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  • As the nation reels from Trump’s embrace of neo-Nazis, Fox News invites racist, anti-Semite Ted Nugent on for full hour

    Nugent in 2012: "I'm beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News’ The Specialists included racist Ted Nugent on its panel for the full hour one day after President Donald Trump praised the “very fine people” participating in a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, VA, that resulted in the murder of a woman protesting the racism and bigotry espoused by the white supremacists.

    Nugent was introduced as a “rock and roll legend” who specializes in “planting trees.” The hosts neglected to mention Nugent’s history of racism and gave him the forum to spout white supremacist talking points and give cover to the Nazis who murdered a woman by claiming “all sides” instigated violence at the rally:

    Fox News’ decision to book Nugent should embarrass everyone at the network given his history of racist comments. In January 2014, Nugent referred to Barack Obama as a “subhuman mongrel,” a slur he said before, referring to African-American rappers as “big uneducated greasy black mongrels.” In 2013, Nugent appeared with conspiracy theorist and Trump ally Alex Jones, and said African-Americans could solve “the black problem” if they put their “heart and soul into being honest, [and] law-abiding.” In 2013, Nugent defended George Zimmerman's shooting of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin by claiming Martin showed “the same mindless tendency to violence we see in black communities across America.” In 2012, Nugent wrote in The Washington Times that he was “beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War.”

  • CNN law enforcement analyst claims “the left” shares blame for Heather Heyer’s death

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    CNN law enforcement analyst Harry Houck tweeted today that “the left has to take some responsibility” for the death of anti-racism activist Heather Heyer. He also defended the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA:

    Houck had previously claimed that “antifa” (short for anti-fascists) and Black Lives Matter “started the violence” and that “haters on both the far left and far right invaded what was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration in VA yesterday.”

    He has also claimed:

    Media Matters has documented that Houck has a long history of race-baiting commentary, which includes frequently blaming victims of police brutality and describing Black Lives Matter as a “thug group.” He also regularly uses his national platform on CNN to peddle racist tropes about black criminality. He recently claimed that President Donald Trump encouraging police brutality is not "that big a deal."

    As Carlos Maza -- now with Vox -- wrote for Media Matters last year: “Despite his rhetoric, CNN continues to pay Houck as an expert, bringing his race-baiting to a national audience any time a story of over-policing or police brutality makes headlines.”

  • Cheyenne Mountain Resort cancels plans to host white nationalist VDare conference after wide criticism

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The Colorado resort that was scheduled to host a conference for the white nationalist group VDare has canceled those plans.  

    As Media Matters reported, VDare recently announced, and started taking reservations for, its April 2018 conference at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs, CO. The event was scheduled to feature “a weekend of candor, fellowship, and top-notch speakers, as we celebrate the shifting political tides and discuss the way forward for patriotic immigration reform and American national identity.”

    Those plans were canceled today by the resort, which is a part of Benchmark Resorts & Hotels. The resort emailed the following statement: “Cheyenne Mountain Resort will not be hosting the VDARE Foundation in April of next year.  We remain committed to respecting the privacy of guests at the resort.”

    VDare regularly posts white nationalist content that argues against nonwhite immigration and attacks minorities. For its conference next year, VDare had similarly scheduled speakers with a history of pushing racist, anti-immigrant, and white nationalist views. Those speakers included Breitbart.com columnist and former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), who demonized immigrants as dangerous and disloyal invaders; writer John Derbyshire, who has described himself as “a mild and tolerant” “racist” and “homophobe” and was fired from the National Review after he penned a column suggesting that white and Asian parents warn their children about the supposed threats posed by black people; and VDare leader Peter Brimelow, who has warned that nonwhite immigrants are destroying the country.

    Jason Kessler, the white supremacist who organized the recent August rally in Charlottesville, VA, has written multiple articles for VDare.

    Numerous media outlets based in Colorado covered VDare’s plans for the conference and noted the group’s white nationalist ideology. Anti-racism activists in the area organized against VDare’s plans and were scheduled to voice their opposition to the event. Colorado Springs Republican Mayor John Suthers issued a statement saying he “would encourage local businesses to be attentive to the types of events they accept and the groups that they invite to our great city” and the city wouldn’t “provide any support or resources” to the event.

    VDare had attempted to hold a conference earlier this year at Tenaya Lodge in at Yosemite National Park. The company that owns the lodge ultimately decided to cancel that booking.

  • There will be no pivot

    Journalists have been predicting Trump will change for more than a year. It isn't going to happen.

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    It’s been 17 days since retired Gen. John Kelly joined the White House amid a wave of media goodwill. As chief of staff in the place of the feckless Republican political operative Reince Priebus, the theory went, Kelly might be able to “rein in” President Donald Trump. Kelly would impose “military discipline” on a White House that had devolved into warring factions, controlling the information the president received, restoring order to the decision-making process, and curtailing Trump’s Twitter habit. “There hasn’t been much good to say about Trump in a long time,” wrote Vanity Fair’s T.A. Frank. “But recruiting Kelly suggests that he learns, very belatedly, from his mistakes, and that he’s capable of some small degree of humility.” Journalists often caveated their commentary with acknowledgments that the White House’s problem was far deeper than communications failures, and that much would depend on whether Trump was willing to listen to Kelly’s advice. But expectations for the new chief of staff were sky-high -- Frank’s piece was titled, “Will John Kelly Save Trump’s Soul?” The pivot, at long last, had arrived.

    To put it mildly, those takes haven’t aged well.

    Under Kelly’s tenure, the president offered up unhinged, improvised threats toward North Korea that suggested he was on the brink of ordering a nuclear strike. He lashed out at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for expelling U.S. diplomats, and his White House openly admitted he had helped draft his son’s deceptive response to reports that he had met with Russians during the presidential campaign. And yesterday, Trump used a press conference to all but offer open support to the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who rampaged through Charlottesville, VA, over the weekend in support of a statue honoring Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

    Kelly was present yesterday as Trump put those racists on equal footing with those who showed up to oppose them, declaring that both sides included some “very fine people” and were equally to blame for the violence that erupted. He watched with apparent despair as the president praised protesters who had carried torches while chanting, “Jews will not replace us.” He looked on as Trump did his best to shred the fabric of a nation sorely in need of healing. No American general has been so thoroughly routed since Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse.

    And yet, while the events of recent weeks are horrifying, they are not entirely surprising. Critics -- including Trump’s Democratic opponent -- warned throughout the campaign that Trump lacked the necessary temperament to be trusted with the U.S. nuclear arsenal, that he would never be able to work with Congress, that he was too closely tied to Russia, and that he was the candidate of choice for white nationalists and other deplorables. These were all known quantities; things are proceeding as we might have expected. And that leads us, inexorably, to the following conclusion.

    The pivot is not coming. There is no decision this president can make that will alter the trajectory of his administration. It’s long past time for journalists to stop predicting a change in course is imminent, or even possible.

    For more than a year, every brief moment of normalcy -- every instance in which Trump did not devolve into crude attacks on his opponents during a speech, or fired a controversial staffer, or even managed to avoid tweeting anything “controversial” for a handful of days -- has been accompanied by journalists willing to say that Trump had hit the “reset” button, that now he was finally becoming “presidential.” Inevitably, those journalists found themselves with egg on their faces in a matter of days, as Trump reverted to form and proved those moments anomalies, not the beginnings of a trend.

    I understand why reporters and commentators might be overeager to declare that change is on the way. It is uncomfortable to live in a world in which the president of the United States is an unhinged egomaniac who offers sympathy for literally the worst people in American society and lashes out at the institutions that support democratic governance. It makes sense that those whose jobs involve trying to make sense of this situation might grasp for anything that could reestablish normalcy.

    There’s also a bias in the press toward a change in storylines. Reporters strive to identify “new news,” and as such are susceptible to over-reading discrete instances as the start of a new trend. “Trump is doing something new” is a much more interesting story to tell than “Trump is doing the same thing,” and so it’s a story that gets told disproportionately to the reality.

    But the reality is, things aren’t normal because Trump is the president -- no shuffle in the White House or effort to change the message can change that. This is who he is. He rose to political prominence by questioning the legitimacy of the first black president, started his campaign with a racist rant against Mexicans, and was elected in spite of the publication of a tape in which he bragged about sexually assaulting women. He obviously cares more for his private interest than he does for public service. He values people and organizations solely on the basis of whether they support him personally. He has shown over and over again that he lacks either the intellect or the temperament to do his job. He is 71 years old -- none of this is going to change.

    This week, there were rumblings (though to some extent they have dissipated) that White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon might be on his way out, having lost the president’s favor. It would be an unalloyed positive for the despicable former chief of Breitbart.com to no longer have a job steps from the Oval Office. If that were to happen, I would expect some in the media to declare that the pivot had finally arrived. They would be wrong. As Trump said yesterday, Bannon joined his campaign late in the game. Trump was an unhinged racist before Bannon, and he’ll still be one if Bannon leaves. Anyone who claims that a Bannon removal would be the start of a real change will inevitably be quickly embarrassed.

    Instead of constantly looking for signs of the pivot, journalists should be stressing the remarkable consistency of Trump’s tenure. The administration’s throughline is chaos and hate, failure propagated by laziness and stupidity. Trump told us who he was, and he is living up to it.

  • Get ready. Things are going to get much, much worse.

    Trump's horrific media analysis shows that we're just in the beginning of the spiral

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Amid the horror of President Donald Trump’s press conference today -- his praise for the “fine people” he claimed marched among the neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, VA, over the weekend; the declaration that they had a good point in opposing the removal of statues celebrating Confederate leaders from the public square; the obvious lie that he had needed more time to get all the facts before criticizing the protesters; the cheers for the president that followed from white supremacist leaders -- came a moment of unusual clarity.

    In a mere 25 words, the president laid out everything you need to know about his view of the media and its role in public life and continued his strategy of convincing his supporters that critical journalists are all acting in bad faith, a political effort that could have dire consequences.

    Asked why he had blamed both the white supremacist protestors and the counter-protesters for Saturday’s conflagration, Trump said that he believed both sides were responsible. “I have no doubt about it,” he added, “and you don’t have any doubt about it either.” “And,” he said, gesturing for attention and raising his voice as reporters tried to interject, “if you reported it accurately, you would say it.”

    That’s the president’s media analysis in a nutshell: Any time the media’s coverage diverges from the world he describes, he just told the public, the journalists are deliberately lying to the public. There is no possibility that he might be wrong, no room for dissent. There are two types of journalists: The ones who report that what the president believes is true, and the liars.

    That’s one of the few constants to the Trump administration, and a key way he’s wrangled the support of a large faction of the conservative press, in spite of his failures and weaknesses. The media stands against me, Trump says again and again. They are the enemy. I am telling you the truth, he tells his flock. They are the liars.

    It’s an argument the president needs to make because the world Trump describes does not match the one we inhabit. On issue after issue, large and small, the president lies to us. Only by undermining anyone who provides contrary information -- the Democrats, the Republicans, the courts, the bureaucrats, and the media most of all -- can he maintain his support.

    Meanwhile, the president supports a powerful network of sycophants -- from established players like Sean Hannity, who spent last night’s show attacking the press for their criticism of the president’s earlier Charlottesville comments, and Fox & Friends, which laid the groundwork for his defense of the protestors, to rising fringe figures like Alex Jones and Jack Posobiec. All of them are willing to say that reality is whatever Trump says it is.

    It’s a dangerous path. Most people now trust the press more than they trust Trump, but he still retains the loyalty of his core supporters -- who include, of course, the sorts of people who listen to the president’s propagandists and are overjoyed to hear the president of the United States defend white supremacists and neo-Nazis. As of yet, the president has largely avoided major calamities not of his own making. What happens when one strikes -- a war, a large-scale terrorist attack, a natural disaster -- and the American people need information from the president? What happens when he tells the truth, and they don’t believe him?

    What happens when he lies again, and journalists call him out, and he says they are the real liars?

    As of yet, all we’ve lost amid Trump’s lies and hatred and filth are our dignity as a country. Things can still get much worse. And as long as Trump is president, they will.

  • White nationalists cheer Trump for assigning blame to “both sides” for Charlottesville violence

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    White nationalists applauded President Donald Trump for giving a press conference where he cast “blame on both sides” for an August 12 white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, VA, that culminated in a neo-Nazi plowing his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing activist Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

    During his August 15 remarks from Trump Tower, Trump also blamed the “alt left” for violence and defended an earlier protest held the evening of August 11 where white nationalists carried torches while shouting racist and anti-Semitic chants.

    David Duke -- a white nationalist radio host, noted anti-Semite, and former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard -- wrote on Twitter, “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa”:

    Duke was an early Trump backer and has been a strong supporter of the president and his administration. In February 2016, Trump declined to denounce Duke after being pressed several times by CNN’s Jake Tapper during an appearance on State of the Union. In other instances, Trump has denounced Duke under pressure.

    White nationalist website VDare used the presser to call Trump a “God-Emperor,” a common compliment for Trump among racists:

    James Edwards, the host of white nationalist radio show The Political Cesspool, wrote, “Progress! @realDonaldTrump now puts #Charlottesville blame at the feet of 'Alt-Left' who came in 'without a permit'":

  • “Pizzagate,” Seth Rich conspiracy theorist troll giddy after Trump retweets him

    Right-wing troll Jack Posobiec used to call himself “alt-right,” has promoted debunked conspiracy theories, participated in harassment campaigns against journalists, and habitually engages in sophomoric stunts to self-promote his platform.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump retweeted right-wing troll Jack Posobiec’s tweet to his more than 35 million followers in his ongoing effort to push alternative narratives to distract from his tepid condemnation of the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA, that included a fatal act of terrorism. Trump’s retweet shows that he has no qualms in elevating trolls whose arsenals include harassing journalists, peddling conspiracy theories and smears, and pulling absurd, attention-grabbing stunts for self-promotion. And Posobiec’s giddy reaction to Trump’s retweet demonstrates he feels validated by the presidential attention.

    In his August 14 tweet, Posobiec appeared to be accusing the media of focusing excessively on Charlottesville at the expense of covering violence in Chicago, IL, against victims he identified as African-Americans (a point he attempted to make by tweeting out local news coverage of crime in Chicago).

    Posobiec, formerly associated with the Canadian far-right outlet The Rebel, is a long-time Trump supporter who rode the coattails of the “alt-right” movement and openly identified with it in many now-deleted tweets as the movement ascended to prominence through its support of Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. Along with Mike Cernovich and other online personalities, Posobiec then attempted to rebrand himself as “new-right” when the “alt-right’s” brand became too closely-linked to outspoken white nationalist Richard Spencer (Spencer once posted an image where he appears with Posobiec in Cleveland, OH, for the Republican National Convention).

    Before earning presidential attention on social media, Posobiec took a page out of the right-wing troll playbook of using social media to his advantage. He promoted attention-grabbing stunts masquerading as activism, rode the controversies to increase his visibility and online followers, and eventually used the platform for political access and promotion of personal business endeavors (in Posobiec’s case, a self-congratulatory book about the movement that took Trump to victory).

    Posobiec’s long list of absurd, sophomoric stunts include disrupting a theater presentation of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar that he deemed as promoting political violence, filing a civil rights lawsuit over all-female screenings of Wonder Woman, and trolling a congressional press conference on net neutrality to demand that Democratic senators disavow “satanic” internet pornography.

    Like Cernovich, Posobiec justifies his stunts as activism or citizen journalism, even though his brand of journalism has included heavily pushing the “Pizzagate” narrative, a right-wing smear that falsely accused members of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign of being part of a pedophilia ring that operated out of a family-friendly Washington, DC, pizza parlor. Posobiec personally investigated the pizza parlor, and falsely declared that a gunman who commandeered the restaurant because of the ugly smear was a “false flag.” Posobiec also attended a White House press briefing with temporary press credentials in May and used the opportunity to push the debunked conspiracy theory about the death of former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich. On Twitter, he promoted a cache of hacked emails allegedly belonging to French President Emmanuel Macron during his campaign. Eventually, expert analysis of the documents Posobiec was pushing as #MacronLeaks showed that some were “not genuine” and tied the efforts to discredit Macron to users based in Russia.

    Posobiec was recently featured on an Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) list of far-right figures who, together with the white supremacist “alt-right,” use the internet to spread vitriol and harass people. While Posobiec reacted to the list with a tantrum, comparing ADL’s members to Nazis and claiming he was being targeted as a Trump supporter, he gleefully participated in an online campaign against CNN that resulted in CNN journalist Andrew Kaczynski getting harassed and receiving death threats.

    The troll’s giddy reactions to Trump elevating his profile, his subsequent attempts to pivot further away from the “alt-right” movement, and his threats to “start defamation cases” against media who label him an “alt-right” figure, weren’t the only consequences of the president’s retweet. It also showed that to push his war against the free press -- whom he has recently attacked for not praising his “additional remarks on Charlottesville” -- Trump is willing to enlist any unscrupulous figures no matter what harassment tactics and smear campaigns they habitually engage in.

  • How Sean Hannity's Charlottesville propaganda works

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    It’s been a bad few days for President Donald Trump. His approval ratings hit new lows yesterday in the wake of his widely criticized failure over the weekend to specifically denounce a violent rally of white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, VA. Perhaps because many of his supporters are white racists, the president instead blamed bigotry “on many sides”; while those supporters appreciated it, journalists and pundits from all stripes pointed out this was wildly insufficient, forcing the White House to send Trump out again yesterday afternoon to issue a subdued, paltry, but specific declaration that such groups are bad. Grasping for a familiar foe to blame for his own failures, the president tweeted Monday evening that he had learned a valuable lesson from the fracas: the “Fake News Media will never be satisfied” because journalists are “truly bad people!”

    For Trump, the “fake news media” constitutes any journalist who isn’t willing to say nice things about the president regardless of the circumstances. And so the president likely enjoyed last night’s performance from leading lickspittle Sean Hannity, whose Fox News program was largely devoted to explaining that the “destroy Trump establishment media” had unfairly attacked the blameless president. This combination of staunch defense of Trump, no matter what, with a willingness to lash out at the president’s foes characterizes the propagandistic tenor of Hannity’s broadcasts. Like any good propaganda, Hannity’s show has its heroes (Trump and the Republicans who support him) and its villains (Democrats and the media who smear them).

    Here’s his sixteen-minute opening monologue from last night’s show:

    Hannity kicked off by denouncing the “disgusting,” “despicable” actions of those with “hateful, inexcusable, racist, white supremacist views,” declaring that “there's no place in this country for these neo-Nazi, fascist, white supremacists.” But for Hannity, the white supremacists aren’t the real villain of the story -- or at least, they aren’t worthy of significant attention. They are a player to condemn so you can say you did and then move on to the real point.

    And the real point, for Hannity, is that Trump had always condemned white supremacists, and media who say otherwise just want to tear the president down.

    Hannity read Trump’s tweets and aired his comment on Saturday, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides -- on many sides.” It’s obvious that Trump had deliberately avoided saying who he had criticized -- certainly, the white supremacists noticed that. But here’s Hannity’s explanation of what happened:

    Now, all weekend long, I, like many of you, watched the media going insane, acting like they didn't know what the president was talking about. They ran with a false narrative all weekend. Oh, big story, he didn't mention the groups by name.

    Well, it couldn't be more obvious, more transparent who the president was talking about. He was standing for equal justice under the law, against racism. And the press, what did they do? They used a high-profile act of violence to bludgeon the president and conservatives politically. So predictable.

    Now, it was crystal clear what the president was talking about. But the press, they went after him anyway. And the destroy Trump establishment media -- they didn't care about the violence, seemingly, or the racial tensions they're creating or the civil unrest as much as they cared about using this tragedy as an opportunity to attack people they disagree with, and in particular, the president, to try and inflict as much damage politically as possible. You know what? Just like they have done since November 8th! That's a simple truth.

    Hannity is making his audience a propaganda sandwich: Attack the press, make excuses for Trump, attack the press again. He primes viewers by drawing a connection to them, suggesting they shared the collective experience of being betrayed by the press. Then he makes an obviously false statement to the benefit of the president: “It couldn't be more obvious, more transparent who the president was talking about.” Then he explains that the media is only doing this because they are trying to destroy the president like they have since the election.

    Hannity supports this viewpoint with lies of omission and commission.

    He carefully avoids explaining the fervent white nationalist support for President Trump; that some rally attendees were wearing “Make America Great Again” hats; that these groups expressed love for Trump administration members like chief strategist Steve Bannon; the disturbing interactions the Trump campaign had with white nationalists. Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who attended the protest, said that the Charlottesville protests were an indication that “we are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump.”

    Instead of mentioning any of that, Hannity suggests that the president has been a fervent opponent of that movement. “This is Donald Trump over the years, something the destroy Trump media will never show you, condemning Duke, white supremacists,” Hannity said, before airing a series of interview clips of Trump criticizing Duke. Three clips are from 2016 and one is from 2000, suggesting that Trump had been a consistent Duke foe.

    What’s missing, of course, is the reason why reporters were asking Trump about Duke in 2016:  Trump created an uproar last February because he repeatedly refused to disavow Duke for supporting his campaign.

    Having purportedly demonstrated to his audience that “President Trump and the people that voted for him and that support his agenda ... don't like racists,” Hannity went on the attack. First, he suggested that Democrats are the ones who “divide Americans by playing the race card every single election.” And then he ran through the greatest hits of conservative racial attacks on President Barack Obama -- his association with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, purported ties to Louis Farrakhan, his criticism of the Cambridge police officer who arrested a college professor on his own doorstep, and his support for Black Lives Matter. From there, he was off to the races, lashing out at a panoply of liberals who had made improper comments about Trump, from Mickey Rourke to Kathy Griffin to Snoop Dogg. All the while, he criticized the media for their purported double standard in not giving sufficient coverage to these supposed atrocities.

    Here’s how Hannity closed out his monologue, which began with a condemnation of white supremacists who support President Trump:

    Every two to four years, Democrats divide the country. They play identity politics. It's been a part of this playbook the Democrats used for generations.

    So it's time for the destroy Trump establishment media to start recognizing how they have a massive double standard, that they have an agenda and ideology because just like, sadly, white supremacists in Charlottesville, hatred of any kind should not be tolerated or ever given a free pass, period, whoever is involved in the hatred, like the heat we saw this weekend.

    Hannity talking to himself is not significantly different from talking to his guests. The remainder of the show featured a host of conservative pundits agreeing that Trump did nothing wrong and the real problems are caused by Democrats and the “destroy Trump establishment media.” By my count of the transcript, the show featured 15 mentions of white supremacists (many of which were declarations that Trump is not one and in fact condemns them). There were 41 mentions of the media or the press over the course of the 44-minute broadcast.

    This is what Sean Hannity’s Fox News show is like on a daily basis. It’s pure propaganda, an effort to support the president at every turn, while castigating his enemies -- particularly the press. His viewers are living in an alternate reality -- one that he’s carefully crafted to benefit Trump.

  • With Charlottesville attack, NRATV confronted with terrorism it doesn’t want to hype

    NRATV produced the infamous “clenched fist of truth” ad critics recently said called for violence against protesters

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Every weekday morning starting at 9 a.m., the National Rifle Association’s news outlet NRATV begins its broadcast with a show -- Stinchfield, hosted by Texas radio personality Grant Stinchfield -- that “brings you live news updates and interviews” and “tackles the issues the mainstream media won't.”

    On Monday it quickly became apparent that there are some topics the mainstream media will cover, but NRATV still won’t. Throughout the morning, the show completely ignored a story that had shaken the nation. On Saturday a neo-Nazi rammed his car into a crowd demonstrating against white nationalists in Charlottesville, VA, killing activist Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

    The first hourly update of Monday’s show, the first to air since Saturday’s attack, covered gun violence in Baltimore. The 10 a.m. update covered the NRA’s upcoming “concealed carry” fashion show, the 11 a.m. hour featured discussion of the Czech Republic’s gun laws, and the noon update was about a police officer mistakenly asked not to bring his firearm into his doctor’s office. The last update of the day, at 1 p.m., talked about a case where a bureaucratic error caused a New York man to have his guns temporarily confiscated.

    (Later in the day NRATV’s talk radio-style program Cam & Company touched on Charlottesville in commentary that criticized right-wing and left-wing extremists.)

    The lack of coverage of Charlottesville on Stinchfield was conspicuous given that terrorism is typically a bread-and-butter topic for the NRA program.

    Consider Stinchfield’s coverage choices on June 5, two days after terrorists affiliated with ISIS used a car to run over pedestrians on London Bridge before attacking others with knives. All five segments that day were devoted to the attack, which was hyped during each update with a “terror alert” chyron:

    Programming that day used the attack to push the NRA’s conservative agenda, including calling for the surveillance of mosques and for more British citizens to be armed. Similarly, all five updates on May 23, following the Manchester Arena bombing, were devoted to pushing NRA talking points in light of the attack.

    Stinchfield also covered the June 19 terror attack in north London where a man drove a van into a crowd of civilians outside of a mosque. But in that case Stinchfield would only call it a “maybe attack” and said that “something just seems odd” about the incident that law enforcement said targeted Muslims.

    After a gunman in Fresno, CA, killed three people in April, updates on Stinchfield repeatedly labeled the shooting terrorism despite law enforcement’s insistence that the attack wasn’t terrorism, but instead a hate crime based on anti-white sentiment.

    Beyond the clear double standard NRATV employs when making coverage decisions about terrorism, Stinchfield’s silence on Charlottesville is even more significant given that NRATV released an enormously controversial ad earlier this year that critics recently called an incitement to violence against liberal protesters.

    The ad conflated isolated incidents of property damage during anti-Trump protests with the resistance movement at large, giving viewers the false impression that protests against Trump are often violent. The spot was narrated by NRATV commentator and NRA national spokesperson Dana Loesch, a daily guest on Stinchfield, who said “the only way we save our country and our freedom is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.”

    Instead of talking about Charlottesville, renewed criticism of the ad, or what the NRA thinks about anti-racist protesters, Loesch devoted her Monday appearance to a week-old local interest story of little import.

  • STUDY: EPA chief Scott Pruitt has given more interviews to Fox than to all other major TV networks combined

    Pruitt shares the Trump administration’s preference for Fox News and right-wing media

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has appeared on Fox News twice as often as on other cable and broadcast networks combined, and he has frequently granted interviews to right-wing talk radio shows and other climate-denying outlets, Media Matters has found.

    Pruitt’s media strategy is right in line with that of his boss. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump eschewed mainstream media outlets; it's a pattern his administration has continued since the election, favoring conservative and right-wing media outlets that are friendly to President Trump's agenda. By following the same approach, Pruitt has been able to push misinformation, avoid tough questioning, and appeal to the president’s political base.

    Pruitt appeared on Fox News twice as often as he did on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC combined

    Scott Pruitt has been a guest on Fox News a total of 12 times since his confirmation. From February 17, when he was sworn in, to August 14, Pruitt made twice as many appearances on Fox News (12) as he did on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC combined (6).* With the exception of two appearances on Fox News Sunday, Pruitt rarely faced tough questions on Fox News and was able to use the network as a platform for pushing misleading talking points without rebuttal. Pruitt appeared most frequently on Fox & Friends, Trump’s favorite show, which some journalists have criticized as “state TV” and “a daily infomercial for the Trump presidency” for its sycophantic coverage of the president and his administration. Pruitt made the following appearances on Fox News:

    By comparison, Pruitt made only six appearances on the other major cable and broadcast television networks combined. From the time Pruitt took the helm at the EPA through August 14, he was a guest just six times total on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, and NBC, and he made no appearances at all on CBS. On each of these non-Fox programs, Pruitt faced questions either about whether Trump still believes climate change is a hoax or about Pruitt's own views on climate change. In response, Pruitt either avoided answering the question or repeated his “lukewarmer” stance that climate change is happening but we don’t know how much is human-caused. In all but one of these appearances, Pruitt repeated false or misleading talking points about the Paris climate agreement. Here are Pruitt's guest appearances on cable news and broadcast networks other than Fox:

    • One appearance on CNN’s The Situation Room on February 28.
    • One appearance on CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper on June 1.
    • One appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on June 6.
    • Two appearances on ABC’s This Week on March 26 and June 4.
    • One appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press on June 4.

    *Pruitt’s appearance on Meet the Press aired on both NBC and MSNBC, but for the purposes of this study, we only counted it as an NBC appearance.

    Pruitt has been a frequent guest on national right-wing talk radio shows

    Pruitt has also been a frequent guest on nationally broadcast right-wing talk radio shows since his confirmation, Media Matters found. We examined the top 10 shows listed on Talkers.com's Top Talk Audiences list, as well as numerous shows broadcast on the SiriusXM Patriot channel, and found the following:

    • Three appearances on Salem Radio Network’s The Hugh Hewitt Show on March 29, May 11, and June 2.
    • Two appearances on Fox News Radio’s Brian Kilmeade Show on April 27 and May 19.
    • One appearance on SiriusXM Patriot’s David Webb Show on April 26.
    • One appearance on SiriusXM Patriot’s Breitbart News Daily on June 5.
    • One appearance on Westwood One’s The Savage Nation on June 1.

    All of these hosts or outlets have denied climate change:

    • Hugh Hewitt has a years-long record of climate denial: He wrote in a 2011 blog post that “we don’t know” how much humans contribute to global warming, adding “if it will be harmful or if there's anything we can do about it.” Hewitt also downplayed the threat of climate change in a September 2016 episode of his show in which he said that warming might be "a real problem over 500 years."
    • Brian Kilmeade has denied climate change, both as a host on his radio show and as a co-host on Fox & Friends. On a 2013 episode of his radio show (then called Kilmeade & Friends), Kilmeade suggested that only “corrupt” climatologists accept human-caused climate change. On the same day, Kilmeade disputed on Fox & Friends that it is “settled scientific collective thought” that human activity causes climate change. 
    • On the January 12, 2017, episode of the David Webb Show, Webb cast doubt on the scientific consensus around climate change, arguing that it's not significant that the vast majority of climate scientists publishing peer-reviewed research agree on the human causes of warming: "You can have 99 percent of peer-reviewed, but it doesn’t mean that the one percent like that guy named Copernicus won’t be correct about the fact that the Earth was not flat and we were not the center of the universe.”
    • Breitbart.com has a long track record of pushing blatant climate science misinformation and attacking climate scientists and climate science, calling researchers “talentless low-lives” and “abject liars” and climate change a “hoax.” Breitbart is also a go-to outlet for fossil fuel industry-funded academics who want to get publicity for their work.
    • Michael Savage has echoed Trump’s position on climate change, calling it a “scam” and a “hoax,” and has urged the president to continue denying that humans are the cause of global warming. During his June 1 interview with Scott Pruitt, Savage repeated the denier argument that human-made climate change is disproven by samples from the Vostok ice core in Antarctica and criticized Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) for promoting “fake science.” In response, Pruitt appeared to endorse Savage’s views and floated the idea of having a "red team" of skeptical scientists debate a "blue team" of mainstream climate scientists, a proposal Pruitt pushed again a few days later on Breitbart’s radio program:
    MICHAEL SAVAGE (HOST): Please explain to me how come ancient core samples from the Antarctic show that there was climate change going on hundreds of thousands of years before man industrialized. [Whitehouse] would not have an answer for us, Mr. Pruitt. The science is fake science that they’ve been foisting upon a gullible public.
    SCOTT PRUITT: You know what’s interesting, Michael? There was a great article in The Wall Street Journal to your point, by Steven Koonin, a scientist at NYU, called “red team/blue team.” I don’t know if you saw it or not. But he proposed that we should have a red team/blue team approach with respect to CO2. We should have red team scientists and blue team scientists, in an open setting, debate, discuss, and have an open discussion about what do we know, what don’t we know, and the American people deserve truth.
    SAVAGE: Amen to that, because we’ve had no debate whatsoever. All Obama told us was 98 percent of scientists agree. So what? There was a time when 100 percent of scientists said the Earth is flat. Did that make them right?
    PRUITT: No, look, I mean the reason there’s not consensus, through policy in Washington, D.C., is because, truly, the American people don’t trust what has happened in the past several years with respect to regulatory policy and this issue.

    Pruitt’s right-wing radio appearances have extended beyond nationally broadcast shows. E&E News reported in May that Pruitt appeared on “the local morning talk radio show of a North Dakota blogger who described the Obama administration's EPA as an enemy to the well-being of his state.” ThinkProgress noted that during a “state listening tour” in North Dakota earlier this month, “Pruitt stopped by the conservative talk radio show What’s On Your Mind to share his thoughts on a number of EPA-related issues.” During that conversation, Pruitt referred to the “so-called settled science” of climate change.

    And on August 10, Pruitt appeared on a Texas radio show, Politico reported, where he said his staff will assess the "accuracy" of a major federal climate report that's been drafted by scientists from 13 agencies. “Frankly this report ought to be subjected to peer-reviewed, objective-reviewed methodology and evaluation,” he said, ignoring the fact that the report has already undergone extensive peer review. Pruitt also used his appearance on the show to cast doubt on climate science in general.

    Pruitt has given interviews to other climate-denying outlets, including online publications and cable business shows

    In addition to his June interview on Breitbart’s radio show, Pruitt granted the Breitbart website an interview in March.

    Pruitt also sat for a lengthy video interview in July with the fossil fuel-funded Daily Caller, another denialist online outlet. And he gave an interview in May to The Daily Signal, an online news outlet run by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that casts doubt on climate change.

    Besides his appearances on cable news shows, Pruitt also went on cable business shows and networks that serve as platforms for climate denial -- most notably CNBC’s Squawk Box, where he told climate-denying host Joe Kernen that he did not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming. Pruitt has also frequently given interviews on Fox Business Network, which mirrors Fox News’ denialist stance on global warming. Pruitt made the following appearances on the Fox Business Network:

    Pruitt’s courting of conservative media is “on an entirely different level” from predecessors

    Scott Waldman of E&E News reported that after “weeks of blowback” from Pruitt’s appearance on Squawk Box, the EPA chief “shifted his media appearances to friendlier venues,” a move that “allowed him to tee off on a favorite series of talking points: Obama's energy policy was ‘America second,’ energy industry innovations have reduced the U.S. carbon footprint, the so-called war on coal is now over, EPA's job is to encourage business growth in concert with the environment, and the era of punitive action against energy companies is over.” Waldman also noted that Pruitt’s “courting of conservative media is on an entirely different level” from previous EPA administrators. From Waldman’s article:

    To be sure, all administrations seek out friendly press. President Obama talked about health care on the "Between Two Ferns" comedy program with Zach Galifianakis, which Republicans criticized as undignified. And former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy granted exclusive interviews to left-leaning outlets like Mother Jones and Grist.

    But critics say Pruitt's courting of conservative media is on an entirely different level.

    […]

    Liz Purchia, a former EPA spokeswoman under the Obama administration, said it's extremely unusual to place an administrator only on partisan outlets. She noted that McCarthy regularly interacted with reporters from outlets that produced coverage EPA officials did not appreciate.

    […]

    "Only talking to far right-wing media outlets, they are only talking to a small group of Americans that regularly follow them, and they are intentionally going to reporters who will only ask them questions they want to hear and aren't speaking to the broader American people about their actions," Purchia said.

    In Mother Jones, Rebecca Leber also reported that “since taking office, Pruitt has almost exclusively relied on a small number of conservative media outlets to tell an upbeat version of his leadership at the EPA, with occasional detours into the Sunday news shows,” creating “an echo chamber cheerleading the EPA’s regulatory rollbacks, Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, and its newfound anti-science denial.”

    Leber also quoted Purchia remarking on how Pruitt’s approach to media interviews “isolates him from most Americans and instead plays to Trump’s base”:

    Liz Purchia, an Obama-era EPA communications staffer, says the EPA’s attention to right-wing audiences resembles Trump’s tactics at the White House. “They’re tightly controlling [Pruitt’s] public events and interviews, which isolates him from most Americans and instead plays to Trump’s base,” Purchia said in an email. “They’re not trying to use communications tactics to reach a broad audience.”

    Charts by Sarah Wasko

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the following terms in Nexis, iQ Media, and TVEyes to find Scott Pruitt's on-air TV appearances from the date of his swearing in as EPA Administrator on February 17 to August 14: “Pruitt,” "EPA administrator," "E.P.A. administrator," "EPA chief," "E.P.A. chief," "EPA head," "E.P.A. head," "head of the EPA," "head of the E.P.A.," "head of the Environmental Protection Agency," "Environmental Protection Agency Administrator," or "Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency." We did not count instances of networks airing Pruitt’s appearance at the White House’s June 2 press briefing.

    For radio appearances, Matters Matters searched the same terms in Veritone for the top 10 programs in Talkers.com's Top Talk Audiences list and the following programs that air on SiriusXM Patriot: Breitbart News Daily, David Webb Show, Brian Kilmeade Show, and The Wilkow Majority.