson Dana Loesch pushed the claim that "many in legacy media love mass shootings” while speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) yesterday. Reporters have responded to the NRA’s argument by noting their own “horrific” and “devastating” experiences covering mass shootings.

    CNN reporter Brian Stelter wrote in a February 23 piece: "Some analysts have speculated that the NRA has ramped up its anti-media messaging to motivate existing members and to recruit new ones. In the absence of a Democratic president in power to focus their attacks, the NRA has taken to criticizing media outlets instead. Condemning the news media doubles as a way to market the NRA's own publications and TV shows." 

    The email also claims, among other things, that the “NRA took on the socialist wave at CPAC” and has been “fighting the dangerous media’s violent lies.” It adds: “At NRATV, We're Not Members of the Media. We're Members of the NRA. And Our Ultimate Weapon Is Truth.”

  • Executive Time: White House aides reportedly tried to stop Trump’s Mueller indictment tirade with Fox hits

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    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.

    Days Trump appeared to live-tweet cable news since our last Executive Time update (2/2): 10 (seven editions of Fox & Friends, one edition each of Fox & Friends First, Fox & Friends Weekend, and Tucker Carlson Tonight).

    Tweets since our last Executive Time update apparently resulting from live-tweeting cable news: 30 (21 from Fox & Friends, six from Fox & Friends Weekend, two from Fox & Friends First, one from Tucker Carlson Tonight).


    White House aides, aghast at President Donald Trump’s angry public reaction to special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities, tried to get him back on track by booking spokesmen on his favorite Fox News programs, Time magazine’s Philip Elliott reported this week.

    After trying and failing to talk the president out of incorrectly declaring that Mueller had vindicated the president’s associates of collusion, White House aides sought to “mitigate that situation.”

    “Knowing the President’s fondness for Fox, the White House booked spokesmen to try to direct Trump toward a little less fanciful readings of the indictments,” Time reported.

    Trump’s allies have frequently tried to influence the president through his television screen, reportedly using the strategy on issues ranging from whether Trump should agree to an interview with Mueller to how the president should respond to January’s government shutdown.

    It’s certainly an understandable strategy. The president reportedly spends hours each day watching cable news, and, as I’ve documented, tweeting about what he sees in real time. He often praises or quotes Fox guests who make points that he likes.

    Given that Fox host Sean Hannity and the hosts of Fox & Friends often appear to be the president’s top advisers, it’s not surprising that people on his payroll would try to compete for his attention through the same medium.

    While Trump doesn’t praise White House staffers in the same way he does other Fox guests, I have documented him channeling their talking points immediately after they have appeared on Fox broadcasts he was watching. He’s done that in response to recent segments featuring:

    White House press secretary Sarah Sanders:

    White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short:
    White House counselor Kellyanne Conway:

    The aides have to be careful, however, not to make it too obvious to the president that they are going on television in an effort to influence him. After an August 2016 report indicated that his campaign aides were trying to do this, Trump reportedly lashed out at then-campaign chair Paul Manafort, shouting, "You think you've gotta go on TV to talk to me? You treat me like a baby! Am I like a baby to you? I sit there like a little baby and watch TV and you talk to me?" Trump fired Manafort soon after.

    And of course, the strategy is limited because Trump has other sources of information that impact his actions beyond the cable news appearances of his aides, including other Fox guests and a host of unsavory personal friends.

    While Time’s Elliott suggested that one Trump tweet on Saturday morning came in response to a Fox appearance by a White House aide, he also reported that Trump spent the rest of the day mingling with guests at his Mar-A-Lago club in Florida, calling his friends and outside advisers, and, inevitably, lashing out on Twitter at everyone from the FBI to his national security adviser to Oprah Winfrey.

    There are obvious flaws in a White House internal communications strategy that involves keeping the president from disaster by trying to sway him through his television set. But as long as Trump continues to spend hours each day with his TiVo, it may be the best way for the White House staffers to get their arguments in front of him through his preferred medium. Today’s news that former Trump campaign aide Richard Gates will plead guilty and cooperate with Mueller gives them their next opportunity.

    The president is live-tweeting

    Here are the Trump tweets since our last update which I am reasonably confident are the result of the president directly responding to cable news programs he had been watching.

    February 2. Two Fox & Friends First live tweets.

    February 5. Four Fox & Friends live tweets.

    February 6. Two Fox & Friends live tweets.

    February 7. Two Fox & Friends live tweets.

    February 10. Six Fox & Friends Weekend live tweets.

    February 12. One Fox & Friends live tweet.

    February 18. Two Fox & Friends live tweets.

    February 20. Six Fox & Friends live tweets.

    February 22. One Tucker Carlson Tonight live tweet.

    February 23. Four Fox & Friends live tweets.

  • President Donald Trump runs with conservative media’s horrible idea of arming teachers

    Even the NRA used to have a “zero tolerance” position against arming teachers

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    President Donald Trump is pushing a fringe idea to arm school teachers that has been promoted by conservative media and the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.

    Trump made the proposal during a February 22 meeting at the White House, suggesting that armed teachers could receive a pay bonus. He also defended the idea on Twitter, promising that it would end attacks at schools:

    Trump continued to push armed teachers during his speech at CPAC: 

    According to NBC News, “Gun violence experts, educators, and school safety advocates immediately panned the idea.”

    Trump’s outrageous proposal has its roots in the aftermath of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. After that attack, conservative media figures increasingly began pushing the idea of arming teachers, and the proposal was also backed in a post-Sandy Hook report issued by the NRA. The push to arm teachers has come full circle, with conservative media now celebrating the president’s adoption of their idea.

    There is no evidence that arming teachers will stop school shootings. Even the NRA used to acknowledge this fact. After the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre gave a speech at the gun group’s annual meeting where he said, “We believe in absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools. That means no guns in America's schools, period ... with the rare exception of law enforcement officers or trained security personnel.”

    Even armed individuals with extensive firearms training have failed to stop school shootings. In the case of the Stoneman Douglas shooting, an armed deputy present at the school took a defensive position outside the building where the shooting was taking place and never went inside to confront the gunman, contrary to  department policies. At Columbine, an armed police officer present at the high school attempted to fire on one of the shooters, but was quickly pinned down by the greater firepower of the shooter's assault weapon. Jeanne Assam, a retired police officer who did actually stop a gun rampage at a Colorado church in 2007, has rejected the notion of arming teachers, telling CNN in 2012 that “a teacher wants to be a teacher. He or she doesn't want to be a police officer” before concluding that the proposal is “ridiculous.”

    Proposals to arm teachers do not appreciate the reality of the highly chaotic scene an active shooter incident creates. According to the Violence Policy Center, research has shown that “trained law enforcement officials have only an average 20 percent hit ratio in armed confrontations, meaning that only 20 percent of shots fired hit the intended target.”

    Some states already allow teachers to carry guns, although it’s unclear whether the educators widely adopt the practice. But when armed teachers make headlines, it is not for stopping school shooters. As HuffPost noted:

    In September 2014 at Idaho State University, a teacher accidentally shot himself in the foot when his concealed handgun discharged. Students in the chemistry class watched.

    Later that month at a Utah elementary school, a teacher carrying a concealed weapon accidentally shot herself in the leg as she used the restroom.

    In 2016, a group of elementary school students in Pennsylvania found a loaded gun in the bathroom after a teacher accidentally left it behind.

    In general, the presence of firearms makes people less safe. Research has demonstrated time and time again that keeping a gun in the home increases the risk of homicide, suicide, and unintentional shootings. The concealed carry of firearms -- which conservative media claim without evidence to be a solution to mass public shootings -- also makes people less safe. Instead of preventing crime, laws allowing permissive gun carry increase violent crime and are particularly associated with aggravated assault.

    In addition to carrying out their teaching responsibilities, teachers, if armed, would be tasked with preventing students from accessing their firearm. As Lily Eskelsen García, president of National Education Association, explained in a statement opposing Trump’s proposal, “Educators need to be focused on teaching our students. We need solutions that will keep guns out of the hands of those who want to use them to massacre innocent children and educators.” And as Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, noted, “We don’t want to be, and would never have the expertise needed to be, sharp shooters; no amount of training can prepare an armed teacher to go up against an AR-15.”

  • Fox & Friends ignores newest indictment against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates

    While Trump was watching, they found time to hype another attempt to discredit the Mueller investigation

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump’s favorite show Fox & Friends completely ignored a new indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates. Instead, the show devoted time to a Republican effort to discredit the Mueller investigation.

    Manafort and Gates were indicted on February 22 for a combined 32 counts, for allegedly committing tax, financial, and bank fraud, with Manafort allegedly laundering up to $30 million with Gates’ help. These charges are in addition to the previous charges filed against them on October 30.

    On February 23, Fox & Friends failed to mention the new indictment, a Media Matters’ search of SnapStream closed captioning revealed. The show did, however, find time to give a platform to two pro-Trump Republican congressmen to promote “phase two of their investigation” attacking the Christopher Steele dossier -- an investigation which is widely seen as an effort to discredit Mueller’s probe into whether the Trump campaign assisted Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

    Fox & Friends, which Trump habitually watches and engages with over Twitter (including today), has a recorded history of downplaying or simply ignoring negative stories about Trump and those close to him. On January 30, the show failed to cover Trump’s refusal to enact sanctions on Russia related to the country’s interference in U.S. elections (the deadline to do so was January 29). The show also ignored three separate breaking news stories about the Russia investigation on February 1, former White House staff secretary Rob Porter’s alleged history of domestic abuse on February 8, and that the Trump White House first learned of allegations against Porter a year prior to the media reports. Additionally, Fox & Friends covered the first October 30 indictment against Manafort and Gates far less than its CNN and MSNBC competitors.

  • An appearance by an anti-immigrant hate group on Fox & Friends inspired a Trump morning tweet

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    President Donald Trump’s February 23 tweet about MS-13 came minutes after Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy spoke to Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies, an anti-immigrant group that has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for its ties to white nationalists. Fox & Friends then reported on Trump’s tweet, hyping his misguided policies to combat the gang and demonstrating the disturbing feedback loop between the president and his favorite morning show.

    Vaughan appeared on Fox to tout her latest study that attempted to link the “resurgence” of MS-13 to U.S. immigration policies:

    Less than eight minutes after the interview ended, Trump tweeted, “MS-13 gang members are being removed by our Great ICE and Border Patrol Agents by the thousands, but these killers come back in from El Salvador, and through Mexico, like water. El Salvador just takes our money, and Mexico must help MORE with this problem. We need The Wall!”

    The Fox & Friends hosts then took the opportunity to reiterate their claims about MS-13 and undocumented immigrants and praise Trump’s policies, which co-host Pete Hegseth called “common sense.” But experts say the Trump administration policies are counterintuitive to combatting the gang.

  • Video: How conspiracy theories and attacks on the Parkland shooting survivors spread across the internet and right-wing media

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & MILES LE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Survivors of the Parkland, FL, mass shooting, in which 17 people lost their lives, are speaking out and demanding action on gun violence. In response, right-wing media figures are spreading conspiracy theories and attacking these students, and online platforms, like YouTube and Facebook, are enabling the spread of these lies. (Videos spreading these conspiracy theories have gone viral, with one video even trending No.1 on YouTube.)

    These are some of the conspiracy theories and attacks the right-wing media figures have launched against the students:

    • Infowars' Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist and host of The Alex Jones Show, called the attack "the perfect false flag." (He also claimed that "there's a cover-up going on.")

    • CNN political commentator Jack Kingston doubled down on his earlier tweet that the “left-wing gun control activists” are setting up the Parkland high school students for political reasons. Kingston said on CNN that he doubted these students could plan a rally without “being hijacked” by pro-gun control groups.

    • A Twitter account that regularly peddles in "The Storm" conspiracy theory, accused the students of being “crisis actors” who should be “charged and sent to jail.” (The tweet has since been deleted.)

    • Discredited author Dinesh D’Souza mocked students on Twitter for speaking out.

    • Lucian Wintrich, The Gateway Pundit’s White House correspondent, called the students “little pricks” who are “completely entitled” and are “milking the deaths of their peers for careers.”

    • Tucker Carlson, while interviewing NRATV’s Dan Bongino, claimed anti-gun groups are using the students as “a kind of moral blackmail, where you are not allowed to disagree or you are attacking the child.”

    • TruePartisan, a fringe right-wing site, claimed that student survivor David Hogg, who spoke out about ending gun violence, was a plant because his father formerly worked at the FBI. (Donald Trump Jr. promoted this conspiracy theory.)

    • NRA board member Ted Nugent shared an article on Facebook that claimed David Hogg was “coached by cameraman.” (The post has since been deleted.)

    These attacks are nothing new. Whenever there is a mass shooting, right-wing and far-right figures and outlets spread conspiracy theories to avoid talking about the real problem: the need for gun reform. Students are tired of “thoughts and prayers.” They demand an end to gun violence. They want action, and they won’t stop until they get it.

  • Hannity says the Mueller indictment vindicates his Uranium One nonsense

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Fox News host Sean Hannity has decided that the real takeaway from special counsel Robert Mueller’s February 16 indictment of Russian nationals who allegedly meddled in the 2016 presidential campaign is that it vindicates his conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton was bribed to help the Russian government purchase an American uranium company.

    The so-called Uranium One scandal was launched in 2015 by a discredited author who was employed by then-Breitbart.com head Steve Bannon and funded by top Trump donors Robert and Rebekah Mercer. The theory posited that Clinton played a "central role" as secretary of state in approving the 2010 purchase of mining company Uranium One by the Russian State Atomic Nuclear Agency because Russians and people linked to the deal had given money to her husband and to the Clinton Foundation.

    This was transparent nonsense and fell apart immediately under scrutiny. But Hannity has repeatedly returned to the story as various probes into the Russian effort to help Trump win the election continue, claiming that the Uranium One tale proves that Clinton was involved in the “real collusion” with Russia, not Trump. Earlier this month, for example, he relentlessly hyped the dubious claims of an FBI informant who was involved in an Obama-era federal investigation into the Russian nuclear industry. Justice Department officials reportedly deem the informant not credible, but Hannity claimed his story is a “huge bombshell.”

    Mueller's indictment on Friday of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities on alleged crimes stemming from Russian information warfare efforts on U.S. social media sites during the election has bizarrely provided Hannity with a new opportunity to talk about the mining deal.

    Hannity has echoed Republican Party operatives and the president himself in falsely claiming that Mueller’s Friday indictment vindicates Trump and his campaign aides. That’s deceptive, but frankly about what you expect from a pro-Trump propagandist. But Hannity has also used the indictment to make a truly absurd argument, citing Mueller's action in each of his last four programs as evidence that he has been on the right track in pushing Uranium One conspiracy theories.

    The indictment, Hannity explained on Friday night, shows “nothing short of a sophisticated effort by the Russians to gain influence in America.” According to Hannity, unlike the media, his show has been “telling you this, about Vladimir Putin, about Russian operatives, about how they've been involved in sophisticated schemes” -- like Uranium One.

    “Remember,” Hannity continued, “[Putin] had people, operatives on the ground with the purpose of breaking into America's uranium market. We also told you how those Russian operatives were involved and we knew it because we had an insider on the ground, an FBI informant that they were involved in bribery, in kickbacks, and money laundering, racketeering, all in a scheme, yes, tied to Hillary Clinton.”

    In fact, according to Hannity, Russia only tried to influence the 2016 election because it had been so successful in the Uranium One purchase. “Putin and Russia, they were successful in 2010, they got the uranium,” he explained. Four years later, he added, citing the indictment, “Russian nationals, they were working together, with a troll farm located in St. Petersburg, Russia, trying to influence the election,” he said. “Why wouldn't they after they got uranium?”

    This doesn’t make a lot of sense. The indictment doesn’t close the massive holes in the Uranium One story -- namely that Clinton has not been connected to any specific action in approving the deal. The suggestion that Trump, unlike former President Barack Obama, has boldly stood against the Russian threat clashes with Trump’s years of effusive praise for Putin and his unwillingness to this day to end questions about whether he actually thinks Russia tried to influence the election. And Hannity’s effort to link Russia’s success in purchasing Uranium One to its effort to help Trump win is both spurious and noxious.

    In the days that followed, Hannity and his crew of pro-Trump sycophants repeatedly returned to the Uranium One theme. Jeanine Pirro claimed Clinton’s purported Uranium One acts are the “real crime” and said that Mueller himself “should be the one being investigated” because “he was the head of the FBI when this attempt to find the uranium started.”

    Sebastian Gorka pushed the obvious falsehood that Clinton had personally approved the Uranium One sale and done so in spite of “laws on the book .. that say America must be self-reliant on uranium.”

    And Hannity himself has used the story to attack Obama, citing an oft-repeated but flagrantly false statistic in claiming that “no serious President would've allowed Vladimir Putin and Russia to get 20 percent of our uranium.”  

    Last night, Hannity hosted a panel of the pro-Trump journalists Sara Carter and John Solomon and the Uranium One informant’s right-wing lawyer Victoria Toensing before a live audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference. All three have played key roles in advancing the pseudo scandal, and Hannity praised them for it. “All these guys have been amazing in terms of helping us unpeel the onion,” he said after introducing them, adding that “they deserve Pulitzers at the end of the day.”

    After an extensive discussion of the Uranium One tale, Hannity asked, “Will this become bigger than any other scandal we are following?” The guests agreed that it would.

    It’s hard to rank the panoply of fabrications and conspiracy theories Hannity tries to use to protect the president, but I think they may be right. Uranium One always provides Hannity with exactly what he’s looking for -- a way to defend Trump from the Russia probe by attacking Clinton and Mueller. We’ll hear much more about this from him in the days to come.

  • Tucker Carlson promotes another social media platform full of bigotry

    First it was an app called a “haven for white nationalists,” now it’s a social media network with content even Google’s AdSense is trying to avoid

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Last night on his Fox News show, Tucker Carlson hosted Bill Ottman, co-founder of a social media network you might have not heard of -- Minds.com. Carlson helped Ottman push the right-wing narrative that tech companies are censoring “free speech,” without noting the racist, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic content found on Ottman’s site. From the February 21 edition of Fox’s Tonight with Tucker Carlson:

    Carlson opened the segment declaring that tech companies are “a far bigger threat to your civil liberties than the federal government ever was.” He asked Ottman how Google is “trying to censor” his site, Minds, which purports to be a “community-owned social networking platform that rewards” users for their “activity online with revenue and more views.” In response, Ottman asserted that Google had banned his company from its AdSense advertising platform and blamed its “out-of-control algorithms which basically blanket ban companies based on certain keywords with no real rationality.” When Carlson asked Ottman for reasons the site would have been banned, Ottman deflected, saying, “Probably some keyword that got caught up in their algorithms. But it's actually a symptom of a bigger problem of censorship.” Carlson failed to push back on Ottman’s vague answer and inform his audience about the hateful content found on Minds.com.

    Ottman also claimed his company was building its own ad network to “battle” Google’s policies. Google has been under pressure to do more to weed out hateful rhetoric from its platform, with companies growing increasingly reticent to display their advertisements next to “toxic content.”  (It has continued to fall short in its efforts, as evidenced by white supremacist content that still gets monetized on Google platforms.) Yet, both Carlson and Ottman failed to explain how the anti-Semitic posts or content offensive to women found on Minds would entice any brands to advertise on the platform.

    Here is a sample of the types of content found at Minds.com:

    Holocaust denial:

    Celebrating swastikas:

    Hijacking the #meToo movement with racist memes:

    Anti-Semitism:

    Pushing the misogynist "shit test":

    Sharing misogynist videos in support of Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW):​

    Besides being reluctant to condemn white supremacists, Carlson has a record of using his show to promote the dregs of the internet and stand up for white supremacist speech.​