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  • Anti-choice media continue circulating smear video after court orders footage removed

    Life News reposted video “without the consent or knowledge of the Center for Medical Progress”

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Graphic by Sarah Wasko

    On May 25, the discredited anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) circulated an unlisted link to a smear video on YouTube that was quickly picked up by anti-choice media. CMP was forced to remove the video from YouTube after a judge ruled that the footage violated an order barring its release, originally issued to protect abortion providers from threats and harassment. In response, anti-abortion media outlets that had previously promoted the footage re-posted the video and doubled down on spreading it -- in spite of the court order -- claiming YouTube had engaged in "censorship" and urging followers to watch it.

    CMP founder David Daleiden is the subject of multiple legal actions for his role in producing deceptively edited smear videos attacking Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation (NAF). After CMP began releasing videos in 2015, the FBI issued an intelligence assessment that warned of an uptick in violence against abortion providers and clinics -- a warning that was tragically borne out in November 2015 when Robert Dear allegedly killed three people and injured several more at a Colorado Planned Parenthood center.

    As a result of these risks, federal Judge William Orrick issued a preliminary injunction against the release of any footage depicting NAF members or meetings, writing, “It is not speculative to expect that harassment, threats, and violent acts will continue to rise if defendants [CMP] were to release NAF materials.” 

    Typically, CMP videos have been posted on the organization’s YouTube page and announced with a press release on its website. On May 25, however, neither Daleiden nor CMP acknowledged that there was a new video on YouTube. Instead, anti-choice media outlets and organizations circulated a link to an unlisted YouTube video and promoted it widely. By later that evening, The Associated Press had reported that Orrick was considering holding Daleiden in contempt for releasing the unlisted video and an unlisted playlist of other footage involving NAF members; he ultimately ordered that both be removed from YouTube.  

    Nevertheless, by the morning of May 26, anti-choice media began drawing attention to the video’s removal and, in some instances, reposting it in full.

    For example, the Susan B. Anthony List’s (SBA List) communication director, Mallory Quigley appeared on the Eternal World Television News’ radio program Morning Glory to discuss the removed video and direct listeners to where they could still view the footage on SBA List’s Facebook page. Shortly after, SBA List retweeted several messages from Morning Glory co-host Gloria Purvis declaring that anti-choice advocates “won’t be quiet” about the video and posted a link to view the full footage.

    The link posted by SBA List was then shared by the anti-abortion organization Students for Life of America -- along with a message that accused Planned Parenthood and NAF of trying to hide “illegal activity” by getting the YouTube video removed.

    LifeSite News published an article explaining that it had “saved a copy of the video” and was posting it on its website “without the consent or knowledge of the Center for Medical Progress, David Daleiden, or his attorneys.”

    Anti-choice violence is a serious issue, the consequences of which are often left out of cable news conversations about abortion or reproductive rights. In 2017, NAF released a report noting a disturbing trend of escalating threats and harassment against abortion providers the previous year. According to NAF, in 2016, there was “an increase in a wide range of intimidation tactics meant to disrupt the provision of health care at facilities, including vandalism, picketing, obstruction, invasion, trespassing, burglary, stalking, assault and battery, and bomb threats” as well as “an escalation in hate speech and internet harassment, which intensified following the election in November.”

    Although anti-abortion groups complained about the “censorship” of removing the unlisted CMP video, their efforts to initially spread and continually promote it -- in spite of a court order -- demonstrate the dangers of the anti-choice media ecosystem: It is a self-actualizing echochamber for misinformation and targeted harassment of abortion providers.

  • Another low for Roger Stone: Seth Rich’s “parents should be charged with obstruction”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Roger Stone, who has a long history of pushing smears and toxic rhetoric, is now calling for the parents of late Democratic staffer Seth Rich to be charged with obstructing the investigation into their son’s death.

    Stone is a longtime adviser and ally of President Donald Trump who regularly spouts violent, racist, and sexist rhetoric. He’s also a discredited researcher who has pushed fringe conspiracy theories about 9/11 and the Bush and Clinton families.

    Seth Rich was a staffer for the Democratic National Committee when he was shot and killed in July 2016 in Washington, D.C. His unsolved murder has prompted numerous conspiracy theories from conservative media figures such as Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, and Newt Gingrich. (Hannity’s smears have motivated advertisers to pull ads from his program.)

    Rich’s family has pleaded with conservative media to stop peddling “discredited conspiracy theories” about their son’s death and said the right-wing media’s rhetoric has "perpetuate[d] our nightmare."

    That matters little to Stone, who is now casting doubts on the parents’ motives and saying they “should be charged with obstruction.”

    Stone told the Miami New Times that Seth Rich’s “parents should be charged with obstruction":

    But Hannity isn't the only media force still pushing the almost certainly bogus Seth Rich-WikiLeaks claims. South Florida's Roger Stone continues to give the conspiracy theories heavy play through his show on InfoWars, his social media accounts, and on his own site, the Stone Zone. Doesn't he feel any need to back down given the rumors' widespread debunking and the Rich family's requests to stop?

    "Their right to privacy is important, but not as important as the public's right to the truth," Stone says in a text message to New Times. "Frankly, at this point, the parents should be charged with obstruction."

    He previously claimed in an error-riddled rant on his weekly radio program that the parents are engaging in “suspicious” behavior:

    You have a number of interesting factors here. First of all, there’s the change in the story of Seth Rich’s parents. Initially they themselves denied that this was a robbery. Now suddenly they’re being represented by a crisis communications consultant paid for by the Democratic National Committee. To say the least, that is suspicious.

    He also wrote on his website that “people who should want that truth revealed should be Mr. Rich’s loving parents themselves. Their lack of interest in this question only makes the events surrounding this investigation smell worse.”     

    Stone accused the Clintons of murdering Rich shortly after his death, tweeting: “Four more dead bodies in the Clinton's wake. Coincidence? I think not.”

  • When violence against the press becomes acceptable

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On Wednesday night, as news broke that Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs had been physically attacked by Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte after Jacobs asked him his position on the Republican health care bill, the conservative movement’s pro-Trump voices rallied to Gianforte’s rescue. This moral cowardice has become commonplace for commentators who have spent so much time immersed in the battle to defend the president and vilify the press at all costs that they are apparently incapable of ethical seriousness.

    Faced with a conservative politician who had -- in full view of a Fox News camera crew -- grabbed a reporter and slammed him to the ground, then lied about the incident through a spokesperson, these pundits backed the politician. Their reactions ranged from efforts to undermine the stories of the reporter and the witnesses, to declarations that it looked bad but Jacobs probably deserved it, to outright cheers for the assault. In doing so, they showed there are few actions that they are unwilling to excuse as long as the victims are journalists and the perpetrator a Republican.

    In some ways, the responses mimicked the right wing’s scorn for HuffPost’s Ryan Reilly and The Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery when they were arrested while reporting on protests in 2014. But the Gianforte affair represents not just the misguided use of the power of the state against journalists, but also a politician literally taking matters into his own hands because he didn't want to answer questions. If that behavior is worthy of defense, what isn’t? Where would Gianforte’s defenders draw the line?

    It comes as no surprise that these critics have sought to fend off what seems to be an obvious conclusion to draw from the events -- that they are the result of President Donald Trump’s efforts to delegitimize the press. For if journalists are, as the president says, the “enemy of the American people,” are they not worthy of violence as well as scorn? Or, at least, are those who do respond with violence not worthy of defense?

    Press freedom advocates warned of the dangers of a soft authoritarian like Trump becoming president. And indeed, the first months of the Trump administration have featured a wave of these cases. From an Alaska reporter who says he was slapped by a Republican legislator to a West Virginia reporter arrested while trying to ask questions of a member of the Trump cabinet to a CQ Roll Call scribe who was manhandled by security guards while trying to ask questions of FCC commissioners, government agents are becoming increasingly comfortable responding to the press with force.

    In this environment, as pro-Trump conservatives demonstrate their willingness to support anything and everything the president does without question, it becomes unsurprising that they might also be willing to look away when a politician physically attacks a reporter. This feeling is by no means universal -- many conservatives have been willing to criticize both the president and Gianforte for their attacks on the press. But the Trumpists are ascendant: They have the largest audiences and the most powerful media posts, and their man is in the White House.

    This support for the use of force against journalists is horrifying, but it is not new to the U.S. conservative movement. Trump-style invective against the press has been a staple of modern conservative commentary since at least former Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ)’s 1964 run for the White House. But before conservative activists at the Republican National Convention jeered at journalists who they believed had taken sides in the struggle for civil rights, segregationist mobs assaulted and even murdered reporters covering integration efforts.

    The faces change, but the plan remains the same: delegitimization by dehumanization. By convincing themselves and their followers that journalists are something other than citizens who deserve the scrupulous protection of the law and human beings who deserve respect, conservative leaders seek to limit the impact of damaging stories and step in as information gatekeepers for their supporters.

    This is not a failure of “our politics,” as some mainstream journalists have claimed. When a Democratic president says that journalists are vital to the democratic process but could at times do better, and his Republican successor denounces individual reporters from his rally podium to the delight of his jeering audience, it is nonsense to throw up one’s hands and declare oneself under attack from both sides.

    The conservative movement is suffering from a unique and acute defect. And if physically attacking a reporter is now considered acceptable, where will this anti-press mania end?

  • Before Ben Jacobs, there was Jorge Ramos

    Assaults on reporters are too frequent in the Trump era; the Ramos example shows what can come next

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Journalists reacted in disbelief after reports surfaced that Greg Gianforte, a Republican candidate for Montana’s House seat, allegedly “body-slammed” and punched Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs after he asked Gianforte a question. This incident is sadly just the latest in a string of increasingly hostile attacks on the press that President Donald Trump has encouraged both as candidate and president. An earlier confrontation Trump had with Univision and Fusion reporter Jorge Ramos serves as a warning about what can come next.

    Gianforte’s alleged assault on Jacobs has spurred a national outcry from journalists. Many are blaming Trump for encouraging “fear and anger and resentment” toward the press. And the altercation itself is not without precedent. Since Trump declared his candicacy and made his hostility to the press a central part of his persona, while covering political events (many Trump-related), members of the media have been reportedly choked, slammed to the groundpunched, shovedarrested, pinned, slapped, and dragged down.

    In August 2015, Jorge Ramos was another of these examples, when he was forcibly removed from a news conference after pressing candidate Trump on his proposals to build a physical wall across the southern border of the United States and to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. Trump told Ramos to “go back to Univision” and claimed that Ramos was removed because he “stood up and started screaming” and later commented, “He's obviously a very emotional person.” Ramos was later granted re-entry into the news conference and was able to ask multiple questions. At the end of their exchange, Trump reminded Ramos that he was suing Univision and that Ramos was part of the lawsuit.

    Later, Ramos was harassed by an unidentified man who told him, “Get out of my country.” In response to the confrontation, Ramos commented, “It’s the first time in my life anywhere in the world in which I’ve been escorted out of a press conference.”

    But what happened next was another first. As the campaign continued, Trump refused every single one of Ramos’ requests for an interview, despite his prominence in both English and Spanish-language news media -- though he did solicit a donation from Ramos and sent him a bumper sticker -- and blacklisted Univision along with nearly every other Spanish-language outlet. Ultimately, Trump did only two interviews with Spanish-language media throughout the 16 months of his presidential campaign.

    Just as right-wing media rushed to defend Gianforte after his assault of Jacobs, conservatives subsequently attacked Ramos, with the conservative Media Research Center even launching an (unsuccessful) pressure campaign for him to resign.

    During the campaign, Spanish-language outlets and those focused on Latin American affairs didn’t hesitate to compare Trump’s antagonism toward the press to that of Latin American dictators and warn of the dangers that would come with Trump’s war on the press. This incident is just the latest evidence that Trump’s antipathy to a free press is not only becoming normalized but is even spreading.

    The outrageous assault on Jacobs is a reminder that when journalists are dehumanized they become targets for political violence. What happened to Ramos is a reminder that once the actual reporters are dehumanized, aggressively blacklisting the media is an easy next step. 

  • Everyone but Fox & Friends reported that the FBI is looking at Jared Kushner in the Russia probe

    Fox's alternate reality on the Trump/Russia investigation continues

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News' Fox & Friends was the only morning show on May 26 not to report that Jared Kushner, senior adviser and son-in-law to President Donald Trump, has become part of the FBI's investivation into Russian influence in the 2016 election and related matters. According to a May 25 report by The Washington Post, "Kushner, who held meetings in December with the Russian ambassador and a banker from Moscow, is being investigated because of the extent and nature of his interactions with the Russians." The Post report also noted that "The Post has not been told that Kushner is a target — or the central focus — of the investigation, and he has not been accused of any wrongdoing."

    Fox has consistently tried to ignore, mislead, downplay, distract, and create an alternate reality around the FBI's probe. One Fox host called the story "a boring scandal ... with no sex, with no money, with no dead bodies," and Fox & Friends, whose coverage has been nothing short of propaganda, recently complained that Trump and Russia are "all we talk about every morning" and that "it would be one thing if there was some 'there' there."

    From CNN's New Day:

    From MSNBC's Morning Joe:

    From ABC's Good Morning America:

    From CBS This Morning:

    From NBC's Today:

  • 75 things to know about Sean Hannity

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    Media Matters

    Fox host Sean Hannity, a professional propagandist for President Donald Trump, also has a history of bigotry, sexism, and pushing conspiracy theories. Below is a quick tour through Hannity’s career:

    1. Hannity was fired from his first radio job after saying that gay people are prone to disease because they consume each other's feces during sex.

    2. After outlets banned selling the Confederate flag, Hannity demanded that they also stop selling rap music.

    3. Hannity promised that he would be waterboarded for charity but has never followed through. He also slammed a football into his desk, screaming, “Imagine this is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's head. Dunk it in water so we can save American lives."

    4. Hannity defended a killer convicted of multiple counts of premeditated first-degree and second-degree murder. He also has lauded Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman.

    5. Hannity used footage from a Glenn Beck rally to make a Michele Bachmann rally look bigger than it actually was.

    6. Hannity lied about Michelle Obama’s senior thesis in order to portray her as a radical.

    7. Hannity praised conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who claims that the 9/11 terror attacks and the Sandy Hook massacre were committed by the U.S. government, telling him he was doing a “great job.”

    8. Hannity’s source for anti-Clinton information was a former editor of the Weekly World News who frequently wrote about Bigfoot and aliens. Hannity also has a bizarre fascination with Hillary Clinton’s underwear.

    9. Hannity accused Black Lives Matter of advocating for cop-killing and compared the movement to the KKK.

    10. Hannity agreed with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision constituted “some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history.”

    11. Hannity said that only idiots refer to “climate change” -- he just calls it the weather.

    12. Hannity defended Donald Trump’s racist attacks on a federal judge overseeing the Trump University case.

    13. Hannity wanted to make sure that parents can teach kids that “being gay is not normal.”

    14. Hannity got interested in the birther conspiracy about Obama right around the same time that Trump did. Hannity later offered to pay for the Obamas to fly to Kenya if they would never come back.

    15. Hannity appeared in an actual Donald Trump campaign ad. During a debate, Trump demanded that Americans call Sean Hannity to verify the then-candidate’s Iraq War lie.

    16. Cable news hosts surveyed about their colleagues deemed Hannity the worst of cable news hosts, which made him furious. Later, when a Wall Street Journal editor called him “Fox News’ dumbest anchor,” Hannity had a late-night meltdown on Twitter.

    17. During one of their many interviews, Hannity fed Trump a lie about Syrian refugees from a hoax website. Trump then began repeating it at campaign events.

    18. Hannity declared the probe into Russian hacking during the 2016 election a “liberal media fake news story.”

    19. Discredited pundit Dick Morris gave Republican donors a tour of Hannity’s studio, and they discussed politics with Hannity in his green room.

    20. Hannity speculated that Colin Kaepernick protested the national anthem because “he might have converted to Islam.”

    21. Hannity also denied that Trump had been hostile to non-white voters.

    22. VICE mocked Hannity’s martial arts skills and described Hannity as “the kind of bro who talks up his street fighting skills on Twitter.”

    23. Hannity said that John Legend -- who won an Academy Award for his song in the historical drama Selma -- “doesn’t know anything” about voting rights.

    24. After Seth Rich’s family pleaded with Fox to stop pushing a conspiracy theory about his murder, Hannity continued hammering the issue, seemingly to distract from an investigation of Trump and his campaign’s ties to Russia.

    25. Hannity laughably said police officers won’t bother black Americans if they’re not “part of a gang.”

    26. Hannity asked if affirmative action is as “equally wrong” as racial discrimination.

    27. Hannity justified Trump’s attack on a Muslim Gold Star family during the 2016 election and actually asked Trump during an interview why the family was targeting him.

    28. After Trump used the term “anchor baby” in a political ad, Hannity defended using the slur to describe the American citizen children of undocumented immigrants. He claimed there was “no other term to use,” apparently forgetting the term “American citizen.”

    29. Hannity smeared black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. as racist by distorting a 1994 interview he gave on C-SPAN. He missed the fact that Gate’s comments were about an event in 1959.

    30. Hannity repeatedly employed anti-Muslim smears against Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), including saying that Ellison taking the oath of office on the Quran was akin to using “Hitler’s Mein Kampf, which is the Nazi bible.”

    31. Hannity falsely accused a former Obama administration official of concealing a statutory rape from two decades previous.

    32. Hannity baselessly claimed a different former Obama administration official wanted to “force sterilizations” on Americans.

    33. Hannity pushed the “death panels” smear of Obamacare in a book.

    34. Hannity joined other conspiracy theorists pushing baseless claims about Hillary Clinton’s health during the 2016 presidential election, specifically saying that she was having “seizures.”

    35. Hannity said that a 2006 Democratic midterm election victory could be a “victory for the terrorists.”

    36. Hannity attacked Obama for putting “fancy” Dijon mustard on his food. Seriously.

    37. Hannity criticized Obama’s children for going to the Bahamas and Idaho during spring break, complaining about the cost to taxpayers, yet years later he denied he had ever criticized them. He has yet to criticize Trump or his family for any of their travels or for the fact that Melania and Barron Trump live in New York.

    38. Hannity lauded Trump’s use of a teleprompter during the 2016 campaign, after spending years attacking Obama for using a teleprompter.

    39. Hannity asked WikiLeaks to back up his baseless assertion that the CIA framed the Russian government for 2016 election interference.

    40. Hannity urged Facebook to show live video of violence and murder so people could “understand the nature of evil.” He defended this call by saying that kids have already seen violence given “the games” they play.

    41. Hannity urged Trump to arrest 46 U.S. attorneys after he dismissed them.

    42. Hannity claimed that Obama’s campaign database is proof of “a shadow government” and that it demonstrates that Hannity's “not the great conspiracy theorist that some people may think I am.”

    43. Hannity warned his viewers that the “globalist establishment” is “in bed with the Republican establishment” and said it was “reminiscent of former Soviet Union propaganda and mind control.” (Remember when he said he wasn’t a conspiracy theorist?)

    44. Hannity claimed that “everything that conspiracy theorists have said over the years” is “true.” He added that “it’s a media assault on your mind.”

    45. Hannity suggested that former Bill Clinton aide Vince Foster’s suicide was a “massive coverup” and that the Clintons may have been involved.

    46. Hannity said in 2008 that “demoniz[ing]” Hillary Clinton is “my job.”

    47. Hannity refused to rebuke Trump’s false claim, originating from tabloid The National Enquirer, that Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) father was involved with John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Hannity has said the Enquirer “gets a lot of things right.”

    48. Hannity falsely claimed that Obama “is Bill Ayers” and “is Reverend Wright.”

    49. Hannity criticized a women’s sexual health study by claiming female students “seem to be the only ones getting stimulated.” Ew.

    50. To defend Trump's decision to fire then-FBI Director James Comey, Hannity invoked a dubious claim originating from the “alt-right” that Comey could have been implicated in leaking classified information.

    51. Hannity defended Glenn Beck’s claim that Obama is “a racist.”

    52. Hannity attacked the judges who ruled against Trump’s Muslim ban, claiming they put Americans’ lives “literally in jeopardy.”

    53. Hannity lauded rancher Cliven Bundy’s refusal to comply with the federal government’s demand that he pay grazing fees for using public land, with Bundy calling Hannity a “hero.”

    54. Hannity completely flipped his views on WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, going from calling for his arrest to claiming he had “done a lot of good” after he targeted Clinton during the 2016 election.

    55. Hannity called Hillary Clinton’s laugh “frightening.”

    56. Hannity falsely claimed that the killing of Osama Bin Laden was “thanks to George Bush,” even though the operation was ordered by Obama.

    57. Hannity has repeatedly attacked women getting birth control, saying, “I won’t have sex, but I’ll be paying for the birth control, not fair.”

    58. Hannity refused to accept a T-shirt from firefighters because they supported Obama.

    59. Hannity pushed the misleading claim that 47 percent of Americans don’t pay taxes well before Mitt Romney did.

    60. Hannity attacked people on food stamps for having an “entitlement mindset.”

    61. Hannity defended Augusta National Golf Club’s men-only policy by comparing it to a “girls night out.”

    62. Hannity has told poor people to “quit drinking soda and drink water” and suggested you “can survive off” of only rice and beans.

    63. Hannity defended Rush Limbaugh’s attack on Sandra Fluke by saying Limbaugh was just “trying to be funny.”

    64. Hannity in 2012 lauded Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) as “modern day Paul Reveres” for claiming the Muslim Brotherhood was infiltrating the government.

    65. Hannity argued in 2012 that Obama supporters would defend Obama if he was “robbing a bank and shooting all the tellers.”

    66. Hannity asked if Obama compared himself to Trayvon Martin because “he smoked pot and he did a little blow.”

    67. Hannity attacked California for enacting a law protecting transgender students, saying, “What do we do with the 7-year-old girl that goes into the locker room and there's the 14-year-old boy naked in the girls' locker room because that's where he chooses to be?"

    68. Hannity has repeatedly attacked Pope Francis, saying he is “against capitalism” and laughably suggested he is “not really in a position … to lecture anybody on what it means to be good Christians.”

    69. Hannity in 2013 claimed that Obama on World AIDS Day discussed AIDS in order to “change the topic” from the Affordable Care Act.

    70. Hannity attacked the Transportation Security Administration for making an animated video explaining the airport screening process for children, calling it “indoctrination.”

    71. Hannity defended Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson when he called homosexuality sinful and similar to bestiality, saying his comments reflect “old-fashioned traditional Christian sentiment and values.”

    72. Hannity mocked Obama for wearing a bicycle helmet while bicycling, calling it “embarrassing.”

    73. Hannity said that because he lived in New York, he knew “what it’s like to live under communism.”

    74. Hannity predicted that New York City would become “a mess” because the city’s mayor wanted to close public schools during certain Muslim holidays.

    75. Hannity questioned how the 2012 Benghazi attacks were any different from Watergate, saying, “Four Americans weren’t abandoned to be murdered in Watergate.”

    BONUS: Hannity was described by the website Wonkette as “the dumbest motherfucker on planet Earth.”

  • Sinclair owned station in Montana won't air recording of Gianforte assault

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Local Montana station KECI has not aired the audio recording of Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte’s alleged assault on Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs. The station is owned by Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the country’s largest operator of local television stations.

    HuffPost first reported the lack of coverage from KECI on May 25 following widespread condemnation of Gianforte’s actions. KECI belongs to Sinclair Broadcasting Group, a pro-GOP media conglomerate that has a long history of relying exclusively on conservative leaning reporting and commentary. Sinclair recently entered into an agreement to purchase Tribune Media Group, which owns 42 television stations in 33 markets. Sinclair’s reporting has heavily favored Donald Trump and recently hired one of his former aides as a political analyst. From the May 25 HuffPost report:

    If Montana residents tuned into the local news Wednesday night on NBC affiliate KECI, they wouldn’t have heard an audio recording of Republican House candidate Greg Gianforte attacking Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, even as it got widespread airplay on national television and online.

    “NBC Montana takes pride in reporting only verifiable facts from independent, reliable sources, officials and documents, regardless of what is reported by other media outlets,” anchor Laurel Staples explained to the 10 p.m. audience. (A similar statement appeared in KECI’s online reports).

    Earlier that evening, The Guardian posted a recording in which Jacobs is heard asking Gianforte a question about health care policy right before the candidate snaps. Jacobs’ recording, which contradicted claims by Gianforte’s campaign that the “liberal journalist” was the aggressor, quickly became a key part of the unfolding story.

    Before the night was over, Gianforte ― squaring off Thursday against Democrat Rob Quist in a special House election ― had been charged with misdemeanor assault.

    KECI’s coverage ― or lack thereof ― drew attention on Twitter in part because the station was recently bought by Sinclair Broadcast Group, which has a history of boosting Republican candidates. The conservative-leaning media company owns 173 outlets nationwide and is poised to add dozens.

  • Hannity once said it would be “reckless and irresponsible to suggest … the DNC had anything to do with” Seth Rich’s murder

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In August of 2016, Sean Hannity on his radio show said “it would be reckless and irresponsible to suggest the Clintons or the DNC had anything to do with” the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich. Since then, however, Hannity has been the most prominent driver of conspiracy theories that suggest just that.

    During the August 10 edition of his radio show, Hannity brought up the fringe theories surrounding Rich’s death but repeatedly stated that he wasn’t “insinuating” Hillary Clinton or the DNC were complicit, and to do so would be “irresponsible”:

    • Hannity: “By the way, I’ll say up front, am I insinuating in any way, shape, matter, or form that Hillary Clinton or the Clinton campaign or the DNC is responsible? No.”
    • And: “I don’t want to get too deep into conspiracy theories.”
    • And finally: “It would be reckless and irresponsible to suggest the Clintons or the DNC had anything to do with it.”

    However, since then, of course, Hannity has dropped all pretense and pushed the conspiracy theory, insinuating exactly what he said would be “reckless and irresponsible" to insinuate.

    After a week of intense backlash to his recent promotion of the discredited Seth Rich conspiracies, advertisers began to back away from his Fox News show, and Hannity went on vacation.

    Before he left, one of his last public acts was to brag that “there’s nothing that I did, nothing that I said, except they don’t like my position politically,” in reference to criticism of his obsession with Rich.

    Click here to listen to the full exchange from Hannity's August 10 radio show. 

  • This is the reporting piecing together Trump and Russia

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    March 20. CNN: Then-FBI Director James Comey confirms that the agency is investigating ties between Trump campaign and Russia. In a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, then-FBI Director James Comey confirmed that the agency had an open investigation into whether there was coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia’s interference with the U.S. election.

    April 11. The Washington Post: FBI monitored communications of Trump’s campaign adviser Carter Page. Law enforcement and other U.S. officials told the Post that the FBI and the Department of Justice requested and received authorization to surveil Page’s communications because “there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia.”

    April 27. The Washington Post: The Pentagon opened an investigation to determine whether former national security adviser Michael Flynn broke the law by receiving money from foreign groups without being authorized to. The Post published a letter Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) released showing Flynn had been warned by a Defense Department lawyer about being “forbidden from receiving payments from foreign sources” without government permission. Since he failed to acquire that permission, the Pentagon informed Flynn that he was being investigated.

    May 9. The New York Times: Trump fired Comey. The administration said Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had recommended Comey’s firing based on his handling of the investigation into Secretary Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

    May 10. The New York Times: Trump received the Russian ambassador to the U.S. and the Russian foreign minister in the Oval Office. The meeting between Trump and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was closed off to the American press corps; only Russian media was allowed.

    May 11. The New York Times: Trump asked Comey to pledge loyalty to him. Sources told the Times that Comey shared with some associates that during a dinner in January, Trump demanded Comey pledge his loyalty to him, and Comey refused by saying all he could pledge was honesty. The White House denied it and Trump told NBC that he never asked that of Comey.

    May 11. NBC News: Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt he had planned to fire Comey before he received a recommendation to do so. In the televised interview, Trump also referred to Comey as a “showboat” and admitted that he had asked the former FBI director whether he was also under investigation.

    May 15. The Washington Post: Trump revealed classified information to the Russians during their Oval Office meeting. “Current and former U.S.officials” told the Post that Trump revealed “highly classified information” to Lavrov and Kislyak that had been given to the U.S. by an ally. The White House denied the report through national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who said that nothing was disclosed that wasn’t “already known publicly.”

    May 16. The Washington Post: Trump tweeted an acknowledgement of having shared classified information with Russia. In his tweets the next day, Trump undercut the White House’s narrative that the sharing had not occurred, by writing that he had “the absolute right to do so.” After Trump contradicted McMaster’s version from the day before, the national security adviser briefed the press, saying Trump’s decision to share the information was spur-of-the-moment and that Trump “wasn’t even aware of where this information came from.”

    May 16. The New York Times: Israel was the ally who provided the U.S. with the information Trump shared with the Russian officials. Current and former officials told the Times that Israel had provided the information Trump disclosed. According to the Times, the disclosure “could damage the relationship between the two countries.”

    May 16. The New York Times: Comey memo indicated Trump asked him to stop Flynn investigation. The Times reported that Comey wrote a memo after meeting Trump in February, in which he documented the president requesting him to shut down the investigation into Flynn’s ties with Russia by asking him to “let this go.” According to the Times, it’s “the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence” federal investigations into his associates and Russia.

    May 17. NPR: Former FBI Director Robert Mueller appointed special counsel of Russia investigation. The Justice Department appointed Robert Mueller, who preceded Comey as FBI director, as special counsel to lead the probe into Russia’s intervention into the 2016 elections and potential collusion with the Trump campaign.

    May 17. The New York Times: Trump knew Flynn was being investigated when he appointed him. Two sources told the Times that Flynn told Trump’s transition team “weeks before the inauguration” that he was being investigated for “secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey,” but Trump made him national security adviser nevertheless.

    May 19. The Washington Post: A current White House official is being investigated as part of the Russia probe. Sources told the Post that a current White House official is “a significant person of interest” in the federal investigation looking into the possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

    May 19. The New York Times: During the meeting with Russian officials, Trump said firing Comey eased “great pressure” from the Russia investigation. A document summarizing the May 10 meeting between Trump and Russian officials showed that Trump told Lavrov and Kislyak that firing “nut job” Comey had “taken off” the “great pressure because of Russia.”

    May 19. CNN: Russian officials bragged that their Flynn connections would allow them to influence Trump. Sources told CNN that Russian officials had bragged about their connections to Flynn as a strategic advantage that they could use to “influence Donald Trump and his team.”

    May 20. CNN: A source close to Comey said the former FBI director believes Trump tried “to influence his judgment about the Russia probe.”

    May 22. The Washington Post: Trump asked two intelligence officials to “publicly deny” collusion between his campaign and Russia. Former and current officials told the Post that Trump asked Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and Director of the National Security Agency Michael Rogers to push back against the Russia investigation and deny the “existence of any evidence of collusion.” Both officials refused and deemed the requests inappropriate.

    May 23. The New York Times: Former CIA Director Brennan “had unresolved questions” about Trump and Russia ties. During testimony to the House intel committee, Former CIA Director John Brennan said “he was concerned” by, as the Times reported, “suspicious contacts between Russian government officials and Mr. Trump’s associates.” Brennan testified that he “had unresolved questions” about “whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf.”

    May 24. The New York Times: In the summer of 2016 senior Russian officials were intercepted discussing how they would influence Trump. As reported by the New York Times, American intelligence "collected information" last year that showed senior Russian "intelligence and political" officials were focused on using Flynn and Trump's campaign manager, Paul Manafort, "to exert influence over Donald J. Trump."

    May 25. The Washington Post: The FBI is now looking at Jared Kushner in conjunction with its investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. The Post reported May 19 that the FBI’s investigation included a focus on a senior White House official but didn’t name the individual. A week later, the Post reported that, while he is not a central focus, the FBI is looking at meetings between Kushner and Russians given “the extent and nature of his interactions with the Russians.”

  • Journalism advocates are "horrified" by GOP candidate’s assault on reporter

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    A Montana Republican congressional candidate’s alleged body-slamming assault on a reporter for The Guardian the day before today’s special election is drawing harsh criticism from journalism advocates and reporters, while also causing three local newspapers to pull their endorsements of the politician.

    Greg Gianforte, the GOP candidate in the race for Montana’s lone House seat, was charged with assault Wednesday after allegedly attacking reporter Ben Jacobs of The Guardian.

    Audio of the incident indicates Jacobs was asking the candidate his view of the recent Congressional Budget Office report, released Wednesday, on the latest House Republican health care bill. The long-awaited report indicated that the plan would leave up to 14 million more people without health insurance next year and as many as 23 million uninsured by 2026.

    Apparently without provocation, Gianforte reportedly assaulted Jacobs so badly that he broke the reporter’s glasses.

    The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is among several groups that condemned the incident.

    "Public figures in Montana and throughout the U.S. should condemn the violent assault of a reporter by a congressional candidate," said Carlos Lauría, CPJ's program director and senior program coordinator for the Americas. "The role of reporters is even more important on the eve of elections. Gallatin County authorities should show that politicians will be held accountable for attacks against journalists who are merely trying to keep the public informed."

    Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, issued a statement that said, in part:

    While Mr. Gianforte’s campaign seemed to excuse his violent behavior by belittling Mr. Jacobs as a “liberal journalist,” his fellow reporters at Fox News who were on the scene have supported his account by stating that “at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte.”

    The journalists are united, and the country should be united, behind the belief that these kinds of attacks on reporters are an assault on the very core of democratic life and require the swiftest condemnation by public officials everywhere.

    Lynn Walsh, national president of the Society of Professional Journalists and the investigative executive producer at NBC 7 San Diego, called it an “attack against the rights this country was founded on.”

    “Ben was practicing his rights guaranteed in this country, freedom of the press,” she said in an interview. “To be physically harmed for doing this, the public should be outraged. Is this the direction we want to be going in? We condemn any sort of attacks, physical harm or arrests of journalists when they are doing their jobs. This was a journalist doing his job to get information to share with the public.”

    Kelly McBride, vice president at The Poynter Institute, said Jacobs was only doing his job.

    Jacobs “was politely trying to do his job,” McBride told Media Matters. “Getting a comment from this guy’s important, and this guy didn’t want to give a comment, and this is what we do as reporters -- nail public officials down on their beliefs in public policy.”

    Several of the journalism advocates also pointed to the latest incident as part of a trend of recent unacceptable violent actions against reporters, adding that President Donald Trump’s ongoing anti-press rhetoric may have been a cause.

    The CPJ statement also included this view:

    The attack on Jacobs comes less than a week after security forces at the Federal Communications Commission allegedly pinned CQ reporter John Donnelly against a wall while he tried to ask a question of the departing commissioners at the agency's headquarters in D.C., according to press reports. In a separate event, a West Virginia reporter was arrested this month as he tried to ask a question of Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price in the West Virginia state capitol.

    Bernie Lunzer, president of the News Guild-CWA, which represents Jacobs and other Guardian staffers through Local 3122, said the union is “horrified” at what appears to be a growing trend.

    “This is not an isolated incident,” Lunzer said in an interview Thursday. “We had the situation in West Virginia, the FCC incident. I think a climate has been created where people, rather than argue and debate facts, we’ve now got a situation where they target the messenger. … It is a climate where Trump has made it OK to attack reporters.”

    McBride agreed, adding that “it’s rare that it escalates to some sort of physical assault, but not surprising in the general level of disdain for reporters to do their job. Trump has definitely made it OK and popular.”

    Walsh echoed that view: “When you look at it and make an educated assumption, you tend to see these sorts of things, they do tend to come from the top down, follow what the top of their party might be doing. I think the assumption that because of the things President Trump said during the campaign and has continued to say as president I think can be contributing to some of this. We have to make sure this doesn’t become the new norm.”

    In a related move, three of Montana’s largest daily newspapers that had endorsed Gianforte pulled their support Thursday morning.

    Among them was the Billings Gazette, the state’s largest paper in terms of circulation. Its editorial board stated, in part:

    While there are still questions left unanswered about GOP House hopeful Greg Gianforte's altercation with Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, eyewitness accounts, law enforcement investigations and records are all shocking, disturbing and without precedent.

    That's why The Billings Gazette editorial board is also doing something without precedent: We're rescinding our editorial endorsement of Greg Gianforte.

    Although we're greatly troubled by this action against a member of the media who was just doing his job, to make this an issue of media intrusion or even a passionate defense of the role of a free press during an election would be to miss the point.

    If what was heard on tape and described by eye-witnesses is accurate, the incident in Bozeman is nothing short of assault. We wouldn't condone it if it happened on the street. We wouldn't condone it if it happened in a home or even a late-night bar fight. And we couldn't accept it from a man who is running to become Montana's lone Congressional representative.

    The other two papers included the Missoulian of Missoula and the Independent Record of Helena, the state capital.

    The Independent Record stated, in part:

    Democracy cannot exist without a free press, and both concepts are under attack by Republican U.S. House Candidate Greg Gianforte.

    A reporter for the Guardian newspaper called Bozeman police Wednesday night to report that Gianforte had assaulted him at a barbecue for campaign volunteers. The reporter said he was “body slammed,” and a Fox News reporter said she saw the candidate grab him by the neck, slam him to the ground and punch him.

    We cannot condone that kind of violence.

    The reporter went to the hospital, and Gianforte has been cited for misdemeanor assault. And while we may not know all of the specifics of the incident until the investigation has concluded, we know that we can no longer support Gianforte’s candidacy.

    The Missoulian’s withdrawal added:

    Greg Gianforte should not represent Montana in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Republican candidate for Congress not only lost the endorsement of this newspaper Wednesday night when, according to witnesses, he put his hands around the throat of a reporter asking him about his health care stance, threw him to the ground and punched him — he should lose the confidence of all Montanans.