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  • Capitol Hill staff prevent journalists from reporting on health care protesters

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Capitol Hill staff blocked reporters from reporting on demonstrators who were protesting the Senate’s vote to proceed to debate on an as-yet-unknown Republican health care measure. In at least one case, a journalist said they forced him to delete his video of the protesters.

    As voting began on the measure, dozens of protesters yelled “kill the bill” and “shame” from the Senate gallery. The demonstrators were removed from the gallery and placed under arrest by Capitol Police:

    But reporters who attempted to report on the scene were denied access on the grounds that they were observing a “crime scene”:

    Reporters were told they could not take photos and had to delete any they had taken:

    And in at least one case, a journalist says he was forced to delete a video he had recorded:

    In recent weeks, Republicans have sought to curtail press access on Capitol Hill. At one point, the Senate rules committee said it would begin enforcing a rule banning reporters from filming interviews with senators unless they had been granted permission ahead of time, according to journalists. Following an uproar, Republicans backed off.

  • Fox & Friends leaves out that Obamacare mother actually benefited from the law

    Hosts also pressure Republicans and deflect blame from Trump

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    As the Senate Republicans prepared to vote on a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Fox & Friends spent the morning misleading its audience about congressional procedure heading into the vote, omitting key details in an interview with a critic of the ACA (a mother who blamed health care reform for a lack of options for her son's care), and failing to mention that the GOP sabotaged the ACA for years. The hosts also, directly and indirectly, pressured Republicans into voting for the bill while shifting blame away from President Donald Trump if it fails.

    One of the first health care segments on the July 25 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends was an interview with Marjorie Weer, a mother who was invited to the White House on July 24 to serve as an example of someone victimized by Obamacare.

    During the interview, Weer discussed her son’s disability and said the ACA has made it more difficult for her son to get care. Co-host Ainsley Earhardt, who conducted the interview, left out a few previously reported details of Weer’s story wherein her family directly benefitted from health care reform. A July 24 article in The Post and Courier pointed out that Weer and her family “benefited from the Obamacare provision that insurance companies cannot deny coverage to an individual because of a preexisting condition.” The Weer family also benefited from another provision banning “lifetime spending limits.”

    Additionally, Earhardt failed to note that cuts to Medicaid in the Republican-authored bills under consideration in Congress would cause sweeping cuts to special education programs, which would presumably be important to many families with a child who has a disability. During her Post and Courier interview, Weer admitted that her son has actually benefitted from Medicaid, which she called a “lifesaver” before endorsing efforts to “rein it in.” The Post and Courier added: "Ultimately, Weer said, she felt fairly confident that under the Senate Republican bill, preexisting conditions protections would be preserved, along with the ban on lifetime spending caps. Whether the legislation sufficiently accomplishes these goals is, in fact, subject to debate between supporters and critics."

    The topic of health care also came up when the hosts of Fox & Friends interviewed Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) later on in the program.

    In the interview, co-host Steve Doocy attempted to pressure Manchin into voting for a motion to proceed to a debate for legislation to replace the ACA by misleadingly suggesting that senators “can offer up amendments and change it to anyway you want it.” Doocy added that it appeared as if Democrats “are a party of no” because they do not support a motion to proceed. Manchin corrected Doocy, telling him, “That’s not the way it works in the real world.” Manchin pointed out that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would be able to control what amendments are in the bill and would have the power to exclude Democratic amendments.

    During a later segment, co-host Ed Henry also framed the Senate vote by laying out the current state of Obamacare, saying that the health care system was “struggling” with costs and falsely claiming, “the exchanges are falling apart.”

    Henry also brought up “the destruction of the exchanges” again when he was recapping Weer’s interview.

    Henry left out some important context. The challenges the exchanges face today are largely due to Republican sabotage at the state and federal level. As The Washington Post noted, Republicans in Congress blocked funding to build a federal exchange and urged Republican-led states to “refuse to build their own insurance marketplaces.” Additionally, Politico reported, “Congressional Republicans refused repeatedly to appropriate dedicated funds" needed for the federal government to "take at least partial responsibility for creating marketplaces serving 36 states" that “declined to create their own state insurance exchanges.” Republican stonewalling left "the Health and Human Services Department and other agencies to cobble together HealthCare.gov by redirecting funds from existing programs," according to Politico.

    Fox & Friends also spent time pressuring Republican senators, either directly or indirectly, to support the bill. In an interview with Fox contributor Newt Gingrich, Doocy suggested that if they don’t support the bill, Republicans could look like they were “fibbing” when they promised for years to repeal the ACA.

    And in an interview with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has spoken out against both the health care reform law and numerous GOP replacement plans, Doocy said that “millions of people who voted for you guys are going to be disappointed” if any Republican senators object to proceeding with debate.

    As Obamacare’s fate is uncertain for the time being, the hosts covered their bases and attempted to deflect blame from Trump if the bills under consideration in the Republican-controlled Congress fail. Earhardt asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders if Trump would “take the blame” if a repeal bill does not pass, leaving Huckabee Sanders to defend her boss and pre-emptively slam congressional Republicans.

  • Tucker Carlson teams with hate group to spread junk science about transgender kids

    American College of Pediatricians is a small and deceptively named anti-LGBTQ hate group meant to be confused with American Academy of Pediatrics

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Fox News’ Tucker Carlson hosted Dr. Michelle Cretella, president of the anti-LGBTQ hate group American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds), on his show to attack transgender children, their parents, and their doctors. During the appearance, Cretella spread anti-transgender junk science and said transgender children are “engag[ing] in magical thinking” and that treating them is “child abuse.”

    ACPeds is a small, deceptively named hate group, with only a few hundred members, meant to be confused with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) -- a 60,000-member group comprising “leaders in the professional field.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), ACPeds hides “under the veneer of its professional-sounding name and claims” in order to “defame and discredit LGBT people, often by distorting legitimate research.” ACPeds began when a “small group of anti-LGBT physicians and other healthcare professionals broke away” from AAP after it began supporting the right of same-sex couples to adopt and foster-parent children. ACPeds has been relentless in its claim that it’s dangerous for children to identify as LGBTQ; its blog has suggested that “P for pedophile” should be a part of the LGBT acronym, and the ACPeds president sent a letter to more than 14,000 school district superintendents advocating for conversion therapy and outlining the so-called “health risks” of “claim[ing] a ‘gay’ identity.” Conversion therapy is a dangerous practice that has been “rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades.”

    On the July 25 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, Cretella spread a series of anti-transgender myths and junk science, including the claim that “transgender ideology is not” “rooted in reality.” Major medical organizations, including the AAP, the American Psychological Association, and the American Medical Association, have affirmed transgender identities. Cretella also made misleading and false claims about hormone treatment for transgender kids, calling it “child abuse” and falsely claiming that “as many as 95 percent” of transgender children will “embrace” their “biological sex” if they are forced to reject their transgender identity. ThinkProgress’ Zack Ford noted that this claim is a debunked myth based on faulty research that “conflated kids who just exhibited gender nonconforming behaviors with those who actually insisted they were a different gender.”

    Cretella went on to spread the myth that puberty-blocking treatment for transgender youth is dangerous and akin to “sterilizing children.” But, as Ford wrote, there is no risk of sterilization stemming from taking puberty-suppressing treatments. This treatment delays the onset of puberty, giving transgender people the option of “the lifelong advantage of a body that matches their gender identities without the irreversible body changes of a low voice or beard growth or breasts.” Rob Garofalo, director of the Lurie Children’s Hospital’s Gender and Sex Development Program in Chicago, described the treatment as giving families “the opportunity to hit a pause button, to prevent natal puberty … until we know that that’s either the right or the wrong direction for their particular child” and puberty blockers as “generally a very safe medication.” In 2013, the Endocrine Society, the largest global organization of professionals who research and treat “conditions and diseases related to the human body’s complex system of glands and hormones,” declared that “medical intervention in transgender adolescents appears to be safe and effective.”

    According to Ford, it is “technically true that if a young person goes directly from taking puberty-suppressants to cross-sex hormones, they could risk never being able to produce children of their own, but infertility is not guaranteed.” Ford added that ACPeds fails to note that “the only way trans kids could develop fertility is to go through the puberty that they’re specifically trying to avoid” when it pushes this myth. A 2014 study showed that treatment delaying puberty for transgender adolescents “seems to boost psychological well-being for those who ultimately pursue sex reassignment” and gives them the “opportunity to develop into well-functioning young adults.” Though suppressing puberty is a “fully reversible medical intervention,” one study of adolescents being treated with puberty blockers found that all of its participants went on to begin gender reassignment.

    Carlson’s segment gave a small anti-LGBTQ hate group masquerading as a legitimate medical association a platform to spread dangerous junk science. And it wasn’t the first time Carlson has legitimized ACPeds’ extremism. On the July 14 edition of his show, Carlson used ACPeds’ hate group designation to attempt to discredit the hate group label, saying that the group was “hardly the Klan.” By failing to differentiate ACPeds from AAP, Carlson manipulated his viewers into believing that these fringe beliefs are part of mainstream medical thought.

    From the July 25 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight:

    TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): Michelle Cretella is the president of the American College of Pediatricians. She just wrote a piece in which she says, we're quoting now, "Transgender ideology has infiltrated my field and produced large scale child abuse." Cretella says doctors are encouraging parents to have their kids change genders when there is no evidence these changes are safe or even helpful. Dr. Cretella joins us now. Doctor, thanks a lot for weighing in on this. One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you is this is a field -- I'm not sure what it is -- of social science or medicine that is changing so fast that it's hard to sort of know where we are exactly. And you're in the practice of providing medicine to kids, so I wanted to get your perspective on it. What are you seeing?

    MICHELLE CRETELLA: Thank you very much, Tucker. I'm glad to be here. I think it's important to say that everyone on both sides of this issue is concerned about finding loving and helpful solutions for all children.

    CARLSON: Yes. I think that's right.

    CRETELLA: It -- honestly. We at the American College of Pediatricians, and also I have many colleagues on the left, also insist that those solutions be rooted in reality, and transgender ideology is not. Sex is hard-wired from before birth, and it cannot change. And that's why we had actually called this child abuse, because by feeding children and families these lies, children are having their normal psychological development interrupted. They're even -- they're being put on the puberty blockers, which essentially castrates them chemically, followed by surgical mutilation later on. This is -- this is child abuse. It's not health care.

    CARLSON: So, as you know, you will be, if you haven't already, be accused of committing child abuse yourself and of being cruel and unloving and not caring for these kids, of imposing a medieval theology on modern children. How do you respond?

    CRETELLA: Right, but as you said at the beginning, this is about science. We -- what is going on now with the puberty blockers, followed by cross-sex hormones, followed by surgeries, has absolutely no track record whatsoever. The loving solution for children who are -- children who are ages 3 to 10, they engage in magical thinking. They don't know the difference so easily between fantasy and reality. We need to nurture them through adolescence, through natural puberty. Our job as parents and physicians is to help children embrace their healthy bodies. And when this is done, once they get past puberty into late adolescence, as many as 95 percent will come to embrace their bodies and identify with their biological sex.

    CARLSON: So what happens -- I mean, since this is not just something we're debating as college students, but there are physicians involved who are prescribing drugs -- what do we know about the effects of heavy-duty hormones, synthetic hormones given to little kids, like long-term?

    CRETELLA: Right. Well, we don't have long-term studies, which is a major problem. Which is why physicians should not be telling parents that this is settled science and that it is safe. We do know that when puberty blockers are used appropriately in other settings, that we have observed in adults -- for example, they can be used to treat prostate cancer and some gynecologic issues in women -- that there's evidence that you can impact memory and cognitive ability in a negative way. And as far as the cross-sex hormones, if you have a young child on puberty blockers who goes directly to cross-sex or sex change hormones, they become sterile. You are sterilizing children. They can't possibly -- little children cannot possibly understand the risks of having a medication and then never being able to have children in the future.

    CARLSON: So what's the young -- I didn't know that, and there's a lot I don't know about this. Again, this is all happening so fast I don't think most people really know what's going on. But what's the youngest age at which kids are getting these kind of drugs?

    CRETELLA: The guidelines suggest that puberty blockers be given at ages 11 to 12, but I've had reports from colleagues across the country, and you can also find them in various news reports, that children as young as 9 have been put on these puberty blockers. And what it does, it arrests normal development. Puberty is not a disease. You're stopping them. It's not just a matter of sex characteristics. You're arresting brain development.

    CARLSON: No, it's not. There's a lot there.

  • Donald Trump's ideal attorney general is this random Fox News anchor

    Fox's Gregg Jarrett fits the model the president seems to be seeking

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III may be on his way out. The former senator who was one of the first converts to President Donald Trump’s cause has lost his favor after properly recusing himself over the Russia investigation. And the president isn’t shy about it -- he’s been publicly demeaning Sessions on Twitter for not prosecuting Hillary Clinton for her “crimes” and sending out incoming communications director Anthony Scaramucci to suggest that the president wants him gone.

    The possible removal of the nation’s top law enforcement officer because he has not prosecuted the president’s former political rival is deeply troubling and points to Trump’s authoritarian tendencies. But it also shows that the president is trapped in a right-wing media feedback loop.

    As has been the case with many of the president’s Twitter rages, his most recent attack on the attorney general seems to have come in response to a Fox News segment, in this case one defending the president over the Russia investigation. The president constantly consumes the network’s propagandistic defenses of his conduct. That seems to inexorably push him to behave as if the alternate reality Fox is depicting is the real one. And then Fox has to scramble to find a way to defend the new indiscretion.

    The president has come to believe the legal arguments that Fox has been making to defend him -- that he has done nothing wrong with regard to Russia, that Clinton is the true criminal, that special counsel Robert Mueller has conflicts of interest and should be fired. With Trump’s behavior already scaring off potential Sessions successors, it would be plausible -- and consistent with his TV-based rationale for recent hires -- for him to nominate as attorney general someone he has watched make those arguments on television.

    If Trump wants an attorney general who will defend every aspect of his behavior with regard to Russia while using the power of the Department of Justice to persecute his political foes, he should look no further than Fox News’ Gregg Jarrett. While it’s unlikely that Jarrett would actually be the pick, he has been providing a model for the type of behavior Trump would want from an attorney general.

    A former attorney who spent years as an anchor for COURT TV, Jarrett has been an anchor for Fox since 2002. Usually a low-profile news anchor, Jarrett has in recent days emerged as the network’s leading legal defender of the president regarding the Russia probe. Jarrett makes regular appearances on Hannity and other programs to put forward legally dubious explanations of why the Trump team’s actions have been legally acceptable while the president’s opponents and investigators have broken the law.

    Jarrett’s defenses of the president have ticked all the boxes. He’s repeatedly said that even if the president or his team colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election, they wouldn’t have broken any laws. That’s false, but as far as Trump is concerned, it’s an improvement from Sessions, who has said such collusion would be “improper and illegal.” When news broke that the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. had set up a meeting with Russians interested in influencing the election, Jarrett scoffed.

    After Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, many legal experts said it appeared to be textbook obstruction of justice. Not Jarrett, who claimed that Comey “deserved to be fired” and that “it should have happened a long time ago.” After it emerged that Trump had asked Comey to shut down the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Jarrett found a way to defend that too.

    But Trump doesn’t just want an attorney general who will defend his actions -- he wants one who will attack his enemies. Here, too, Jarrett’s spin has been exceptional. Hillary Clinton? Jarrett wants a special prosecutor to review the emails case. James Comey? Jarrett wrote that his interactions with the president showed that Comey had obstructed justice. Robert Mueller? Jarrett wrote that Mueller’s relationship with Comey is a disqualifying conflict of interest and called for his removal. Jarrett has even said that Mueller and Comey “may be acting in collusion to get the president” and called for the president to get an injunction to stop the special counsel investigation if it starts to pursue his finances.

    There are, of course, some downsides to a Jarrett pick. He has never served as a prosecutor or in public service, nor has he ever led a large bureaucracy, of course, but since when has Trump cared about typical qualifications? The bigger problem is that Sessions’ bigotry and his anti-immigrant stance have made him a beloved figure among a big chunk of Trump’s base. His efforts to punish immigrants have led to some of the administration’s few policy accomplishments. Jarrett claiming that he frequently experiences microaggressions as a white man doesn’t really rate, though his attacks on sanctuary cities are promising. And pushing through a nominee who is on the record making these claims might be too much for even Senate Republicans to stomach.

    While Jarrett probably won’t be Trump’s pick if he dynamites convention and fires Sessions, it is clear that the president expects this sort of behavior from an attorney general. Just as the obsequious support of Sean Hannity and the hosts of Fox & Friends represent Trump’s model for how journalists should behave, people like Jarrett are what he expects from a government lawyer. When all you know about the government comes from watching Fox News, Fox News becomes your model for how the government should work.

  • Variety: Sinclair adds "conservative tilt" to local news by forcing stations to run right-leaning segments

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    An article published in Variety magazine highlighted Sinclair Broadcast Group’s practice of using “must-run” commentary segments to inject “conservative tilt” into a myriad of Sinclair-owned local news stations across the United States.

    Sinclair and its affiliates have a long history of broadcasting reports and commentary that feature a distinct conservative slant, and over the last few months, Sinclair has required its stations to run commentary segments from pro-Trump personalities. If Sinclair’s recent bid to purchase Tribune Media company is successful, it will be able to foist these segments on 42 additional local stations across the country. Tribune Media employees and their union leadership have already expressed concerns about Sinclair’s tendency to pepper its news coverage with right-wing opinions. There is even speculation that the network is considering hiring Fox News spin masters Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly (who recently left Fox News amid reports of sexual harassment).

    As Variety reported, Sinclair “has drawn more and more fire from critics” who have chided the network’s policy of airing “must-run” conservative commentary segments on Sinclair-owned local news stations. The article also noted that the inclusion of former Trump strategist Boris Epshteyn’s “Bottom Line With Boris” commentary -- in which Epshteyn has thus far “unfailingly supported his ex-boss” -- in Sinclair’s “must-run” programming runs counter to the typical “down-the-middle approach” local news outlets usually take on national issues. As Media Matters President Angelo Carusone told Variety, with these segments, Sinclair is “exploiting and weaponizing the fact that people don’t expect their local news to be partisan”:

    It’s hardly surprising that Sinclair would face speculation over its plans for the future. The company is already the nation’s largest owner of TV stations, and it will grow to unprecedented size if the FCC approves the Tribune acquisition. And Sinclair has drawn more and more fire from critics — notably HBO’s John Oliver — for the increasingly conservative tilt to its local newscasts through “must-run” commentary segments and coverage decisions mandated at the corporate level.

    [...]

    Sinclair has generated controversy by mandating all of its stations run Epshteyn’s nine-times-weekly “Bottom Line With Boris” commentary segments. The former Trump strategist has unfailingly supported his ex-boss in virtually all of his two-minute segments to date: praising Trump’s “America First” trade policy, saluting his efforts to reform the Veterans Administration, crediting Trump for fueling job growth and chiding state leaders for balking at the administration’s request for voter registration data as part of its voter fraud investigation.

    [...]

    Viewers who tune in to Fox News or MSNBC likely expect to get a partisan slant on the headlines at least in some programs. But local TV news has typically had a down-the-middle approach, especially on national issues. Were Epshteyn to appear as a commentator on a cable news channel, his partisan affiliation would be identified. That’s not the case on air at Sinclair; Epshteyn’s previous work for Trump is disclosed only in the online postings of his commentaries on Sinclair station websites.

    “They’re really trying to warp the worldview and the narrative that their audience is receiving from their newscasts, and it’s being warped by a source that [the audience] would otherwise trust,” says Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America, a liberal-leaning watchdog organization that has been a vocal critic of Sinclair for years. “I think it’s exploiting and weaponizing the fact that people don’t expect their local news to be partisan.”

  • New Trump hire Anthony Scaramucci to Sean Hannity: "We were separated at birth" because I agree with you "1,000 percent"

    Scaramucci and Hannity repeatedly agree on the White House communications strategy

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a July 24 appearance on Sean Hannity’s radio show, Anthony Scaramucci, the newly-minted White House communications director, promised he would go after leakers, “find other ways” beyond traditional media outlets to “deliver information,” and confirmed that he would combat the media’s “double-standard.” This strategy mirrors the rantings from Sean Hannity on his radio program and Fox News show.

    Hunting and purging leakers in the government

    Scaramucci promises to fire "leakers" on his staff.

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Let's talk a little bit about the statement that you made here. "Any leakers are going to be shown the door," does that also include deep state leakers? Because there was one report --

    ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: So, let me -- let me rephrase that for your listeners, it's the leakers that I have control over, okay? So, I sit in the comms shop now, I report directly to the president, had a very crisp meeting with him this morning about some of the things I'd like to do, got his green light. I met with about 40 or so people in the Roosevelt Room, here in the West Wing shortly thereafter, and sort of laid out what i want to do culturally here to make people understand where I'm coming from. And so, very very binary, like I said to Jake Tapper, "You are going to leak, you are going to go outside on Pennsylvania Avenue, and you're going to sell postcards to the tourists." It's just that simple.

    HANNITY: Well, I --

    SCARAMUCCI: If you're not going to leak, you can stay here and work. You gotta make a decision.

    HANNITY: I think one of the harder things to find is gonna be the 125 leaks from within the intelligence community --

    SCARAMUCCI: Yeah.

    HANNITY: -- against the President. I mean, we had one late last week again, and this one was against Jeff Sessions, and it seems like it just never ends.

    SCARAMUCCI: Yeah, so that's a -- totally separate topic, and so unfortunately it is outside of my authority. But what I will say there is that we are going to start a process of bolstering the exposure of those as well. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 7/24/17]

    Hannity: Trump should fire everyone in the executive branch who Isn't loyal to him “because he’s got to end the leaks that are plaguing this administration.

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Let's go back to 1861, President Abraham Lincoln he created a team of rivals, a so-called team of rivals, a cabinet of rivals including adversaries that he ran against the Republican primary. While President Lincoln sought to unify his party through cabinet selections, he also executed an extensive government purge. He fired over 75 percent, nearly 1200 people. Out of 1500 bureaucrats that worked in the executive branch that President Lincoln feared could be disloyal. It's time now for President Trump to follow Abraham Lincoln's example and fire anyone and everyone who was actively working against him in government.

    [...]

    Because he’s got to end the leaks that are plaguing this administration.[Fox News, Hannity, 3/9/17]

    Circumventing traditional press to get better news coverage

    Scaramucci: “If I can’t get the help from the mainstream media,” “we’ll find other ways” to “deliver information to the American people.”

    ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: We’re going to try to keep this as transparent as we can, and as open. I don’t think we’re going to be able to fight through a lot of the mainstream media nonsense, I think they’re just going to go off the hook into the direction they’re going in, but we’ve got very sharp people here on the comms team. We’re going to reinvent the way we deliver information to the American people, and if I can’t get the help from the mainstream media, of giving the president a fair shake, we’ll find other ways to do that. On -- certainly, the president does that with his social media situation.

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): I honestly have seen a shift and a change just before you came onboard, and then we saw a lot of it this weekend, I mean -- I think the exchange we just played with you and Jake Tapper is a really good one, “Well Jake, I know you’re trying to come up with analogies on the fly, but good try, it doesn’t work here,” or Kellyanne was on CNN, and Doctor Gorka’s two appearances, Anderson Cooper and Alisyn Camerota went viral. I do think that they have gotten away with way too much, and I think there has been far too little pushback, in my humble opinion. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 7/24/17]
     

    Hannity led the charge to get Trump to abandon traditional media. Sean Hannity has devoted himself to promoting the notion that Trump should not have a press office in his White House and should use other methods of reaching out to the American people outside of the mainstream media. [Media Matters, 12/14/16]

    Scaramucci echoed Hannity’s claim that Trump’s communication strategy should combat the media’s “double standard”

    “You and I were separated at birth”: Scaramucci tells Hannity he agrees completely with his comments on combating the media’s double standard.

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): How do you combat all of -- all of this double standard at one time? Are you going to -- are you going to take these issues to the media?

    ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: Yeah, so you know you and I were separated at birth, you just happen to be Irish, right? You know that about yourself, right? So, everything you just said, you know, I 1000 percent agree with.

    But what I said from the podium on Friday was that, you know, the Navy SEALs have a great line, that the only way that you can eat an entire elephant is to take one bite at a time. So, the first thing that I’ve got to do, Sean, is I’ve got to clean up the culture here in the comms shop, and I have to stop the internecine civil warfare among the personalities and the egomaniacs.

    Once they stop shooting at each other, we can subordinate all of that to the president’s message. Once we get that under control, we can start dealing with the stuff that you’re referencing -- but I 1000 percent agree with you that we’ve got to start going in that direction. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 7/24/17]

  • MSNBC host ridiculously claims Medicaid recipients only have “paper insurance”

    Hugh Hewitt: “Medicaid is paper insurance that isn’t actually health care”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    MSNBC’s Hugh Hewitt, a right-wing radio host and Trump apologist who was bizarrely rewarded by the network last month with his own weekend show, used an appearance on the July 24 edition of MSNBC Live to push the absurd claim that Medicaid is just “paper insurance” for many recipients and “isn't actually health care.” Hewitt’s disparagement of the Medicaid program came just moments after President Donald Trump concluded an anti-Obamacare tirade at the White House, in which Trump pressured undecided Republican senators to support the GOP’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Right-wing media figures routinely criticise the Medicaid program and its recipients while promoting Republican plans to gut the program. Hewitt’s critique of the supposedly low quality of Medicaid coverage has become more prevalent among Trump-aligned pundits in recent weeks despite it having been discredited years ago. From the July 24 segment:

    ALI VELSHI (HOST): Frankly, the stuff that Donald Trump said, you and I have discussed this many times, he does say a lot of things that just aren’t true about Obamacare. He is focused on the Obamacare exchanges and the difficulties that they have had, which we have outlined on this show. They are absolutely very real, many Americans have seen their premiums go up. But carrying on about how it’s broken, and it’s all a mess, and it’s-- everything is a lie, and it’s all a failure, and the whole thing is destroyed. It’s disingenuous, and it’s not going to work for [Sen. Shelley Moore] Capito [(R-WV)], and [Sen. Lisa] Murkowski [(R-AK)], and [Sen. Susan] Collins [(R-ME)], and [Sen. Dean] Heller [(R-NV)].

    [...]

    VELSHI: More Americans benefitted from the Medicaid expansion than the Obamacare markets, that’s the part that the president never talks about.

    HUGH HEWITT: It depends on what you define as “benefitted” from Medicaid. There are a lot of people -- and I was a local health administration for a number of years -- who believe that Medicaid is paper insurance that isn’t actually health care. It does work for a lot of people, it doesn’t do anything for many people.

  • Trump voter fraud commission member Ken Blackwell has pushed fake news

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a member of President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission, has pushed fake news and false claims originating from fringe media and seems to rely at least partially on disreputable sources for news.

    On May 11, the Trump administration announced that it was forming a “bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Integrity,” and listed Blackwell as one of its members. Blackwell, a conservative columnist, a senior fellow at the anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council, and a board member of the National Rifle Association, has previously claimed that climate change concerns could lead to forced abortions, suggested gay marriage was the reason for a 2014 California mass shooting, and suggested that then-Attorney General Eric Holder was “clear[ing] the path for shariah law.” He has also lent credence to Trump’s false assertion  that there is widespread voter fraud in the United States, saying the system creates “real potential for fraud” and that there may have been fraud in the last election.

    Since he was announced as a member of Trump’s commission, Blackwell has pushed multiple false allegations leveled by fringe media. On July 17, he posted on Facebook a link to a story suggesting a connection between the Clintons and a deceased former Haitian government official. The fake news, which was first published by a fake news purveyor and was widely hyped by the fringe and pro-Trump media, has been debunked. A week later, Blackwell posted on Facebook an article from fringe pro-Trump website The Gateway Pundit, which is regularly wrong in its claims, stating that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered Robert Mueller, now special counsel on the Russia probe, to give uranium to Russia in 2009. The claim, pushed by Gateway Pundit and fake news purveyors, suggests nefarious action even though the uranium had been seized from the nation of Georgia and held in U.S. custody and was being transported to Russia for forensic analysis with authorization from the Georgian government.

    Additionally, Blackwell has repeatedly posted articles from the fringe blog Conservative Tribune, an outlet that fact-checkers have repeatedly criticized for pushing false and misleading claims. The website has also promoted far-right troll Jack Posobiec’s dubious claim that former FBI Director James Comey violated the Espionage Act by releasing the memos he wrote about his meetings with Trump before the president fired him.

  • Hate groups from across extremist ideologies are joining forces to discredit their hate group designation

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN & DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Far-right hate groups across extremist ideologies have united to attack and discredit their hate group designation by Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in an attempt to regain legitimacy and rehab their images. Many hate groups have attempted to delegitimize the SPLC’s hate group label over the years, but their efforts have dramatically ramped up in 2017 in reaction to a series of escalating events including SPLC designating anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and anti-immigrant group Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) hate groups and media outlets accurately labeling these organizations as such in their reporting.

    Who’s who, and why are they hate groups?

    Alliance Defending Freedom

    Family Research Council

    Liberty Counsel

    Federation for American Immigration Reform

    Center for Immigration Studies

    Act! for America

    Timeline

    Who’s who, and why are they hate groups?

    Alliance Defending Freedom

    The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is the largest anti-LGBTQ hate group in the nation, and, according to Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), it “specializes in supporting the recriminalization of homosexuality abroad, ending same-sex marriage, and generally making life as difficult as possible for LGBT communities in the U.S. and internationally.” ADF operates on $48 million-plus annual budget and has what it refers to as a “powerful global network” of over 3,100 ADF-trained “allied attorneys.” SPLC designated ADF a hate group because ADF’s leaders and its affiliated lawyers have “regularly demonized LGBT people, falsely linking them to pedophilia, calling them ‘evil’ and a threat to children and society, and blaming them for the ‘persecution of devout Christians.’” ADF’s influence is widespread. It has played a role in dozens of Supreme Court cases, including regarding abortion, religion, tuition tax credits, and LGBTQ issues; it has special advisory status at the United Nations; it has at least 55 affiliated lawyers serving in influential government positions at the state and federal levels; and it has infiltrated local school boards across the country.

    ADF formally supported the criminalization of sodomy in the U.S. in 2003 when it filed an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas defending state sodomy laws which called “same-sex sodomy … a distinct public health problem.” ADF has also worked to criminalize gay sex abroad, including in Jamaica, Belize, and India, and is leading the national campaign for “bathroom bills” targeting transgender youth. One ADF attorney peddled the myth that Matthew Shepard’s violent murder in 1998 was not an anti-gay hate crime. SPLC designated ADF a hate group on February 15, but it wasn’t till early June that ADF started challenging the designation, attacking Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard’s mother, for penning an op-ed about groups like ADF that “bullying LGBTQ children.” Since then, ADF and its allies have successfully pressured the nonprofit database GuideStar to reverse its decision of putting the SPLC hate group label on 46 nonprofit groups on its website. In a series of media appearances, ADF has also relentlessly attacked ABC and NBC for accurately labeling it a hate group in news reports regarding Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ speech at an ADF event.

    Family Research Council

    The Family Research Council (FRC) is another anti-LGBTQ hate group that wields significant influence in the current administration; its senior fellow, Ken Blackwell, was officially appointed to President Donald Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which critics have called a voter suppression effort. FRC President Tony Perkins embraced and endorsed Trump as a candidate during the presidential election cycle (and met with him at the White House earlier this month). And at least four people, including Blackwell, who are affiliated with FRC were a part of Trump’s transition team. FRC has a budget of tens of millions of dollars and promotes the idea “that people can and should try to change their sexual orientation” or “just not act on it.” According to SPLC’s extremist file, FRC “often makes false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science” in order to “denigrate LGBT people.” FRC’s official position is that “homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large” and “is by definition unnatural.” Former FRC Vice President Rob Schwarzwalder accused gay youth of joining the Boy Scouts of America “for predatory purposes,” and various FRC representatives and publications have repeatedly compared homosexuality to pedophilia. Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at FRC, asserted that LGBTQ youth suicide rates would drop if the teenagers were “discourage[d] from self-identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual” and urged others “not to create a positive social environment for the affirmation of homosexuality.” In a 2010 appearance on MSNBC, Sprigg also said that the United States should “outlaw gay behavior.” In 2011, the FRC called for its supporters to pray for countries that had laws criminalizing sodomy and were being pressured by the U.S. to remove them, and it suggested that homosexuality “has had a devastating impact upon Africans,” citing the AIDS crisis as an example.

    FRC has fought against its hate group designation since SPLC gave it the label in 2010. In that same year, the group launched a “Start Debating, Stop Hating” campaign in response to the label, which it called “slanderous.” FRC also took out a full-page ad in Politico as part of the campaign. After a gunman shot a security guard at FRC headquarters in 2012, Perkins blamed SPLC’s “reckless rhetoric” for the shooting and asserted that the shooter was “given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations” such as the SPLC. More recently, FRC joined other hate groups in sending a letter to GuideStar’s president demanding that he remove the hate group labels from its database and praised GuideStar when it decided to do so. FRC also led the “#SPLCexposed” hashtag campaign on Twitter, which attempted to delegitimize the hate group label and drew a number of hate groups to the campaign.

    Liberty Counsel

    Liberty Counsel is an anti-LGBTQ hate group founded by Mat Staver, former dean of Liberty University School of Law, that “shares a close affiliation with Liberty University,” according to SPLC. Staver has called LGBTQ History Month a "sexual assault on our children," repeatedly warned that the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage would trigger a revolution and civil war, and claimed nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people will result in the "death of some individuals."

    Liberty Counsel also famously represented Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis in litigation after she refused to issue marriage licenses to same and opposite-sex couples in 2015; Talking Points Memo reported that Staver “compared Davis’ plight to that of Jews in Nazi Germany” during a radio interview. Staver has also compared LGBTQ people to pedophiles, once saying that allowing gay youth and adults in the Boy Scouts will cause “all kinds of sexual molestation” and create a “playground for pedophiles to go and have all these boys as objects of their lust.” Liberty Counsel has called gay sex “harmful sexual behavior” and pushed the myth that LGBTQ people “can change.” Former Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Barber said that LGBTQ people “know intuitively that what they are doing is immoral, unnatural, and self-destructive,” adding that they have “tied their whole identity up in this sexual perversion.” Barber has also called “disease, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide … consequences” of being gay.

    Staver signed the letter that asked GuideStar to remove hate group designations and accused SPLC of using the label as part of its “aggressive political agenda.” On June 28, Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit against GuideStar, saying it and SPLC “are intent on destroying pro-family organizations,” and accused GuideStar’s CEO of “using GuideStar as a weapon to defame, harm, and promote his liberal agenda.” Liberty Counsel’s blog post on the subject also linked to the personal Twitter account of the CEO and his wife. GuideStar’s decision to remove hate group labels was reportedly in part because of “harassment and threats directed at our staff and leadership.”

    Federation for American Immigration Reform / Immigration Reform Law Institute

    The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is a lobbying hate group founded by white nationalist John Tanton. Tanton is currently editor and publisher of the quarterly journal The Social Contract, which, according to SPLC, has “claimed that multiculturalists are trying to replace ‘successful Euro-American culture’ with ‘dysfunctional Third World cultures.’" During his time at FAIR, Tanton wrote a series of memos that warned of a “Latin onslaught” and “depicted Hispanics as hyperactive breeders,” which caused many high-level conservatives to flee his orbit. FAIR has ties to a number of other extremists, including white supremacists Peter Brimelow and Jared Taylor and Holocaust denier Kevin MacDonald.

    Tanton currently sits on FAIR’s board but has retired from the limelight. He was replaced by current President Dan Stein, who frequently appears in right-wing and mainstream media to promote anti-immigrant policies and smear immigrants. In one such interview, Stein claimed that “many [immigrants] hate America, hate everything that the United States stands for.” Stein has defended Tanton and, according to SPLC, “celebrated a new ‘disdain’ in the media and among intellectuals for ‘the political agenda of those who openly attack the contributions of Western Civilization.’"

    In 2009, FAIR published a report titled “A Guide to Understanding the Tactics of the Southern Poverty Law Center in the Immigration Debate,” which smeared SPLC as a discredited entity and claimed that journalists have an unfavorable view of the organization. Since then, FAIR has attacked SPLC on Twitter. Dale Wilcox, president and general counsel of FAIR’s legal arm, the Immigration Reform Legal Institute (IRLI), signed the letter calling on GuideStar to remove its hate group labels. Wilcox also wrote an op-ed in Breitbart titled “Why the Mainstream Media Must Stop Citing ‘Anti-Hate’-Crusader Southern Poverty Law Center,” and his group has attacked GuideStar on Twitter for including the SPLC’s hate group labels.

    Center for Immigration Studies

    Tanton also founded FAIR’s sister organization, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). SPLC labeled CIS a hate group in 2017 for peddling work by discredited white nationalists and eugenicists. CIS works as the research arm of what SPLC has dubbed “the nativist lobby,” the anti-immigrant lobbying effort spearheaded by groups Tanton founded, including FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA. CIS frequently publishes skewed research meant to denigrate immigrants and promote anti-immigration policies, claiming, for example, that immigrants are taking jobs away from native-born Americans and disproportionately using welfare benefits.

    CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian has actively disputed the hate group label by defending white nationalists and eugenicist pseudoscience. In an op-ed in The Washington Post in March, Krikorian complained that the SPLC “made a hate figure of John Tanton” and downplayed a CIS contributor’s assertion that Hispanic immigrants may never “reach IQ parity with whites” as merely “contentious.” He also called the “hate group” label “an attempt to delegitimize and suppress views regarding immigration held by a large share of the American public.” Krikorian and other CIS employees have repeatedly sought to smear SPLC, and Krikorian has used his platform to attack GuideStar for using SPLC’s hate group labels.

    ACT for America

    ACT for America has transformed into “the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in America,” according to SPLC, which labels it a hate group. The group’s founder, Brigitte Gabriel, has been fearmongering that Muslim immigrants and refugees from the Middle East have transformed Europe into “Eurabia” and has declared that a practicing Muslim “cannot be a loyal citizen of the United States.” ACT often organizes conferences that convene anti-Muslim leaders and groups, including Frank Gaffney, head of hate group the Center for Security Policy. In 2008, ACT launched a campaign called Stop Shariah Now to fearmonger about Sharia “creeping” into western culture and, according to SPLC, “worked closely” with Gaffney “to push anti-Shariah legislation at the state level.”

    Gabriel has attacked SPLC as biased against conservatives, and she was also one of the hate group leaders who signed the letter blasting GuideStar for using SPLC’s hate group labels. She has also penned her own letter to GuideStar defending her group and other hate groups.

    Timeline:

    February 15: SPLC included ADF and CIS in its list of active hate groups in 2016. ADF did not immediately respond.

    March 17: The Washington Post published an op-ed by CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian, who condemned the SPLC list and wrote that the “blacklist” was “an attempt to delegitimize and suppress views regarding immigration held by a large share of the American public.”

    April 18: After more than two months, ADF issued a statement in which it responded to the SPLC designation by not responding to it: “ADF doesn't have time to respond to organizations who do nothing more than call names, create division and incite violence across the country in order to raise money."

    May 15: Judy Shepard, the mother of 22-year-old Matthew Shepard, who was killed in anti-gay homicide, wrote an op-ed in Time magazine about “multimillion-dollar ‘hate groups’” such as ADF “bullying LGBTQ children” in an attempt to ban transgender people from using the restrooms that align with their gender identity.

    May 17: The Federalist published an attack on SPLC’s hate group designation, comparing it to the “burn book” from the movie Mean Girls. The post accused SPLC of using the hate group label “to manipulate the lives of others, smear reputations, control personal relationships, and reap the spoils,” as well as calling it an attempt to “control all speech.” Numerous hate group representatives, including Krikorian, and accounts tweeted out the story. In fact, retweeting this story became one of ADF’s first official attacks on SPLC’s designation.

    June 7: Time magazine updated Shepard’s op-ed with a response from ADF defending its work and bringing up her son’s death:

    True hate is animosity toward others, and it often takes the form of violence. Sadly, Ms. Shepard knows what that is. She lost her son to senseless violence. We at ADF condemn all such manifestations of true hate. They have no place in our society. We remain steadfast in affirming basic human rights and dignity through debate, dialogue, and principled advocacy.

    June 8: Nonprofit database GuideStar flagged 46 nonprofits designated as hate groups by SPLC as such on its website.

    June 9: ADF published a full response to Shepard’s op-ed on its blog, which more forcibly attacked Shepard and accused her of “name-calling and slander” and spreading a “lie.” The post also spread myths about transgender people and said that allowing them to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity “compromises the privacy and dignity of young students who do not want to share overnight facilities, locker rooms, showers, and restrooms with the opposite sex.”

    June 21: Hate groups united to pen a letter to GuideStar asking the nonprofit to remove the hate group labels, writing that the designation is “a political weapon targeting people it deems to be its political enemies” and calling SPLC’s list of hate groups “ad hoc, partisan, and agenda-driven.” Co-signers of the letter included representatives from IRLI, FRC, Liberty Counsel, ACT for America, ADF, and numerous others.

    June 21: On the day the hate groups sent the letter to GuideStar, The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by The Weekly Standard’s Jeryl Bier attacking GuideStar and accusing the SPLC of “besmirching mainstream groups like the FRC.” Bier has appeared on FRC President Tony Perkins’ radio show. In the op-ed, Bier asserted that “SPLC’s work arguably contributes to the climate of hate it abhors” and lamented that journalists are citing SPLC’s designation.

    June 23: GuideStar removed the hate group labels from its website, citing “harassment and threats directed at our staff and leadership.” Hate groups including FAIR and FRC celebrated the decision.

    June 26: A Washington Post report on GuideStar’s reversal quoted a number of hate groups sharing talking points about the designation, including that it was linked to the shooting at FRC and “the recent shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.” The report highlighted the hate groups’ letter accusing the designation of being “partisan” and wrote that Christians “said they’d been targeted as hateful for opposing same-sex marriage.”

    June 27: Vice published a profile about ADF “stealthily seizing power in the nation's public school systems,” its “unmistakable effort to make schools hostile to queer students,” and its hate group designation. ADF refused to speak to Vice for the article.

    June 28: Politico magazine published a lengthy article questioning whether SPLC’s hate group designation is “overstepping its bounds.” The article specifically lent credibility to hate groups CIS, which the report noted has “been invited to testify before Congress more than 100 times,” and FRC, which it called “one of the country’s largest and most established Christian conservative advocacy groups.” The right-wing Media Research Center highlighted the piece on its website the same day it was published.

    June 28: Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit against GuideStar, saying it and SPLC “are intent on destroying pro-family organizations” and accused GuideStar’s CEO of “using GuideStar as a weapon to defame, harm, and promote his liberal agenda.” Liberty Counsel’s blog post on the subject also linked to the personal Twitter account of the CEO and his wife.

    July 11: Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a closed-door speech to ADF at its “Summit on Religious Liberty” in California.

    July 12: ABC and NBC reported on the fallout from Sessions’ speech to ADF and noted SPLC’s “hate group” designation for the group.

    July 13: ADF demanded a retraction and apology from ABC for its report, calling it “defamatory” and “journalistic malpractice.”

    July 13: Sessions’ speech, which the Department of Justice refused to release, was leaked to anti-LGBTQ website The Federalist. In the speech, Sessions compared the so-called battle for “religious freedom” to Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington.

    July 14: ADF began an aggressive media strategy, with its representatives appearing on Fox News’ Fox & Friends, The Story with Martha MacCallum, and Tucker Carlson Tonight to attack the SPLC and attempt to discredit ABC and NBC. ADF’s representatives either repeated the “journalistic malpractice” line during the interview or called the outlets’ reporting “unethical” or “fake news.” Meanwhile, right-wing media also rushed to ADF’s defense.

    July 16: FRC also launched a counteroffensive against the hate group designation aiming to “expose” the SPLC as “a left wing smear group who has become exactly what they set out to fight, spreading hate and putting targets on people's backs.” FRC urged supporters to use the hashtag #SPLCexposed. Hate groups such as white nationalist website VDARE, ACT for America, CIS, and FAIR, or their representatives, all joined FRC on Twitter using the hashtag.

    July 19: The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Edwin Meese, who has worked with FRC and other groups, calling ADF “a respected civil-rights law firm.” In the op-ed, Meese also repeated ADF’s “journalistic malpractice” charge against ABC and NBC for giving “credence to the SPLC’s recklessly defamatory hate list” in their reporting. Meese wrote that their reporting “is a prime reason” for Americans’ distrust of the media and called on reporters to “stop spreading malignant propaganda.”

    July 19: Forbes published an op-ed by Brian Miller of the Center for Individual Rights attacking ABC and NBC’s use of the “hate group” label and arguing that the use of the label was an attempt to “shut down conversation.” Miller concluded that “the very security that is necessary for diverse people to contribute to our social fabric” is at stake “in our climate of heated rhetoric.”