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  • Jeanine Pirro’s book-length self-own

    Liars, Leakers, and Liberals is an absurd, unintentional indictment of its author

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    You only get about one page into Jeanine Pirro’s new book, Liars, Leakers, and Liberals: The Case Against the Anti-Trump Conspiracy, before she calls herself an idiot. It’s not entirely clear whether she meant to do it or if she just got lost in the rapture of the prose, but she definitely calls herself an idiot. “We know what the liberal media think of Trump voters: They’re deplorables, idiots, rednecks, and people who cling to God, guns, and religion,” Pirro writes. “To those charges, I plead guilty--guilty and proud!”

    It’s confusing, and you’re left wondering why Pirro seemingly went out of her way to make herself look stupid. But intentional or not, it serves as an apt table-setter for the rest of the book, in which the Fox News host inflicts upon the reader a frenetic conspiracy theory that absolutely obliterates all logic and does violence upon the very notion of observable truth, and effectively discredits herself by painstakingly demonstrating that she is committed solely to the mission of kissing the ass of her friend, President Donald Trump.

    To be honest, I’m not entirely confident that anything I could write about this book (which is currently number one on the Amazon bestseller list) would be more damning of the author than the poison-laced nonsense she herself has committed to paper. The book’s conceit is that there exists an “anti-Trump conspiracy” to “nullify the decision of the American people and continue the globalist, open-border oligarchy that the people voted to dismantle in 2016.” The culprits she identifies “include, but are not limited to, the leadership at the FBI, the CIA, NSA, and other intelligence agencies, the Democrat (sic) Party, and perhaps even the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) courts. And let’s not forget the media and entertainment industries that are waging a nonstop propaganda campaign that would render envious their counterparts in the worst totalitarian states of history.”

    Hoo boy. Pirro, like literally every other conspiracy theorist on the planet, starts at the conclusion and then sets about backfilling her outlandish assertions. And, also like every other conspiracy theorist, her overriding zeal leads her to contradict herself and make a series of embarrassing fuck-ups.

    Let’s start with her treatment of the Justice Department investigation into the Trump campaign’s links to Russia, which is hampered by Pirro’s howling ignorance. Pirro argues that it was former CIA Director John Brennan who “started the whole phony Russian collusion investigation” with the help of the dossier written by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele and “pressured the FBI into investigating the Trump campaign.” But she also writes, confusingly, that Brennan “tried to get the FBI to investigate the Trump campaign, but [former FBI Director James] Comey turned a deaf ear” and would not “buy the crap Brennan was selling.”

    She continues, writing that Brennan “cornered” former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid “and spewed his cooked-up tale about Putin and Trump,” and Reid “sent a letter posthaste off to the FBI director, urging him to open an investigation. Cardinal Comey didn’t open one, at least that the public knew about.” So by her own reckoning, Brennan did an extremely poor job of starting the Russia investigation she alleges he started. And the reason Comey did not start an investigation after Reid contacted him is because the investigation was already open at that point.

    To confuse things even further, Pirro writes later in the book that Comey was “too busy trying to concoct a Russia collusion case” to properly run the FBI. So was it Brennan or Comey who supposedly invented this collusion lie? And wasn’t it Comey who was supposed to have summarily rejected Brennan’s “crap” about Trump and Russia? What the hell is going on here?

    It gets still more baffling. She writes at one point that Barack Obama was “so desperate to keep Donald Trump from being elected that his Justice Department, prodded by his CIA chief John O. Brennan, misled the most secret court of the United States. The goal was simple: spy on the Trump campaign to undermine a presidential election.” But just a few paragraphs later she writes that Obama “knew all along what Russia was up to. He didn’t do anything because he, and the establishment pollsters, thought Hillary would win.” So Obama was both “desperate” and complacent, determined to undermine Trump but also content to do nothing about Russian efforts to help Trump because he thought Hillary was a lock.

    Pirro’s book transitions from factless absurdity to disgraceful hypocrisy in its treatment of sexual misconduct by the powerful and wealthy. A section of her book is devoted to the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse story as the “perfect example of Hollywood hypocrisy.” Pirro writes that Weinstein “silenced those around him with his ability to intimidate victims, pressure business associates, buy powerful Democrats, and leverage hungry Hollywood actors.” She viciously attacks people she argues enabled Weinstein, like Hillary Clinton and actor Meryl Streep, accusing them of turning a blind eye to Weinstein’s abuses in exchange for money and power. “I have a particular animus for Harvey Weinstein and people of his ilk,” she writes.

    The problem here is obvious: Pirro’s book is a rabid defense of Donald Trump, the most powerful alleged sexual assaulter on the planet. As I wrote in my profile of Pirro, she has enthusiastically set fire to her reputation as a crusading champion of sexual assault victims in order to shill for Trump, and this book is an especially disgusting expression of her moral self-immolation. While lashing out at Hollywood and Democrats for their “hypocrisy” over Weinstein, she comes nowhere close to addressing the many allegations of sexual assault leveled against Trump over the years. Instead, she writes: “It bothers me that the president has become such a target of LIBERALS for his treatment of women.”

    There’s no great mystery to why Pirro runs interference for Trump’s sexual misconduct in this way: The president is her friend, and her proximity to him gives her power and influence. Pirro was granted access to the highest echelons of Trump’s world for this preposterous farce of a book. It features quotes from interviews Pirro conducted with senior Trump officials like Kellyanne Conway and White House chief of staff John Kelly. The text is peppered with quotes from Trump’s children, which alternate between the sad (“You think that there’s anyone on earth that could change DJT?” says Donald Trump Jr., referring to his father by his initials for some reason) and the comically self-unaware (“You have certain individuals from the mainstream media, who sit in their ivory towers, their fancy offices and multi-million-dollar apartments,” says Eric Trump, who owns a $2 million apartment overlooking Central Park).

    She goes on at exhausting length about how she and Trump are great personal friends and have shared so many special memories together flying to and from Florida on the president’s private jet. These treacly stories are presumably intended to convey a warmer, more personable side to Trump, but really they just make it clear how compromised Pirro is by her relationship to the president.

    Liars, Leakers, and Liberals stands as an unintended self-indictment of the author: She tries to prosecute the president’s critics as slavish defenders of the entrenched power structure, but in the process she enthusiastically outs herself as an unprincipled, untrustworthy, and thoroughly rotten vassal of the president’s. Pirro is the embodiment of the media corruption she rails against.

    And if she wants to call herself an “idiot,” well, there’s no reason to object to that either.

  • Tech companies must do more to stop online harassment and online radicalization

    Women have warned about the dangers of online radicalization for years

    Blog ››› ››› MELISSA RYAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Buzzfeed News’ Joseph Bernstein wrote a chilling profile of Lane Davis, a far-right conspiracy theorist known for his online videos and writing, who fatally stabbed his own father last year. Davis was a fixture in the world of radicalized online communities; he wrote and researched for Nazi-sympathizer and troll Milo Yiannopoulos and was a prolific writer for Ralph Retort, an online conspiracy theory and misinformation website. He was also a source for Bernstein on more than one occasion.

    Bernstein’s profile lays out Davis’ online activities pretty thoroughly. While Davis’ content garnered him internet fame and influence within the world of the alt-right, he never managed to make much money from all of his labor. He lived full time with his parents, unwilling or unable to support himself. According to Bernstein, Yiannopoulos really wanted Lane to join Breitbart and recommended him to the co-editor of Breitbart Tech. But Lane’s use of an explicit racial slur on a livestream was too extreme for even Breitbart, a publication with a record of coordinating content with white nationalists.

    Davis had a long history of internet conspiracy theory mongering. It was the misogynistic crusade known as Gamergate, a campaign of online harassment that led to death and rape threats against women gamers and female journalists covering the gaming industry, that put him on the map and opened up a whole new world for him and his content. Lane put “hundreds of hours” into conspiracy theory videos as he built his online profile. From the article:

    Like so many others, [Lane] had joined the late-Obama-era culture wars through Gamergate, the often radical online campaign that claimed to be concerned with ethics in gaming journalism. And he was there from the start, actively participating in a chatroom called Burgers and Fries, members of which more or less astroturfed the start of the movement through well-placed hashtags and well-timed confrontations. Here, Lane would have learned how a small group of dedicated people could compel an enormous, participatory audience by wielding an ever-expanding conspiracy theory about liberal influence.

    A lot has been written about how Gamergate was a precursor to the “alt-right” and other extremist anti-feminist movements currently dominating online communities. As reported by The Guardian, Gamergate was the launchpad for many current far-right celebrities, most notably Yiannopoulos and opportunistic troll Mike Cernovich. As Sarah Jeong wrote in The Washington Post:

    Many of the microcelebrities of the “alt-right” on the Internet built their brands during Gamergate. Mike Cernovich went from being relatively unknown to a voice for the alt-right. ... Milo Yiannopoulos, despite having never played a video game in his life, glommed onto the Gamergate phenomenon and rode it out to his benefit, using his platform at Breitbart to write long rambling “exposés” of various Gamergate targets, regardless of whether they were public figures.

    More broadly, the weaponized online harassment that unleashed during Gamergate has been adopted by far-right movements across the globe. “Pizzagate” -- a conspiracy theory born online during the 2016 presidential that claimed powerful celebrities and Democratic politicians had links to a child trafficking ring being operated out of a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor -- continues to attract believers long after gunman Edgar Welch was jailed for opening fire and terrorizing staff and patrons at the restaurant where he had gone to “self-investigate.”

    Women and people of color have been complaining to tech companies about online harassment for years, and for the most part their complaints have been ignored. Reading about Lane Davis, I couldn’t stop thinking about the platforms, especially YouTube and Reddit, that enabled his radicalization and extremism for years. Davis’ videos, which as of this writing are still live, spread lies and conspiracy theories that caused real harm to people.

    Conspiracy theories, Lane’s favorite topic to pontificate about online, dehumanize the people who they target. Real people’s biographies get rewritten online. In the blink of an eye the owner of a local pizza place is recast as the leader of a child sex trafficking ring, a teenage shooting survivor becomes an FBI plant, an activist murdered by neo-Nazis is claimed to have actually died of a heart attack. The creators of these theories, the amplifiers, the sharers, and the believers don’t care about the harm they’re causing. The people involved are no longer human to them, just characters in a story. These victims are subjected to online harassment, doxxing, swatting, and in some instances, like in the case of Welch, violence.

    The executives at tech companies either still don’t understand the consequences of hosting content linked to extremism on their platforms or they’re deliberately choosing to ignore reality. Just two days ago, Mark Zuckerberg, in an interview with Recode’s Kara Swisher, spoke about Holocaust deniers who spread their views on Facebook and said that while he personally found those views “deeply offensive,” he didn’t believe Facebook should remove them. Zuckerberg’s comments suggested that Holocaust denial was a simple misunderstanding: “I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong.” After public outcry, Zuckerberg was forced to clarify his remarks, explaining he wasn’t defending Holocaust deniers, and that yes, people who believe the Holocaust didn’t happen likely don’t have good intentions. But his statement failed to address Facebook’s policy of inaction regarding that brand of hateful content.

    The tragedy brought on by Lane Davis’ radicalism is just one of the many reasons tech companies have to face this issue head-on. From Gamergate to “Pizzagate,” Davis exploited social media’s lax policies regarding extremist conspiracy theories to build his platform and perhaps aid in the radicalization of others with no consequences. Davis isn’t the first online extremist to get violent offline and he won’t be the last. He joins a growing list of young men who were radicalized online and whose “activism” became terrorism offline. That list includes the white supremacist who committed the mass shooting in Charleston, SC, the racist and misogynistic vlogger who killed six people and injured 14 more in the college town of Isla Vista, CA, and the alleged incel terrorist who killed 10 in Toronto. Tech companies have a moral obligation to protect their users from extremists and to do everything in their power to stop the spread of radicalization that creates them in the first place. They can no longer feign ignorance about the potential of online radical content leading to violence. It’s time to finally listen to their users who’ve been harmed by weaponized online harassment and stop giving men like Lane Davis a platform to spread hate and disinformation.

  • Study: NY Times, Wash. Post quote more than twice as many Republicans as Democrats in political coverage

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Throughout May and June, two of the nation’s leading newspapers, The New York Times and The Washington Post, quoted Republicans at more than twice the rate of Democrats in their political news coverage.

    In an analysis of the papers’ news and political coverage during May and June, Media Matters found that the Times quoted 1,466 Republicans and 611 Democrats, a ratio of approximately 2.4 Republicans for every Democrat. The Post quoted 1,403 Republicans and 615 Democrats, for a ratio of approximately 2.3 Republicans for every Democrat.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched the Nexis newspaper database for articles in the print editions of The New York Times’ and The Washington Post's news and politics sections between May 1 and June 30, 2018, that mentioned any elected official, administration official, or other government official in the headline or lead paragraph. In approximately 2,200 articles from the two newspapers during May and June that fit that criteria, we coded for political strategists; candidates; elected officials; administration officials; and close political advisers, family members, or personal lawyers of President Donald Trump who were quoted. Additionally, we coded anyone quoted whom the paper identified as partisan. We coded each individual once per article as either Democratic or Republican. Members of New York’s Working Families Party were coded as Democratic.

    Rob Savillo and Shelby Jamerson contributed research to this report.

  • A fake image of Putin pulling Obama's tie is circulating online

    And a syndicated radio show shared it as if it were real

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN



    A digitally manipulated image that appears to depict Russian President Vladimir Putin pulling former President Barack Obama close to him by tugging on his tie is circulating online, mainly to support claims that President Donald Trump is a stronger president than Obama. A syndicated radio show has also pushed the image as real.

    On July 15 and 16, Trump met with Putin in Helsinki, Finland. During the summit, the two held a press conference in which Trump, as The New York Times noted, “publicly challenged the conclusion of his own intelligence agencies that Moscow interfered in the 2016 presidential election,” “saved his sharpest criticism for the United States and the special counsel investigation into the election interference,” and “even questioned the determinations by his intelligence officials that Russia had meddled in the election.” Trump has drawn widespread criticism for his remarks and has claimed that he misspoke.

    Right before the summit and since then, figures on social media have spread an image that appears to depict Putin pulling Obama’s tie to draw him closer as they talked, with many suggesting the photo showed that Obama was weaker against Russia than Trump. As Snopes noted, the image is a manipulation of a photo of Obama with Putin in June 2014, in which Obama is just leaning in and speaking closely with Putin.

    Nonetheless, users on Twitter have tweeted the image, some specifically in response to criticism and critical coverage of Trump, with users writing that it shows Putin “led [Obama] around by his tie like a little bitch” and that Obama was a “spineless” “cuckold,” with one account writing, “Look how close Putin and Obama are. See Putin pulling on Obama's tie. If anyone thinks Trump is in collusion, Look at this pic.” The image has also been tweeted at Trump directly. One Twitter user, whom Trump has previously retweeted, shared the image on Twitter and wrote: “I'll tell you what you won't see at the Trump-Putin summit, is this. Obama held the most powerful position on the planet, yet was either directly man handled, or bowed down to world leaders, due to weakness. Either way, @realDonaldTrump will not get treated like this.”

    “New-right” proponent Mike Tokes, who recently appeared on white supremacist Baked Alaska's YouTube channel with white nationalist Richard Spencer, also shared the image.

    Users on 4chan’s far-right “politically incorrect” forum (commonly referred to as /pol/) also shared the fake image in response to criticism of Trump, with one user writing, “Here is what Putin thought of Obama's Stare Down.”

    The image has also been shared on Facebook and on multiple subreddits, where a user claimed the photo showed Obama was a “f'ing pussy.”

    The fake image has since made its way to radio, which has become one of the main avenues for fake news to spread beyond the internet. On the syndicated radio show Walton & Johnson, the hosts said there was “the picture of Putin where he’s got hold of Obama’s tie and he’s pulling him down” like he was “leading a dog around.” The hosts added that the photo helped rebut claims that “because Trump was friendly with Putin,” “he’s gone over” and “become pure communist now.”

  • Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes and a men's rights activist spent an entire show attacking Black women

    Tommy Sotomayor is a men’s rights activist with a record of making anti-Semitic comments, including on David Duke’s show

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Gavin McInnes, the founder of the violent, fraternal men-only organization Proud Boys, devoted the July 16 episode of his CRTV show Get Off My Lawn to criticizing Black women, starting with Beyoncé. McInnes, whose misogyny is well-documented, also brought on Black men’s rights activist Tommy Sotomayor to avoid sounding “too white” in his critique. Sotomayor has built an online punditry career by bashing Black women and Jewish people.

    McInnes kicked off the discussion by falsely claiming that the targeted harassment campaign that far-right troll Milo Yiannopoulos led on Twitter against actress Leslie Jones was evidence of “Black women potentially being “double protected” in America. According to McInnes, the fact that Yiannopoulos was permanently banned from Twitter as a consequence showed that the platform was being deferential to Jones because she’s Black and a woman. McInnes’ revisionist history conveniently ignores the fact that Black women tend to be targets of online harassment at higher rates than white social media users.

    Sotomayor, whose real name is Thomas Jerome Harris, has built his internet presence around making inflammatory attacks against women, the Black community, and Jewish people. Sotomayor once said that then-President Barack Obama “shouldn’t try to ban guns, he should ban niggas.” The video was embraced and amplified by then-CNN pundit Harry Houck, who has a long history of repeatedly suggesting African-Americans are prone to criminality and are to blame for the police violence of which they are victims. Sotomayor also once referred to Black Lives Matter protesters as the “retarded kids in the class.” He hosted former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke on now-deleted YouTube livestreams, and appeared on Duke’s podcast to discuss “the destruction of the black community due to the cultural pollution that is being spewed out by the Jewish media elite.” One of Sotomayor’s discussions with Duke was even featured on the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer.

    Sotomayor is also a recognized men’s rights activist whose anti-feminist punditry has been amplified by the misogynistic website A Voice For Men. In a since-deleted YouTube video, Sotomayor once took issue with a toilet paper ad that gave a “poignant salute” to single mothers on Father’s Day, claiming it showed that Hollywood was taking “aim, just like everyone else, at the American male.” An archived page of several of his now-deleted videos shows pejorative language and critical commentary about Black people.

    On his website, Sotomayor lists a number of YouTube channels as his own. He once explained that he has many channels because YouTube users keep flagging his content and “every video I put up, they take it down.” Sotomayor’s comment demonstrates just another way extremists circumvent YouTube’s weak attempts at dealing with hate speech.

    On McInnes’ Get Off My Lawn, Sotomayor enthusiastically enabled McInnes as he bashed Black women, agreeing with him that they are prone to violence and calling them “irresponsible being[s]” who are raising children with “100 percent autonomy” and making them violent as well.

    In an attempt to demonize Black mothers, Sotomayor shared an anecdote of a woman who had put a “sew-in weave” in her child’s hair, claiming “a normal person, a white woman” called his show saying that if she had “bleached” her 4-year-old’s hair, the school would’ve sent child protective services to her house. “It goes back to, again, no father,” Sotomayor claimed. “If a father’s there, he’s not even going to let his child dress up in this whore’s outfit.”

    Sotomayor also complained that President Donald Trump hasn’t done enough in terms of “cutting off the welfare,” claiming it is financially incentivizing people to have “children … in bad situations.” He bizarrely suggested that aiding single mothers and “all these rape cases that are coming up” were evidence of the way men are being mistreated in America.

    TOMMY SOTOMAYOR: I promise you, if you take away the financial benefit from having children -- it’s the same thing with all of these rape cases that are coming up and I know I’m opening up a different can of worms -- but when you see how men are being treated in the United States, there’s no wonder why Bruce Jenner decided to put on a dress and tuck his wang.

    This is not the first time Sotomayor has been a willing participant in the online crusades of far-right white men to victim-blame Blacks or attack women. During a guest appearance on “intellectual dark webrenegade Dave Rubin’s YouTube show in April 2017, Sotomayor blamed single mothers for not picking “the correct person to have the kid with” and complained that “the only person that’s being held responsible is the guy.” He said he was bothered by the fact men could be held responsible to help financially with the kids they had with women who claim, “It’s my body. I can do what I want to with it. But once I do it, I need help.” Rubin, a dramatically unsuccessful comedian, joined Sotomayor in complaining about the double standards that limit white comedians from making jokes about anything “remotely politically incorrect.”

    Sotomayor also joined one of YouTube’s professional misogynists, Stefan Molyneux, for some “man talk.” Molyneux has built a reputation out of bemoaning feminism and complaining about the plight of men (and promoting eugenics and scientific racism). During the discussion, Sotomayor complained that a man on trial for killing his wife couldn’t say “she was verbally abusive to me” as a defense but that “there are women who’ve gotten away” by saying the same thing.

    Sotomayor and the far-right media personalities he's joining are enjoying mutually beneficial relationships: Sotomayor gets additional venues to spread his hateful rhetoric, and the white men he's collaborating with get cover as they push racist and misogynist attacks on their shows. 

  • Report links major Macedonian fake news site to American conservatives; creator under investigation

    Investigators are also probing potential Russian connections, and there are links to the Mueller investigation

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A major report from BuzzFeed News notes that Macedonian authorities, with the assistance of the FBI, are investigating multiple people in Macedonia involved with creating fake news sites, including an attorney who created one of the country’s first fake news sites, usapoliticstoday.com. The authorities are also looking into whether the attorney has any connections to the Russian government.

    Here are some notable findings from the report and some context to them:

    • Investigators are examining whether Anna Bogacheva, a Russian official who was recently indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller for involvement in Russian interference during the 2016 election, was involved in creating the Macedonian sites. Records indicate, according to BuzzFeed, that Bogacheva was in the country in 2015.

    • The authorities are looking at at least 20 people, including attorney Trajche Arsov and Bogacheva, in “two overlapping investigations.” The FBI is assisting with the investigations and is sharing relevant information with Mueller.

    • Arsov created numerous fake sites, including usapoliticstoday.com in 2015, which influenced others in Veles to follow his footsteps, helping the city become the main hub for fake news in Macedonia.

    • Arsov recruited the one of the American creators of the fake news site Liberty Writers, Paris Wade, to write for usapoliticstoday.com, along with Wade’s brother Alex. The other Liberty Writers co-founder, Ben Goldman, also had what BuzzFeed called a "relationship" with the site, where he and Arsov "shared each other's content on their respective Facebook pages." Liberty Writers had a verified Facebook page, which Facebook later took down. (Facebook also blocked links to the site.) Paris Wade, who is currently running for the Nevada Assembly as a Republican, has used Facebook’s actions to gain support for his campaign.

    • Another site, usapoliticstoday.org, is currently active and shares a Facebook App IDRevcontent Widget ID, and Google Analytics ID with usapoliticstoday.com, according to the analytic tool Trendolizer, evidence suggesting that it is controlled by the same entity as usapoliticstoday.com. UPDATE: BuzzFeed's Craig Silverman, who co-authored the report, has confirmed that usapoliticstoday.org is also Arsov's site. 

    • Arsov also recruited writer Alicia Powe to write for usapoliticstoday.com. During the 2016 campaign, Powe repeatedly shared false stories from usapoliticstoday.com on her Facebook page, urging people to share the articles. The posts she shared included articles claiming then-Vice President Joe Biden and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “betray[ed] our country to terrorists,” that then-President Barack Obama planned to “allow ISIS into America,” and that Obama and billionaire George Soros were behind the 2016 police shooting in Dallas. Powe now writes for the conspiracy theory blog The Gateway Pundit. She has recently pushed conspiracy theories about the death of former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.

    • A British writer recruited by Arsov to write for him, Oliver Dollimore, is a former contributor to The Gateway Pundit. An Oliver Dollimore is listed as one of the writers on usapoliticstoday.org. Some of the pieces Dollimore is listed as writing there include the baseless allegation that Obama spied on Chief Justice John Roberts, a claim that CNN is “fake news,” and the false claim that Obama directly wiretapped Trump Tower.

    • Arsov falsely told BuzzFeed News that his sites “did not publish hoaxes.” Usapoliticstoday.com published fake stories that Pope Francis said the “Koran and Holy Bible are the same,” that former President Bill Clinton was on his deathbed, that the Supreme Court banned teaching Sharia law in schools (now a long-running fake story), that Hillary Clinton ordered former House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s arrest, and that 2016 Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein endorsed then-candidate Donald Trump.

    • The fake stories were not just limited to USA Politics domains: Guerilla.news, a site that BuzzFeed said Arsov created, pushed a fake story that Obama canceled and Trump revived “police week.” And New Conservatives, another site connected to Arsov, pushed fake stories that the NFL suspended three teams for protesting the national anthem, that Trump made Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) “the most powerful man on Capitol Hill,” that Hollywood celebrities were going on strike until Trump resigns, and that an Iranian Muslim was arrested for fires in California.

    • Arsov “repeatedly denied … that his publishing business had any connection to Russia or anyone who might have operated as a proxy for the country.” Usapoliticstoday.com and usapoliticstoday.org have published multiple pieces undermining Mueller’s probe and attacking former FBI Director James Comey.

    • Usapoliticstoday.com repeatedly pushed dubious and false claims from American right-wing media and far-right circles. That includes Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano’s claim that Obama wiretapped the Supreme Court, The Gateway Pundit’s claim that Hillary Clinton knew before the 2016 election that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower (he didn’t), and the far-right’s claim that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch had committed wrongdoing by using an alias in her government emails. The site also defended the Trump administration’s false claim about the crowd size at Trump’s inauguration, and made the baseless allegation that Soros was funding all anti-Trump protests early in Trump’s term.

    • On Twitter, figures that shared material from usapoliticstoday.com include Fox News host Harris Faulkner; former Trump campaign adviser and New Hampshire state GOP Rep. Al Baldasaro; right-wing radio host Michael Berry; Marco Gutierrez, who ran “Latinos for Trump” during the 2016 campaign and is a former California GOP congressional candidate (Gutierrez famously warned of “taco trucks on every corner” should Trump have lost the election); a reporter for CBS’ West Palm Beach affiliate; Breitbart host Curt Schilling; former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik; and right-wing radio host Mark Simone. Massachusetts GOP Senate candidate Shiva Ayyadurai has shared material from usapoliticstoday.org.

  • A study about so-called abortion reversal just got pulled because of ethical concerns

    BuzzFeed news reported that a study about the scientifically unproven method to stop an abortion -- championed by anti-choice activists -- lacked "formal ethical approval"

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On July 17, BuzzFeed News reported that a published study about the practice of so-called abortion reversal had been pulled from a scientific journal due to ethical concerns, further proving that one of right-wing and anti-abortion media's favorite talking points is nothing more than harmful junk science.

    BuzzFeed News’ Azeen Ghorayshi wrote that the study by well-known anti-choice personality George Delgado had “been temporarily withdrawn from” the April edition of the Issues in Law & Medicine journal “because [the study] falsely claimed to have received formal ethical approval.” The study hinges on Delgado’s belief that people seeking medication abortions can reverse the procedure by taking only the first pill required in the two-pill regime. The person would then be injected with “a large dose of progesterone to—in theory—reverse the effects of mifepristone” in the first pill. To prove this theory, Delgado set up a hotline in 2012 for people who were seeking abortion reversals and published a limited study about the procedure that same year.

    Delgado’s theory caught fire in right-wing and anti-abortion media, with outlets including The Daily Wire and Live Action publishing accounts from people who had supposedly successfully reversed their abortions. When pro-choice organizations warned that abortion reversal was both scientifically unproven and potentially dangerous, outlets including The Federalist attacked these organizations as “anti-science” and said they were ignoring “the scientific reality of abortion pill reversal for a more ideological reason.” Anti-abortion site Life News inaccurately claimed that opposition to abortion reversal stemmed from a financial incentive for providers to continue performing abortions. Meanwhile, The Weekly Standard alleged that pro-choice advocates didn’t “really want women to choose to change their minds.”

    Then, in April 2018, Delgado and several co-authors published another study alleging the efficacy of the practice in the Issues in Law & Medicine journal. As Ghorayshi reported after publication, “the University of San Diego — which employs two of Delgado’s coauthors — launched an investigation into the study’s ethical approval.” The university then “asked for the paper to be withdrawn, spokesperson Pamela Payton told BuzzFeed News, because it had ‘ambiguous’ wording regarding the university’s ethics board, ‘leading many readers to incorrectly conclude that the [school] reviewed and approved the entire study.’”

    According to Delgado, the issue was “just a technical problem,” and that his team would “redo” the ethics review (although, as BuzzFeed noted, it’s not entirely clear how such a “redo” would work.) However, there is ample reason to believe that even if Delgado could “redo” the ethics review, the outcome would be largely the same because of his ideological viewpoint and the proven structural flaws of his studies.

    As Diane J. Horvath-Cosper, a reproductive health advocacy fellow at Physicians for Reproductive Health, explained to Marie Claire, Delgado appears to have done his work “backwards, with a desired result in mind—one that would support an ideological agenda.” Marie Claire noted that Delgado has previously labeled abortion "a scourge and a plague on our society” and told a caller on a radio show during a 2013 guest appearance that even though the caller had AIDS, “it wasn’t acceptable to use condoms ever.”

    Delgado’s studies in 2012 and 2018 also suffered from several technical flaws. According to The Guardian, the 2012 study was “not done with the oversight of an ethical review committee.” Jezebel similarly reported that it also relied on an extremely small sample size of seven cases -- and Delgado considered only four of these cases successful. Although the April 2018 study had a larger sample size, it still relied on limited case studies, which HuffPost said are “the weakest form of scientific evidence because they lack control groups.” Newsweek further reported that the study “used a wide variety of injected progesterone protocols, ranging from one to more than 10 injections of unknown doses” and did not assess previous levels of progesterone in the subjects’ blood -- further skewing the reliability of the results.

    In general, anti-choice extremists like Delgado are making claims about “abortion reversal” as a tactic to promote the myth that abortion is pathologically linked to regret. In reality, this idea of abortion regret or, as some anti-abortion activists call it, “post-abortion syndrome,” has been widely discredited. To debunk claims that abortion reversal procedures are widely sought by patients who regret their decision, Rewire.News’ Sofia Resnick spoke to abortion provider Gabrielle Goodrick, who estimated “that she has seen six patients out of about 10,000 who did not want to continue their medication abortions after initiating the process” in the 16 years she has been a provider.

    Medical organizations have also weighed in to say that the science doesn’t back claims about reversal. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) submitted a report in August 2017 about alleged abortion reversal procedures, stating, “Claims regarding abortion ‘reversal’ treatment are not based on science and do not meet clinical standards.” The report concluded that ACOG “does not support prescribing progesterone to stop a medical abortion.” Dr. Daniel Grossman, director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health at the University of California, San Francisco, told Refinery29, if a person simply decided not to take the second pill for a medication abortion, “there’s a good chance that the pregnancy would continue,” but “there’s no evidence” that injections of progesterone would work to “reverse” an abortion.

    Despite these issues, the junk science of abortion reversal has made its way into state laws in Idaho, Arkansas, South Dakota, Utah, and Arizona, where abortion providers are required to inform patients seeking an abortion that there is an option to reverse it.

    Right-wing media, anti-abortion activists, and some lawmakers may continue to spread misinformation about the dubious efficacy of so-called abortion reversal procedures, but as BuzzFeed’s report demonstrates, the facts are piling up: This practice is based on junk science that is more likely to hurt than help.

  • Russian senator and right-wing media agree: Trump is just trying to avoid a war with Russia

    Russian Sen. Alexei Pushkov: “I am amazed at the desire of the US media and a large part of Congress to portray Moscow as an enemy of the US. What do they want? Do they want a war with a nuclear power?”

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media and at least one Russian official are singing from the same song sheet after President Donald Trump’s humiliating press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland. As condemnation for Trump’s absurd performance builds, right-wing pundits, administration officials and, now, representatives of the Russian government are suggesting critics of the president are trying to foment war with Russia.

    In an attempt to provide cover for a president of the United States slandering American law enforcement and intelligence agencies while standing on foreign soil next to a despotic kleptocrat who has repeatedly attempted to destabilize western democracies and American allies, some in right-wing media suggested that the president was simply attempting to “avoid war with” the world’s largest nuclear power. Some have even argued that “Democrats” and “establishment media [want] war with Russia,” an argument that was presented by prominent Putin apologist Stephen Cohen (who has regularly been featured on Fox host Tucker Carlson’s show to discuss the relationship between the U.S. and Russia) on the state-run outlet, RT.

    Now, according to BBC’s Steve Rosenberg, a Russian senator is making the same argument.

    Of course, there are a number of options short of armed conflict that the United States and its western allies could take up to counter Russian aggression, but this is not the first time Russian and U.S., pro-Trump media talking points have been in sync. In 2017, Fox News’ senior judicial analyst, Judge Andrew Napolitano, claimed that former President Barack Obama asked the British Government Communications Headquarters to eavesdrop on Trump during the 2016 campaign and the transition period, and to provide the former president with transcripts of Trump's conversations. Media Matters traced the assertion back to an interview on the state-sponsored Russian network RT with a former CIA official who has accused John Kerry of war crimes, spread the 2008 rumor about a supposed recording of former first lady Michelle Obama “railing against ‘whitey,’” and now is floating "sedition" charges against former Obama officials. Also in 2017, Russian state-run media and American pro-Trump media messaging converged after former national security advisor Michael Flynn’s resignation.

  • Roger Stone has lied or contradicted himself regarding Russia probe matters on countless occasions

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to President Donald Trump, has repeatedly lied or contradicted himself on numerous issues related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

    Stone is a vicious racist, misogynist, liar, and conspiracy theorist who describes himself as “a 40-year friend and advisor of Donald Trump.” He worked as a paid consultant to Trump’s campaign for part of 2015 and has since advised him in an unofficial capacity.

    He was banned from CNN, MSNBC, and even Fox News in 2016 because of his vitriolic rhetoric. However, all three networks have since welcomed him back as a guest. Stone also writes commentaries online and works for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ Infowars network.

    Nothing Stone says should be taken at face value. Even staunch right-wingers don’t trust Stone, calling him “a sleazeball” (Fox News host Mark Levin); “a little rat” (pro-Trump super PAC head Ed Rollins); and “one of the worst people in the world” (radio host Glenn Beck).

    Stone’s career as a dirty trickster has come back to haunt him in the form of Mueller’s investigation.

    Sources told CNBC that Stone “is apparently one of the top subjects of the Mueller investigation into potential collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.” ABC News recently reported that “at least seven people associated with” Stone have been contacted by “Mueller, according to interviews with witnesses and others who say they've been contacted.” Stone was also likely one of the unnamed people whose activities were mentioned in Mueller’s July 13 indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers for election interference.

    As he has on so many other topics, Stone has lied and contradicted himself regarding numerous matters related to Mueller’s Russia investigation. For instance:

    • Stone claimed that he "never had any contacts with any Russians in any way," then admitted he had a meeting with a Russian national about the campaign. (He also communicated with the Russian intelligence account Guccifer 2.0.)
    • Stone claimed that he "communicated with" WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange," then said he "never communicated with Assange."
    • Stone claimed that he "never communicated with WikiLeaks," but messages show he directly communicated with the organization.  
    • Stone claimed this month that he wasn't in "regular contact" with the Trump campaign in 2016, but he had previously bragged about his 2016 discussions with the campaign.
    • Stone claimed that a subpoenaed associate “has not worked for" him "for three years,” but that associate worked for Stone at least in 2016 and 2017.
    • Stone started a legal defense fund for himself but "has contradicted himself on what he's paying for and how much he's projected to pay” in legal costs.

    Stone repeatedly and falsely claimed that he never had any contact with Russians

    Stone had contacts with Russians during the 2016 campaign. As Stone acknowledged, he met with “Henry Greenberg,” a Russian national who claimed to have damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, in May 2016. Stone also communicated online with Guccifer 2.0, “the digital persona alleged to have been set up by Russian military intelligence,” as The New York Times wrote.

    Stone told ABC News that he only publicly disclosed the meeting with Greenberg last month because he "just didn't remember. 2016 was a pretty busy year." He also claimed that the Greenberg meeting was “a failed Obama FBI sting operation” and has denied that Guccifer 2.0 is Russian.

    Stone repeatedly claimed he didn’t have any contact with Russians. Here are 10 examples of his claims:

    • “I have no Russian contacts, I have no Russian money. I have no Russian influences. I do like Russian vodka. This thing is a canard.” [Time magazine, 2/3/17]
    • “I have no connection with the Russians.” [The Guardian, 2/15/17]
    • “I’ve never been in touch with anyone in Russia.” [NBC, Today, 2/16/17]
    • “Sure they’ll get my grocery lists, they may get the emails between my wife and I, but here’s what they won’t get -- any contact with the Russians.” [CBS News, 3/3/17]
    • “I am not in touch with any Russians. don't have a Russian girlfriend, don't like Russian dressing and have stopped drinking Russian Vodka." [Business Insider, 3/10/17]
    • “Therefore my previous statements to CBS that I had contact with NO Russians is accurate with the possible exception of an innocent exchange [with Guccifer 2.0] ... before I was aware of these allegations that he may be a Russian asset.” [CBS News, 3/13/17]  
    • “I reiterate again, I have had no contacts or collusions with the Russians. And my exchange with Guccifer 2, based on the content and the timing, most certainly does not constitute collusion. My brief exchange with him is six weeks after the hacking of the and publication of the DNC documents, which I'm accused of colluding with him on. In other words, I would need a time machine in order to collude.” [ABC, This Week, 3/26/17]
    • “To be clear, I have never represented any Russian clients, have never been to Russia, and never had any communication with any Russians or individuals fronting for Russians, in connection with the 2016 presidential election.” [House Intelligence Committee written testimony, 9/26/17]
    • “I will repeat what I have stated verbally and in print, repeatedly, over and over and over, including under oath before your soul-sister [Rep. Adam] Schiff [D-CA] and the entire House Intelligence Committee: I have NEVER had any contacts with any Russians in any way whatsoever having anything to do with my work for the Trump Campaign or any campaign or any business or professional or even personal undertaking, EVER.” [StoneColdTruth.com, 2/26/18]
    • “I never had any contact with any Russians.” [MSNBC, Meet the Press Daily, 3/6/18]

    Stone contradicted himself on whether he “communicated with Assange”

    Media Matters first documented that Stone said during the 2016 campaign that he “communicated with [Julian] Assange.” He said on August 8, 2016, regarding what an “October surprise” in the election could be: “Well, it could be any number of things. I actually have communicated with Assange. I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation but there's no telling what the October surprise may be.”

    On August 12, he repeated that he “was in communication with Julian Assange.”

    Stone has repeatedly contradicted himself about Assange, now claiming he “never communicated with Assange.” Here are just a few examples of his contradictory statements:

    • “I have not spoken to Mr. Assange. I have not met with Mr. Assange. And I never said I had. I said we communicated through an intermediary, somebody who is a mutual friend.” [CSPAN, 8/18/16]
    • “I do have a back-channel communication with Assange, because we have a good mutual friend.” [WFOR, 10/12/16]
    • “I have never said or written that I had any direct communication with Julian Assange and have always clarified in numerous interviews and speeches that my communication with WikiLeaks was through the aforementioned journalist.” [House Intelligence Committee written testimony, 9/26/17]
    • “When I spoke of a back channel to WikiLeaks in a rousing Tea Party rally in 2016, I was probably over dramatizing the role of progressive talk show host, comic, impressionist, and activist Randy Credico. … It was Randy Credico who first brought to my attention in mid-July 2016, the public claim of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange that he had significant material on the Democrats and Hillary Clinton and would publish those documents. Up until this time, I had not been paying much attention to WikiLeaks and was not following the WikiLeaks or Assange feeds on Twitter.” [StoneColdTruth.com, 3/9/18]
    • “The allegation that I met with Assange, or asked for a meeting or communicated with Assange, is provably false.” [The Washington Post, 3/13/18]
    • “What I actually said in my testimony was that I had never communicated with Assange. That is correct.” [CNN, Anderson Cooper 360, 4/6/18]

    Stone claimed “he had communicated with WikiLeaks via an ‘intermediary,’” but private messages show they “communicated directly”

    The Atlantic reported on February 27 that Stone has contradicted himself on whether he communicated directly with WikiLeaks. Reporter Natasha Bertrand wrote:

    On March 17, 2017, WikiLeaks tweeted that it had never communicated with Roger Stone, a longtime confidante and informal adviser to President Donald Trump. In his interview with the House Intelligence Committee last September, Stone, who testified under oath, told lawmakers that he had communicated with WikiLeaks via an “intermediary,” whom he identified only as a “journalist.” He declined to reveal that person’s identity to the committee, he told reporters later.

    Private Twitter messages obtained by The Atlantic show that Stone and WikiLeaks, a radical-transparency group, communicated directly on October 13, 2016—and that WikiLeaks sought to keep its channel to Stone open after Trump won the election. The existence of the secret correspondence marks yet another strange twist in the White House’s rapidly swelling Russia scandal. Stone and Trump have been friends for decades, which raises key questions about what the president knew about Stone’s interactions with Wikileaks during the campaign. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. [The Atlantic, 2/27/18]

    Stone has claimed, both before and after The Atlantic piece was published, that he “never” communicated with WikiLeaks.

    He told CNN's Andrew Kaczynski on March 27, 2017: "Since I never communicated with WikiLeaks, I guess I must be innocent of charges I knew about the hacking of Podesta's email (speculation and conjecture) and the timing or scope of their subsequent disclosures. So I am clairvoyant or just a good guesser because the limited things I did predict (Oct disclosures) all came true."

    In late May, Stone responded to a Wall Street Journal story by telling Politico: “The emails referenced [in that story] fell outside the precisely worded scope of the House Intelligence Committee request -- I had no obligation to turn them over and the content of them merely confirms my claim that I was utilizing a back channel and never communicated directly with WikiLeaks or Assange.” 

    Stone contradicted himself by claiming he “wasn’t in regular contact with members of the Trump campaign”

    Reacting to the July 13 federal indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officials, Stone’s initial instinct was to claim that he couldn’t be one of the unnamed people referenced in Mueller’s indictment because he “wasn’t in regular contact with members of the Trump campaign.”

    Stone told CNN by phone, "I don't think it is me because I wasn't in regular contact with members of the Trump campaign," although he was in contact with Donald Trump himself.

    Referring to remarks from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Friday, Stone said, “Look, Rosenstein said in his comments that they knew of no crime by US citizens. They included my exchange with Guccifer which is now public, in the indictment. And it’s benign. So I don’t know that it refers to me.”

    He added, "Based on timing, content and context, they're benign. They certainly don't provide any evidence of collaboration or collusion."

    Stone went on to closely parse the language of the indictment, arguing, "My contact with the campaign in 2016 was Donald Trump. I was not in regular contact with campaign officials."

    Stone later told CNN’s Chris Cuomo “that he ‘misunderstood the reference.’ ‘I never denied that it was me, I just didn't understand the earlier reference.’”

    Regardless of whether he’s mentioned in the indictment, Stone is contradicting himself about his contact with the Trump campaign in 2016.

    For instance, on a July 10, 2016, appearance on a radio program, Stone said: “I spoke yesterday to Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, an incredibly able fellow, an old friend of mine, former business partner of mine, in fact.” He appeared on a radio program on August 17, 2016, and said he “spoke to” Manafort about the hiring of former Breitbart.com head Steve Bannon.

    Stone also said he communicated with Trump campaign communications official Michael Caputo during the campaign, who helped arrange a meeting with Russian national "Henry Greenberg" in 2016. 

    Stone lied that subpoenaed associate “has not worked for me for three years” 

    In June, Mueller subpoenaed Stone associate Andrew Miller regarding the Russia investigation. Stone criticized the subpoena by claiming that Miller “has not worked for me for three years” and “did not work for me during the 2016 campaign, although he did fly in for the Republican National Convention to work on my scheduling." 

    Stone also said during a June 28 appearance on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle: “Andrew Miller, who hasn't worked for me since 2013, three years ago, did come and help me at the Republican National Convention for a week. … But if he didn't work for me other than at the convention, it reinforces my view that this is some kind of effort to frame me for some extraneous offense to silence me, or to get me to testify against the president.” He added: "When he worked for me, and it was three years ago, he did scheduling. He traveled with me as a wing man. He did some I.T. work. But, again, he remains a good friend of mine."

    Stone’s response is a lie. 

    In 2016 and 2017, Miller’s contact information was on press releases for Stone. On January 31, 2017, Miller appeared on a podcast and said he was “on Stone’s insurance plan.” When the host Tim Preuss asked if he’s still Stone’s “employee technically,” Miller replied: “Yeah, technically, I guess.” 

    Stone’s political organization, Committee To Restore America's Greatness, paid $9,000 to Miller’s research firm over three months (May, June, and August) in 2016 for “expense reimbursement” and “consulting,” according to Federal Election Commission records. 

    Another Stone group, Stop The Steal, also paid Miller’s firm $5,000 in “consulting fees” on October 13, 2016 -- months after the July Republican National Convention -- according to IRS records.

    “Stone has contradicted himself” on his “legal defense fund”

    In recent months, Stone has been attempting to raise money for his “legal defense fund.” But CNBC reported on May 2 that “Stone has contradicted himself on what he's paying for and how much he's projected to pay” in legal costs.

    A website for Stone’s fund claims that it’s “becoming clear that Special Counsel Robert Mueller intends to frame Roger Stone for some bogus ‘offense’ unrelated to Russian collusion, Wikileaks, or perhaps even the 2016 election.” A notice on the page states: “Contributions are not deductible for federal income tax purposes. Under the Internal Revenue Code, all contributions to the Roger Stone Legal Defense Fund are considered gifts to Roger Stone.”

  • Facebook, stop hitting yourself

    Facebook’s attempts to appease the GOP over mythical conservative censorship claims have the opposite effect. It’s time for the tech giant to push back.

    Blog ››› ››› MELISSA RYAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Facebook has a bullying problem. No, not the one you’ve heard so much about that it’s the preferred tech platform of bullies. Facebook the company is being bullied by the Republican Party. And only Facebook can put a stop to it.

    The GOP -- from Trump’s campaign manager, to the Republican National Committee chairwoman, to apparently every member of the GOP House Judiciary Committee -- continually make this claim, despite offering no data or evidence to back it up. As research from Media Matters definitively shows, there is no conservative censorship on Facebook and I strongly suspect the same is true on Twitter and Google. The tech companies know that the GOP officials aren’t being truthful when they make these claims, but instead of calling them out, they continue a public face of working with the party as honest brokers. Facebook has gone above and beyond to address the GOP’s faux concerns, creating an anti-conservative bias review led by lobbyist and former Republican Sen. Jon Kyl and his firm.

    Yesterday, the GOP-controlled House Judiciary Committee held a second hearing devoted to supposed anti-conservative bias on the tech platforms. Unlike the first hearing, which the tech companies sat out, Facebook, Google, and Twitter all sent representatives to testify. Republicans repeatedly made the same false claims about anti-conservative bias on tech platforms. Democrats on the committee came out in force, calling their Republican colleagues out for their evidence-free claims. But the tech companies refused to stand up for themselves. As I watched the hearing, I wondered why the tech platforms had even bothered to show up. If you’re not going to stand up to the schoolyard bully, why show up at the playground at all?

    Key hearing highlights

    Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) highlighted the repercussions of Facebook’s bowing to conservative pressure over the last two years. He pressed Facebook, in particular, on its decision to fire its human editors who reviewed content for its Trending Topics section after conservative leaders complained in 2016 that the company was biased against conservative publishers.

    Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) pressed Facebook about it hiring Kyl to lead the review of supposed anti-conservative bias and asked if the tech giant had “engaged any former Democratic members of the House or the Senate to participate in this exercise.” Facebook’s representative responded that “we do have conversations on both sides of the aisle” and pointed to a civil rights audit the company has also started -- implying that civil rights are a partisan issue. Facebook’s representative dodged a question about Kyl’s also acting as the “sherpa” for the White House to steer President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh through the Senate confirmation process. Jeffries also asked the Facebook representative that since it has engaged a “right-wing conservative-leaning organization” among other nonpartisan outlets for its fact-checking initiative, whether Facebook has engaged any “left-leaning progressive” outlets for the program. The company’s representative dodged the question.

    Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), whose district includes the city of Parkland, pressed Facebook and Google on the platforms’ inability to protect the student survivors of the February Parkland school shooting, many of whom are still minors, from being the subject of conspiracy theories and from misinformation being spread about their personal lives, among other similar attacks. Deutch asked Google and Facebook representatives what it would take, in particular, for conspiracy theory outlet Infowars to be banned from their platforms.

    Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) also highlighted the hollowness of conservative claims of bias at the tech platforms.

    To give you a flavor of what the other side brought to the table, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) asked Facebook about claims made by Jim Hoft of the highly disreputable conspiracy theory site Gateway Pundit, that Facebook traffic to his website has decreased by 54 percent since 2016.

    As Verge’s Casey Newton tweeted while referring to our study that debunked claims of conservative censorship on Facebook,“the most important fact to keep in mind” regarding the hearing is that conservative content performs really well on Facebook. Republicans should be more than happy with the engagement they’re seeing.

    But this hysteria about anti-conservative bias isn’t about the truth. Republicans continue to harp on the myth because they know it will rally their base. They continue to peddle a myth and tech companies continue to let them. It’s long past time to end the charade. Facebook needs to stand up for truth and call the right-wing lie out. Objective truth isn’t a partisan issue. Tech companies must do right by their users and take a stand for it. The only way to win against a bully is to stand up to them.

    It's not clear that Facebook has gotten the message.

    This post has been updated for clarity.