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  • CNN's Jeffrey Lord just issued a Nazi victory salute. Really.

    Update: CNN fired Lord, calling his comments "indefensible"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CNN contributor Jeffrey Lord tweeted the Nazi victory salute.

    On August 10, the American Spectator published an attack piece by Jeffrey Lord against Media Matters. The screed lashed out at what Lord describes as “Media Matters Fascists.” Lord then tweeted the article to Media Matters President Angelo Carusone. When Carusone pointed out that his name was misspelled in the headline of the piece, Lord responded with the Nazi salute “Sieg Heil!”

    After receiving initial blowback on Twitter, Lord explained his confusing issuance of the Nazi victory salute by implying that it was a joke or that it was meant to further highlight Carusone and Media Matters’ "fascist" agenda.

    Lord is a shill for President Donald Trump who has supported the president’s sexist and dangerous behavior. Lord has a history of making bigoted and ridiculous commentary and has pushed false claims to defend Trump.

    UPDATE: Carusone further elaborated on CNN's lack of standards for Lord:

    UPDATE 2: Lord has been fired by CNN. A network spokesperson told Brian Stelter, "Nazi salutes are indefensible."

  • Washington Blade highlights the influence of hate groups on White House policy

    Anti-LGBTQ extremists successfully lobbied for Trump to ban transgender people from the military. Now they’re promising action on so-called “religious freedom” guidance.

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    In an August 9 report, the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson detailed the growing influence of anti-LGBTQ hate groups in setting federal policy, including their “intense lobbying” that influenced President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military and their push for a potential anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” order.

    Last month, Newsweek’s Tom Porter wrote about the hate groups that “fiercely lobbied” for a reinstatement of the ban on transgender service members, which Trump announced via Twitter on July 26. The announcement stated that transgender people would not be allowed “to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” Among the groups mentioned by Porter was the Family Research Council (FRC), whose leaders have bragged that they “have big communications channels with the Trump administration,” he wrote. FRC senior fellow Ken Blackwell was a member of Trump’s transition team and now sits on Trump’s so-called “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity,” which has been called the “voter suppression dream team.”

    On August 2, The New York Times wrote that FRC President Tony Perkins had spent months pressuring Trump to make a statement about transgender service members. The article included a quote from Perkins saying, “I’ve been to the White House I don’t know how many more times in the first six months this year than I was during the entire Bush administration.” Perkins has also boasted that he “was not surprised” by Trump’s announcement because FRC had been “working with the White House” on the issue.

    Johnson’s August 9 report in the Washington Blade highlighted “intense lobbying” by anti-LGBT lawmakers and hate groups such as FRC and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) for Trump to sign a religious freedom executive order, a draft of which was leaked to The Nation in February. Johnson added that although Trump hasn’t yet signed the order that the groups are floating -- which would “enable sweeping anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of ‘religious freedom’” -- he has empowered Attorney General Jeff Sessions “to issue guidance ensuring religious liberty.” He noted that Perkins, speaking on his radio show last month, “said action would come soon” on religious freedom guidance. In a speech to ADF, Sessions also promised that the Justice Department is “finalizing” guidance on “federal religious liberty protections.” From the Washington Blade:

    Prior to his August vacation, Trump announced his intent to ban transgender people from the U.S. military “in any capacity,” unilaterally instituting the anti-LGBT policy after the U.S. House — under Republican control, no less — rejected a narrower measure to undermine transgender service by denying military funds for transition-related health care.

    Trump’s declaration came after intense lobbying by anti-LGBT lawmakers and groups, who threatened to withhold support from major defense spending legislation unless the White House acted. That bill includes funds for Trump’s wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

    Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in a statement after Trump’s announcement on transgender service his organization would withdraw its opposition to border wall payments.

    “Now that we are assured that the Defense Department has its fiscal priorities in order, Family Research Council withdraws our opposition to increasing the budget of the Department of Defense through the ‘Make America Secure Appropriations Act’ and looks forward to seeing that legislation pass,” Perkins said.

    Although Trump — despite entreaties from social conservatives — hasn’t signed an executive order circulating among federal agencies and advocacy groups that would enable sweeping anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of “religious freedom,” he did pen his name to a directive empowering U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to issue guidance ensuring religious liberty.

    Critics say that’s a red herring that could lead the U.S. government to give the OK for discrimination among federal contractors, private employer denial of family and medical leave to same-sex couples and federal workers refusing to process paperwork for LGBT people. Sessions had already stated the directive would be based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 law meant to preserve the rights of religious minorities that’s now used as an excuse for anti-LGBT discrimination.

    It remains to be seen when the administration will issue the guidance and the nature of the policy. On his weekly radio show late last month, Perkins said action would come soon and the U.S. government will be “on notice that they have to respect religious freedom” — code for social conservatives to mean anti-LGBT discrimination.

  • Fox & Friends might be all that stands between us and the nuclear apocalypse

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The United States may be on the brink of frightening conflict in East Asia. Since The Washington Post reported earlier this week that a U.S. intelligence agency believes North Korea possesses miniaturized nuclear warheads that can fit inside its missiles, President Donald Trump and the North Korean government have traded threats. It is in the interest of neither country to start a conflict that could quickly engulf the region and threaten the lives of tens of millions of people. But Trump has immense unilateral authority to dramatically escalate the situation -- including through the use of nuclear weapons -- and he is known for making snap decisions without fully consulting experts or his staff. And the biggest influence on his thinking may not be our diplomats or generals, but rather the hosts, producers, and bookers of the Fox News morning show Fox & Friends, who seem largely content to confirm the president’s biases and promote his worst impulses.

    Trump is obsessed with Fox & Friends, regularly watching the program, tweeting along with it, and praising its hosts. That gives Fox & Friends incredible power, and the show’s hosts use it, apparently tailoring the show to the most powerful cable news viewer in the world. According to a Vox study, hosts Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt, and Brian Kilmeade and their guests “increasingly view their role as giving advice to the president.”

    That “advice” is all the more important with the nation careening toward a flashpoint. The president apparently watched Fox & Friends the last two mornings, as the North Korea situation became more serious. What he saw was the program’s hosts and guests repeatedly assuring him that he was doing everything right, and that his critics were not only wrong, but partisans who are undermining the country.

    Much of the Fox & Friends discussion has revolved around Trump’s ill-advised, improvised warning on Tuesday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will face “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if he continues to threaten the U.S. Democrats and Republicans alike criticized the statement, as did analysts and experts from the U.S. and across the region, with many interpreting Trump’s remarks as threatening a nuclear strike.

    But on Fox & Friends, Trump’s statement was viewed as “right on target,” in the words of Kilmeade. The president had been “measured,” according to Earhardt: “He thought about what he was going to say before because he repeated it twice.” “Keep in mind the president's point was North Korea's threats are intolerable,” Doocy said this morning. “Also, at the same time, while he was talking about fire and fury, he did not set any red lines. Was he hyperbolic? Sure. But we know that this president has been hyperbolic in the past.”

    The hosts played into Trump’s own natural inclination, portraying all of his critics as enemies of the president -- "Liberal Media Slams President's Rhetoric" and "Media Blasts President's 'Fire And Fury' Message" were two chyrons that appeared on today’s show -- who just want to tear him down and would prefer the U.S. make no response at all to Kim. They warned that the critics were not just wrong but were endangering America. North Koreans “see the Democrats ridiculing the president, and they think the president shouldn’t be taken seriously, which is dangerous,” Kilmeade commented today.

    This behavior is fairly typical for the program, which constantly supports everything Trump does and is quick to lash out at his perceived foes. But there’s a real danger in Trump’s rhetoric; as Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, put it, Trump’s statements only “exacerbate” concerns of potentially “stumbling into an inadvertent nuclear war on the Korean peninsula.” By sending Trump the message that he’s making the right decision and his critics are acting in bad faith, Fox & Friends is increasing the possibility that Trump repeats his behavior, with potentially dire consequences.

    Given the unsettling power of the show and the gravity of the moment, I find myself grasping at straws, straining to read the program in a way that could lead the president to avoid the worst. At times, the program’s guests have pointed out that it’s unlikely Kim would attack us because he knows our retaliation would bring down his regime, and that a U.S. offensive against North Korea would have a serious “collateral effect.” The show featured a pastor who says the Bible gives Trump the authority to attack North Korea, but at least it put him up against a priest who urged restraint rather than endorsing the sentiment outright. Even Doocy has pointed out that the danger from North Korea may not be that extreme because of the instability of its missiles.

    On the other hand, over the last two days the show’s hosts have also: casually discussed deploying U.S. nuclear missiles to South Korea; said of Kim, "This guy is crazy. We have got to prevent him from killing all of us”; and claimed that if the U.S. strikes North Korea from Guam, it doesn't need to ask South Korea or Japan for permission. “What is scary is how quickly [a North Korean nuke] could make it to you, to me, to your family. Look at this map -- we're going to show you,” Earhardt said yesterday, before explaining how long it would take for an intercontinental ballistic missile to strike New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Hawaii.

    This is the crack team that has the ear of the president. We are all in a lot of trouble.

  • Human rights organizations call on top US newscasts to “shine a spotlight” on Chechnya’s anti-gay abuses

    A Media Matters study found that cable and broadcast evening news mentioned the imprisonment and execution of gay men by Chechen authorities only three times in four months

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Major LGBTQ advocacy groups and international human rights organizations have called on evening newscasts to cover the Chechen authorities’ imprisonment and execution of queer men following a Media Matters study, which found that cable and broadcast evening news have virtually ignored the human rights crisis.

    Media Matters study finds near silence on Chechen human rights abuses against queer men on evening cable and broadcast news

    An August 1 Media Matters study of evening cable and broadcast news found only three significant mentions of anti-LGBTQ abuses by Chechen authorities across the six cable and broadcast networks’ evening programming over a four-month period. The New York Times broke the story domestically on April 1, citing independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. From then through July 31, only two outlets -- NBC Nightly News and a special evening edition of CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper -- aired full reports on the crisis. CNN touched on the issue during an episode of Anderson Cooper 360 in a brief exchange between host Anderson Cooper and guest Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    LGBTQ and international human rights organizations stress the media’s “responsibility to shine a spotlight on these shocking abuses”


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In repsonse to the study, major LGBTQ and international human rights advocacy organizations have called on news networks to cover the story, stressing the importance of media coverage and U.S. influence in compelling authorities in Chechnya and Russia to stop the abuses.

    Amnesty International has played a key advocacy role in urging the Chechen and Russian authorities to investigate the human rights abuses against gay men in Chechnya. Eric Ferrero, deputy executive director at Amnesty International USA, explained that the dearth of evening news coverage bolstered Chechen authorities’ erroneous “insistence that gay people don’t even exist in the country”:

    “One of the most insidious aspects of Chechen authorities’ abuse of gay men is the insistence that gay people don’t even exist in the country. The lack of broadcast media coverage of this crisis only serves their goal of erasing the existence of the LGBT community entirely. We cannot stay silent in the face of the systemic kidnapping, torture, and murder of gay men in Chechnya. The media spotlight is critical to ensuring that these men are not forgotten.” -- Eric Ferrero, deputy executive director, Amnesty International USA

    The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBTQ advocacy organization in the country, has also actively worked to combat Chechnya’s human rights abuses with its #EyesOnChechnya campaign and has urged its supporters to take action. HRC has also helped promote a key Russian LGBT Network report detailing the persecution of LGBTQ Chechens. Jeremy Kadden, HRC senior international policy advocate, said that “the Media Matters report showing the lack of media attention to Chechnya’s horrific human rights abuses is truly disturbing,” adding, “Without sufficient focus on this, the victims will continue to languish and suffer in secret prisons”:

    “The Media Matters report showing the lack of media attention to Chechnya's horrific human rights abuses is truly disturbing. With over 100 LGBTQ people rounded up, detained without trial, tortured, and some of them killed, the world needs to be paying attention. Cable news is watched closely at the highest levels of the U.S. government, and without sufficient focus on this, the victims will continue to languish and suffer in secret prisons — without support from the White House or access to lawyers, human rights advocates, or anyone who can help them.” -- Jeremy Kadden, senior international policy advocate, Human Rights Campaign

    Human Rights First (HRF) has called on President Donald Trump and his administration to take action and has also helped highlight the Russian LGBT Network report. Shawn Gaylord, advocacy counsel and head of HRF’s international initiative to combat violence against LGBTQ people, told Media Matters that “significant international attention” is necessary to get Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to respect the human rights of the LGBTQ community. Gaylord stressed the importance of the media in public education, saying, “The American public must stand up and demand action from the administration. First, they have to know what's happening. It falls on the media to draw these horrific abuses into the light.” Gaylord praised MTV for its role in the #EyesOnChechnya campaign in support of LGBTQ Chechens but added, “It isn’t an exaggeration to say coverage of this crisis is vital to ending it. For many, the very fact that this is occurring in Chechnya makes it abstract. Media is instrumental in making it concrete”:

    “Chechen leader Kadyrov and Russian President Putin will never act to solve this crisis on their own volition. They have proven time and time again that their respect for human rights doesn't extend to all of their citizens, specifically to members of the LGBT community. The only way to get them to respect those rights is from significant international attention to these abuses and public pressure from the United States and its partners to hold the perpetrators accountable. The American public must stand up and demand action from the administration. First, they have to know what's happening. It falls on the media to draw these horrific abuses into the light.

    [...]

    While some media companies like MTV have mounted campaigns to spur action in response to the attacks on gay and bisexual Chechens, there is no doubt that more could be done to raise awareness of these abuses. It isn't an exaggeration to say coverage of this crisis is vital to ending it. For many, the very fact that this is occurring in Chechnya makes it abstract. Media is instrumental in making it concrete. We're urging the media to raise the voices of survivors and to highlight the work of groups like the Russia LGBT network that are working to bring LGBT Chechens to safety. The more these heartbreaking stories are told, the harder it will be for Kadyrov to deny that these abuses are taking place.” -- Shawn Gaylord, Advocacy Counsel, Human Rights First

    LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD has also repeatedly called on Trump and the Trump administration to condemn the human rights abuses in Chechnya. Drew Anderson, GLAAD’s director of news and rapid response, told Media Matters that “more must be done” in the media to “push back against this crisis.” Anderson noted that nontraditional media outlets, such as CBS’ streaming coverage, have been highlighting the human rights violation more so than their traditional counterparts, but added that more mainstream media coverage “would put pressure on the Trump administration to speak out against the disgusting attacks”:

    “Though some networks like CBS have dedicated significant streaming coverage to the LGBTQ attacks in Chechnya, it’s simply not good enough and more must be done. President Trump, who is no friend to LGBTQ people, has failed to condemn these attacks – leaving all the pressure on the media to push back against this crisis. If the mainstream media dedicated more coverage to Chechnya, it would put pressure on the Trump Administration to speak out against the disgusting attacks.” -- Drew Anderson, director of news and rapid response, GLAAD

    Human Rights Watch (HRW) is another major international human rights organization calling on Western governments to “press Russian authorities at the highest level to resolutely condemn what effectively stands for a mop-up operation against gay men in Chechnya.” In May, HRW released a detailed report on the subject that gives firsthand accounts of victims of the crisis, as well as a list of recommendations for combatting it. Graeme Reid, director of HRW’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program, responded to Media Matters’ study, saying that “the world needs to pay attention to the egregious human rights abuses” in Chechnya and stressing the media’s “responsibility to shine a spotlight on these shocking abuses”:

    “The purge against gay men in Chechnya, undertaken on orders from top government, has taken place under a cloak of secrecy and denial by authorities there. The detention and torture of gay men is but the latest example of the Chechen government’s disregard for the most basic human rights. The world needs to pay attention to the egregious human rights abuses that continue to take place in Chechnya. The media has a responsibility to shine a spotlight on these shocking abuses.” -- Graeme Reid, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program, Human Rights Watch

  • White nationalist VDare hosting conference in Colorado with Breitbart columnist

    Conference at Cheyenne Mountain Resort will also feature writer who describes himself as “racist” and “homophobe”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    UPDATE (8/14): Before he organized the August 12 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, Jason Kessler wrote multiple articles for VDare. A June 19 post (his most recent) concludes that the “governments of the West are waging a campaign of slow extermination against their own core populations. It is white genocide.” VDare also posted a defense of the Charlottesville rally on August 12 which concluded that “it’s not Unite The Right that is ‘dividing’ America. Whites who aren’t comfortable with being dispossessed in every single Western country, or with seeing the symbols of their heritage wiped out, gathered to protest peacefully. … Why should Unite The Right apologize for anything? Indeed, how can the ‘Far Right’ be regarded as anything other than an incredibly moderate protest movement against a deliberate campaign of genocide?” (The white supremacists did not actually “protest peacefully.”) 

    The white nationalist and anti-immigrant hate group VDare will host its next conference at Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs, CO. The 2018 event will feature anti-immigrant writer Peter Brimelow, Breitbart.com columnist Tom Tancredo, and writer John Derbyshire, who describes himself as a “mild and tolerant” “homophobe” and “racist.”

    Civil rights groups have heavily criticized VDare for its racism and anti-immigrant rhetoric. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), VDare is a white nationalist website that “regularly publishes articles by prominent white nationalists, race scientists and anti-Semites.” The Anti-Defamation League wrote that VDare is a racist site that “posts, promotes, and archives the work of racists, anti-immigrant figures, and anti-Semites.”

    Headlines on VDare include: “One Problem With These Hispanic Immigrants Is Their Disgusting Behavior,” “Indians Aren`t That Intelligent (On Average),” “Diversity Is Strength! It’s Also…Hispanic Immigrants Taking Over FBI’s Ten Most Wanted,” “America Does Not Need ANY Immigrants From Africa,” and “Roll Over, JIHAD—There’s Also HIJRA, Muslim Conquest By Immigration.”

    Numerous media outlets have correctly identified the site as white nationalist, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Associated Press, and CNN.

    VDare recently announced, and started taking reservations for, its April 2018 conference at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort, which is a part of Benchmark Resorts & Hotels. A booking page for the event states that it will feature “a weekend of candor, fellowship, and top-notch speakers, as we celebrate the shifting political tides and discuss the way forward for patriotic immigration reform and American national identity.”

    VDare attempted to hold its first public national conference at Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite National Park earlier this year, drawing criticism from Media Matters and SPLC. That event was also set to feature Brimelow, Tancredo and Derbyshire. The lodge subsequently took “steps to immediately cancel this booking” when it “became aware of the nature of VDare Foundation.” VDare responded by criticizing Media Matters for engaging in “cultural Marxism” and questioning whether “we live in a free country or not.”

    In response to Media Matters’ inquiry about VDare’s 2018 conference, a Cheyenne Mountain Resort spokesperson gave the following statement: “Cheyenne Mountain Resort respects the privacy of its guests and does not comment on groups or individuals that hold meetings at the resort.”

    VDare’s scheduled speakers for its 2018 conference have a history of pushing racist, anti-immigrant, and white nationalist views.

    Tancredo is a Breitbart columnist and a favorite immigration "expert" for White House chief strategist and former Breitbart head Stephen Bannon. His columns regularly demonize immigrants as dangerous and disloyal invaders, with headlines such as “Mexico Is Sending Us Colonists, Not Immigrants,” “European Colonization, Not Refugee Resettlement,” and “From Jenner to D.C., Multiculturalism Virus Is Destroying the U.S.” He claimed in January 2016 that “Muslim rape culture … could be coming to a town near you all too soon” because of immigration.  

    Tancredo has a long history of making anti-immigrant and racist statements. The former Colorado congressman once suggested that the United States bomb Mecca; criticized Miami, FL, for purportedly becoming “a Third World country” because so many people speak Spanish there; and proposed a “civics literacy test before people can vote.”

    Derbyshire was fired from the National Review after he penned a column suggesting that white and Asian parents warn their children about the supposed threats posed by black people. Derbyshire has stated of his views: “I am a homophobe, though a mild and tolerant one, and a racist, though an even more mild and tolerant one, and those things are going to be illegal pretty soon, the way we are going.”

    In a profile of Brimelow, SPLC wrote that he “is one of the leading voices in the anti-immigrant movement. Interestingly, he is himself an immigrant (from England), a fact that he regularly brings up when he worriedly notes that his son, with his ‘blue eyes’ and ‘blond hair,’ could grow up in an America in which whites have lost their population majority. For Brimelow, immigration itself is not the problem — it's the influx of non-whites that is destroying America.”

    *Updated with additional information. 

  • Education Week reports on how DeVos' investment in "brain performance" company raises questions about her ethics and competence

    Blog ››› ››› BRETT ROBERTSON


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Despite “ethical questions,” Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos continues to invest money in the scientifically dubious company Neurocore, according to Education Week.

    In an August 7 report, Education Week reported that DeVos has “significantly increased her family’s financial stake” in the “brain performance” company Neurocore, which “makes questionable claims” about its ability to treat a number of neurological conditions in children and adults.

    According to Education Week, there are several concerns surrounding DeVos’ increasing investment in Neurocore: “ethical questions” about potential conflicts of interest and “fresh worries from some researchers about DeVos’s commitment to rigorous scientific research.” From the August 7 report:

    Neurocore purports to treat patients by analyzing their brainwaves and other biological signs, then providing “neurofeedback sessions” through which they can train their brains to function better. The company often uses such treatments with both adults and children. It charges as much as $2,200 for a 30-session cycle.

    Overall, the evidence base for neurofeedback is weak, experts say.

    Still, Neurocore has claimed that its technology can “fix” problems such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and has “proven and long-lasting” positive effects on children with autism. In January, Education Week reported that the American Academy of Pediatrics and leading researchers all said there was limited evidence to support such assertions.

    Now, the company is touting new research on its website. In a March press release, for example, Neurocore CEO Mark Murrison said a recently published study showed that Neurocore’s technology is a “viable treatment option for people dealing with anxiety or depression.”

    Three experts consulted by Education Week all questioned the legitimacy of such claims, citing serious flaws with the study’s design that prevented it from generating credible evidence.

    “They’re misleading, at best,” said Rebecca A. Maynard, a professor of education and social policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.

    “It bothers me to see anyone misusing evidence and promoting things that mislead the public,” said Maynard, a former commissioner at the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the federal education department that DeVos now heads.

    [...]

    Raising her financial stake in Neurocore does not cross any clear ethical lines, and federal ethics officials signed off on the moves, said Larry Noble, the senior director and general counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington nonprofit staffed by election-law experts who promote public participation in democratic processes.

    But the transactions do raise some new ethical questions for DeVos and the public moving forward, Noble said.

    “I would want to watch very carefully if there is anything the department of education is doing that one could argue is going to help that company,” he said. “Also, if she had any inside information about anything that could have influenced the value of that stock, and she increased her holdings because of that, it would be a problem.”

  • The sinister implication of that Breitbart article that everyone is mocking

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In an article published this afternoon, Breitbart.com Washington political editor Matt Boyle criticizes a New York Times reporter for “soliciting government employees to become leakers” under the hysterical headline “Exclusive -- Deep state teams with fake news: Email evidence proves New York Times soliciting anti-Trump bureaucracy leakers.” Journalists and media critics -- myself included -- who understand that that particular activity is central to reporting were quick to mock Boyle as a fool. And that very well may be the case. But after reading the piece in full, I think there’s something deeper and more sinister afoot.

    If you started reading the piece and didn’t make it past the ridiculous headline and lede, I can’t blame you. The “revelation” Boyle claims to have uncovered in an email from Times environment reporter Coral Davenport and John O’Grady, the president of a union that represents Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) workers, appears to be a fairly standard inquiry seeking to confirm critical stories she had heard about EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt with “first-hand or eyewitness accounts” from EPA workers. As a Times spokesperson told the right-wing outlet, Davenport’s “email demonstrates the process of reporting and gathering facts.” It is Breitbart’s effort to turn such run-of-the-mill communications into a scandal that has drawn so much scorn.

    But those who made it all the way to the end of Boyle’s sprawling, dramatically overwritten 1,600-plus-word piece found what I think may be the real reason Breitbart published this story. O’Grady forwarded Davenport’s email to nearly three dozen EPA employees, telling them what types of stories Davenport was looking to confirm and to “Please feel free to contact Coral directly.” Boyle published the names of all 34 employees. In so doing, Breitbart is serving as the Trump administration's pawn, giving it a roadmap it can use to ferret out potential leakers.

    President Donald Trump has spent much of his first 200 days in office working himself into a lather about leaks to the press from the White House. Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to prosecute those who leak classified information and even to subpoena reporters who publish those leaks, after receiving a steady stream of criticism from the president demanding such investigations. During his brief tenure as White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci promised to fire White House leakers.

    But leaks have also bedeviled the EPA since Pruitt, a climate change denier and close ally of the fossil fuel industry, took the helm. It’s likely no coincidence that Breitbart’s article comes the day after the Times published a draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies which “concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now,” contradicting Trump and Pruitt. According to the Times, the report was leaked because scientists fear Trump will bury it.

    Political appointees at the EPA now have a list of 34 potential whistleblowers, individuals the head of the EPA’s union thought might be willing to confirm negative information about the organization’s chief. They will be internally investigated at best, and indiscriminately punished at worst. They may find themselves reassigned off their current projects, or cut out of important meetings and decisions. A Breitbart story posing as an attack on a Times journalist instead functions as a tool to bolster an internal administration mole hunt.

    Most journalists would likely view enabling an administration’s anti-leak effort as abhorrent behavior. But not Boyle and his Breitbart crew. Boyle is an administration toady, a longtime Trump sycophant who has always been eager to try to torpedo more critical journalists on Trump’s behalf. Formerly run by Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon, Breitbart is institutionally more interested in protecting the Trump administration from criticism and lashing out at unfavored White House factions than providing legitimate reporting.

    Breitbart has regularly cheered on the White House’s efforts to curtail leaks and lashed out at critical leakers and the outlets that publish them. But the latest article takes the right-wing outlets’ typical pro-Trump propaganda to a new level, with Breitbart effectively serving as an arm of the administration, helping its communications team smoke out whistleblowers.

    A few weeks ago, Scaramucci and Boyle joked about the Breitbart editor joining the White House communications staff. But no need: Boyle is more than willing to do the administration’s dirty work without being put on its payroll.

  • Far-right alternative-media figures think the “Google Manifesto” proves them right

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Members of the far-right alternative-media ecosystem are lashing out at Google after the company fired an employee who argued that there are biological differences at play behind gender gaps within the tech industry in an internal memo criticizing the company’s diversity initiatives. While the firing was based on the biological claims, which violated Google's code of conduct, far-right media figures latched onto his argument that Google does not entertain conservative viewpoints and used it to validate a broader narrative about supposed tech censorship.

    Last week, a 10-page internal memo written by James Damore, a software engineer at Google, went viral among Google staff. The manifesto was later published in full by the technology news site Gizmodo. In it, Damore claimed that Google’s “discriminatory” biases behind its promotion of diversity in the workplace have created a “politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence.” Damore also wrote that “on average, men and women biologically differ in many ways” and that those differences may create less opportunity for women to ascend the corporate ladder for positions that “often require long, stressful hours.” Diversity is not a bad thing, he argued, but Google’s benchmarks for workplace diversity “can incentivize illegal discrimination.”

    Days after the memo circulated throughout the company, Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in an internal memo that Damore had violated the company’s code of conduct by “advancing harmful gender stereotypes” and that “to suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.” Business Insider later confirmed that Damore had been fired from Google for penning the memo.

    Following the news of Damore’s firing, members of the right-wing alternative-media ecosystem leveraged their distribution network to spread claims that Damore’s termination proved Google seeks to suppress conservative viewpoints within its company, even though the controversy around Damore’s comments spurred form his arguments about biological superiority and not his conservative views:

    Right-wing vlogger Stefan Molyneux:

    Infowars Editor-at-Large Paul Joseph Watson:

    Far-right internet troll Jack Posobiec:

    Far-right media personality Mike Cernovich:

    "Alt-right" blogger Ashley Rae:

    Alternative right-wing media outrage also inspired posts on many high-traffic fringe political blogs. Big League Politics blogger Cassandra Fairbanks wrote, “Instead of arguing using facts, logic, or reason, many women within the Google team immediately took to social media to scream about the ‘sexism.’” At the end of the article, Fairbanks asked, “When will the left learn that feelings will never outweigh facts?” Jim Hoft, owner of The Gateway Pundit and possibly the dumbest man on the internet, penned an article about Damore’s firing with the headline “Truth Is A Hate Crime.”

    A Twitter account associated with 4chan’s “politically incorrect” message board (commonly referred to as “/pol/”), posted an image of a predominantly female group it claims is part of “Google’s censorship team” and claimed it “explained so much.” Media Matters is not linking to this post to protect the identity of those pictured.

    In addition to lashing out at Google, Posobiec took to Periscope and encouraged his fan base to tweet the hashtag “#GoogleManifesto,” which briefly became a trending topic on Twitter. Conservative firebrand Chuck Johnson’s right-wing crowdfunding site WeSearchr launched a fundraising page to pool money to help Damore “get back on his feet and see if he can fight Google.” WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange even offered Damore a job at his website; Assange has previously accused Google of colluding with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the U.S. State Department to control the distribution of information related to foreign affairs.

    Members of this media ecosystem have found a hero in Damore because they can spin his termination from Google to validate one of their key talking points: that tech companies are actively suppressing conservative voices on their platforms and censoring opinions that contradict a liberal worldview. Conservative columnist Kurt Schlichter called for an antitrust investigation into Google:

    The Verge reported that Damore’s firing does not represent the first time discussions about diversity in the tech industry have served as fodder for right-wing online communities, citing outrage over Pax Dickinson’s ouster from Business Insider after a string of anti-feminist and racist tweets. It’s also worth noting that many personalities who populate the right-wing alternative-media ecosystem (such as Milo Yiannopoulos) first gained prominence in 2014 during another major tech industry controversy called “Gamergate.” Similar to the Google manifesto, the Gamergate online movement found energy when it criticized diversity efforts in the video game industry; it also spurred attacks on a female game developer’s sex life that resulted in death threats.

    The Google manifesto and reaction provide another example of the lengths to which members of this media ecosystem will go to manufacture validation for their fringe worldview and smear its critics.

  • We looked at Trump's Twitter interactions for more than a year. A lot of them are suspicious.  

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST, FREEDOM MURPHY & NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump tweets … a lot. But along with his usual flurry of tweets attacking the media, lamenting fake news, or criticizing practically anyone who disagrees with him, Trump has another Twitter habit -- quoting his supposed supporters' tweets. A look at over a year of Trump’s retweets, quote tweets, and tweets in which he quoted another Twitter handle has left a lot of questions.

    Using the Trump Twitter Archive, Media Matters audited the president’s Twitter handle, @RealDonaldTrump, between April 1, 2016, and July 31, 2017, focusing on retweets, quote tweets, and tweets where @RealDonaldTrump quoted another Twitter handle. We used that list to identify unverified accounts that he quoted or retweeted, which we then checked for the original tweet and suspicious or bot-like activity. If an account seemed suspicious (for example, it posted an unrealistic number of tweets or exclusively pro-Trump messages), we examined its tweeting habits during the weekend of the second presidential debate (October 6 to 10, 2016). Finally, if an account seemed like a bot, we reviewed its tweeting habits between August 2015 and January 2016.

    Factors used to identify suspicious behavior included the date the handle was created; the number of tweets sent; the general frequency of tweets and use of hashtags and images; the content and frequency of tweets the weekend of the second debate; and what the account tweeted before the October 2015 primary season. Here’s what we found:

    1. Trump retweeted and thanked a woman named Nicole Mincey over the weekend of August 5, 2017, as was widely reported by numerous outlets. Mincey was suspected to be a bot, but was later identified by BuzzFeed and others as a real Trump supporter who was using her page to sell merchandise. It was odd for Trump to simply retweet an unknown account because, based on Media Matters’ findings, Trump typically retweets only verified accounts, such as Fox & Friends’ Twitter account or those of his staffers and family members.

    However, Trump frequently does quote tweets from unverified accounts (not using the Twitter “quote tweet” function but literally quoting a tweet). These quote tweets have been called out in the past for featuring white supremacists, and it appears that he also quotes tweets with some frequency from accounts that appear to be either fake accounts or bots.

    2. At least 12 of the Twitter handles that Trump quoted in tweets have had their accounts suspended, and at least 16 additional handles have been deactivated. For example, on May 15, 2016, Trump quoted a tweet from the handle @TakingIt_Back: 

    However, when one tries to go to the page for @TakingIt_Back now, it redirects to an "Account Suspended" page. This is true for Trump's quoted tweets of @Gengm7, @patrioticpepe, @EyeCandyTMGayle, and @tweak626 as well as others.

    3. On at least six occasions, Trump retweeted tweets from accounts that have only one or two tweets on their page -- and currently have largely inactive profiles.

    While we were unable to locate the original tweets from these accounts, they are still active. For example, on August 29, 2016, Trump quoted a tweet from @RhondaR:

    When one goes to @rhondar's page now, this is what they find: 

    Similar account activity can also be seen on the pages of users Trump quoted in these tweets

    4. Trump has quoted tweets from the handles of at least two suspected bots, one of which is the well-known, now-suspended @PatrioticPepe. The other handle, @Don_Vito_08, has been described as “a partly automated pro-Trump cyborg.” @Don_Vito_08 was created soon after Trump announced he was going to run for president; the account began aggressively tweeting pro-Trump memes in December 2015 and anti-Clinton memes after the presidential primaries. The account has over 33,000 followers and claims in its Twitter bio that it was retweeted three times by Trump.

    5. Over 20 original tweets that Trump quoted on Twitter could no longer be found.

     

    Natalie Martinez and Freedom Murphy conducted the research documented in this post.

  • Even some Trump allies are worried about Sinclair's expansion

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Yesterday was the last day for critics to urge the Federal Communications Commission to stop conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed acquisition of Tribune Media Company. President Donald Trump’s administration, which frequently tries to promote right-wing outlets as part of its war on the mainstream press, has bent over backward in order to reward Sinclair for its favorable coverage, while the merger has drawn criticism from consumer watchdogs like Allied Progress and media consolidation foes like Free Press. But they aren’t the only ones objecting: Some pro-Trump media companies have also taken sides against the merger because they worry Sinclair’s growth will impact their own bottom lines, forcing the administration to choose between its staunchest press allies.

    Sinclair is already the nation’s largest local news provider, thanks to its ownership of 173 broadcast television stations in communities across the country. If its attempt to purchase Tribune’s 42 broadcast television stations is approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the result would be a broadcast goliath reaching more than seven in 10 U.S. television households -- nearly double the audience cap mandated by Congress. The deal would have been unthinkable if Trump-appointed FCC chairman Ajit Pai hadn’t rolled back a key Obama administration regulation in April that had prevented Sinclair from further expansion.

    The merger raised the hackles of NewsMax Media Inc, which owns a right-wing cable channel and website and has called for the FCC to slow down the process and seek additional information. In a filing, the company warned that the prospect of a combined Sinclair-Tribune company raises “serious competitive concerns” and that “press freedom and media diversity may be seriously harmed by this transaction.” NewsMax CEO Christopher Ruddy has said that the deal raises “so many serious concerns about the concentration of media power.”

    The conservative cable news channel One America News Network (OANN) also wants to delay the sale, telling the FCC that the “transaction raises competitive concerns and questions of law.”

    Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox is one player that did not weigh in during the comment period. Sinclair’s increasing power in the conservative media space could prove a threat to Fox News. But Fox also owns dozens of broadcast stations, and the FCC’s deregulation bent could also benefit the company’s own expansion plans. Instead of taking its would-be rival on at the FCC, Fox is reportedly considering dumping Sinclair as an affiliate partner.

    As for Trump, he wants to help Sinclair because the network has been a key media ally. After several cycles of support for Republican presidential candidates, the network stepped up its game in 2016, making a deal with the Trump campaign during the election cycle by providing positive coverage in exchange for access. After the election, Sinclair hired a former Trump adviser and required every one of its stations to regularly run his pro-Trump propaganda segments. Sinclair’s conservative “must-runs” are every bit as slanted as Fox News coverage, but Sinclair is more insidious because its viewers don’t expect that level of ideological content from their local news channels. Because so many Tribune media stations are located in big cities and swing states where Sinclair didn’t previously have a platform, the merger could provide a sizeable benefit to Trump’s re-election campaign.

    But NewsMax has also been a staunch supporter of the president -- in fact, it was one of Trump’s first real media allies in his political rise. The would-be Fox rival started giving him a platform as early as 2006 and regularly promoted a potential Trump run for president during the 2012 cycle. Described by reporters as the “Trump whisperer” and the administration’s “Zelig,” Ruddy is a close friend of the president who regularly advises Trump and his aides and is often quoted by reporters and appears on cable news as a kind of unofficial spokesperson. In turn, the Trump presidency has been good for NewsMax, which has received unprecedented access; during his first 48 press briefings as White House press secretary, Sean Spicer called on the network’s correspondent more than any other reporter but Fox’s representatives.

    OANN, another would-be Fox, is no slouch either -- as The Washington Post noted, the network became “one of President Trump’s favorite media outlets” because its coverage depicts his administration as “a juggernaut of progress, a shining success with a daily drumbeat of achievements.” OANN White House correspondent Trey Yingst was one of Spicer’s go-to questioners, and Trump called on him at a January press conference.

    Trump has sought to lift up conservative news outlets throughout his tenure. But as the OANN and NewsMax filings demonstrate, in this fractured media environment, he can’t help one of his media allies without hurting the others.