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  • Gateway Pundit’s White House correspondent promotes rally with white nationalist and “special guest” Matt Forney

    Forney has previously worked for holocaust deniers, declared “everyone hates blacks,” and claimed women “want” to be “raped”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a tweet promoting a “Rally Against Leftist Violence,” Gateway Pundit White House correspondent Lucian Wintrich announced the event would feature white nationalist Matt Forney as a “special guest.”

    “Special guest” Matt Forney is a white nationalist previously employed by Red Ice Radio, an anti-semitic online media outlet that promotes Holocaust denialism. Red Ice Radio has previously promoted YouTube videos with titles including “Eric Hunt - The Shoah: The Biggest Hoax of the 20th Century?,” “Ole Dammegard - Making Critical Thinking Illegal: Questioning the Holocaust,” and “David Cole - The Truth Behind the Gates of Auschwitz.”

    Prior to his upcoming appearance at the “Rally Against Leftist Violence,” Forney described the children of interracial marriages as “almost always fucked in the head,” claimed “we need strict black control and Muslim control,” claimed “Mexicans are a fifth column in the U.S.,” and declared “Let’s just be honest: everyone hates blacks.” Forney has additionally claimed “Jews support gun control because their limp wrists make it impossible for them to shoot straight.”

    Furthermore, Forney has said women “want” to be “raped” and “beat[en]”, and claimed "Blacks do nothing but murder cops, rob and rape people, and bring death and destruction wherever they go.” In a profile in Slate, Michelle Goldberg wrote that Forney said “he’s been gratified by the way the Donald Trump campaign has made his views less taboo.”

  • Daily Beast: FBI fired Trump adviser and frequent Fox News guest Sebastian Gorka for “anti-Muslim diatribes”

    “A senior FBI official assured outraged and embarrassed colleagues that the bureau would no longer use Gorka”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Donald Trump adviser, frequent Fox News guest, and former Breitbart editor Sebastian Gorka was fired by the FBI, who was paying him to give lectures on counterterrorism issues, due to “his over-the-top Islamophobic rhetoric.” Gorka, who has come under fire for being a “sworn member” of a “Nazi-allied” Hungarian group, has also defended claims that President Barack Obama was the “founder” of ISIS, blamed Obama and Hillary Clinton for the Pulse nightclub shooting, and blamed Obama for veteran suicides.

    In a June 21 story, The Daily Beast reports the FBI “ended its contract with Gorka just months before he joined the White House as a senior adviser to President Trump.” Gorka was fired after he “told attendees at the Joint Terrorism Operations Course … that all Muslims adhere to sharia law, which he said is in conflict with the U.S. Constitution and American democratic values.” The Daily Beast reported that after these remarks, “a senior FBI official assured outraged and embarrassed colleagues that the bureau would no longer use Gorka for any subsequent lectures or instructions”:

    The inflammatory pundit Sebastian Gorka worked for the FBI while he was a paid consultant to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, lecturing bureau employees on counterterrorism issues.

    Until the FBI terminated Gorka for his over-the-top Islamophobic rhetoric.

    The Daily Beast has learned that the Federal Bureau of Investigation ended its contract with Gorka just months before he joined the White House as a senior adviser to President Trump.

    [...]

    Gorka told attendees at the Joint Terrorism Operations Course, an introductory-level class for participants in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces, that all Muslims adhere to sharia law, which he said is in conflict with the U.S. constitution and American democratic values. Officials familiar with his lecture said Gorka taught law-enforcement officials there is no such thing as mainstream Muslims—only those radicalized and those soon to be radicalized.

    The following month, a senior FBI official assured outraged and embarrassed colleagues that the bureau would no longer use Gorka for any subsequent lectures or instructions, according to documents reviewed by The Daily Beast.

  • Right-wing media is attempting to resuscitate an already misused survey to push debunked voter fraud claims

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Conservative media are pointing to a new report based on a recurring academic survey that was already misused to bolster debunked claims about non-citizen voting to claim that President Donald Trump is vindicated in stating that undocumented immigrants are committing voter fraud en masse.

    The conservative group Just Facts recently published a report based on Harvard data collected regularly to claim that 5.7 million undocumented immigrants may have voted in the 2008 presidential election. Right-wing media seized upon the skewed report to claim that “Trump was right.” Fox & Friends was promptly mocked on Twitter for lifting up the blatantly flawed study:

    In October 2016, PolitiFact published a piece explaining that the Harvard survey Just Facts relies on has been hotly challenged by experts as proof of voter fraud, and the authors who initially wrote about it themselves warned against using the data for future claims along those lines.

    Nonetheless, in November 2016, a man purporting to be the founder of voter fraud reporting app VoteStand alluded to the data to tweet the myth that 3 million noncitizens voted illegally, a claim that right-wing media blindly shared with their audiences. The data was quickly debunked at that time.

    Now, Just Facts has taken cues from this past stint and published its own study citing the same flawed data. And once again right-wing media are eating it up.

    Meanwhile, experts are responding to the study with reproof. HuffPost spoke to University of Massachusetts Amherst political science professor Brian Schaffner, who explained that the Just Facts study “makes the same error as the old study” by taking survey respondents at their word even when their claim that they voted illegally could not be corroborated. The article also quoted Eitan Hersh, a political science professor at Yale, who called the Just Facts methodology “a crazy extrapolation.”

    This is just the latest instance of conservative media pushing facts aside to bolster Trump’s baseless voter fraud claims. And as their defense becomes increasingly desperate, it is becoming obvious that their underlying agenda is to legitimize Republican efforts of voter suppression to help tilt future elections in the GOP’s favor.

  • Fox News completely ignored the release of police footage showing Philando Castile's fatal shooting

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST & BOBBY LEWIS

    Dashcam footage showing the fatal shooting of Philando Castile by Officer Jeronimo Yanez was released on June 20, giving the public new insight into the encounter that ended Castile’s life. But, if you watch only Fox News, you wouldn’t know it existed. The footage, which was released just days after Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter, drew the attention of CNN and MSNBC, but Fox News shows spent no time airing the video or covering its release.

    On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile, a black man, was fatally shot in Falcon Heights, MN, after being stopped by police for a routine traffic stop. Castile had a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon, and the newly released footage makes clear that Castile had alerted the officer that he was armed. The footage shows Officer Yanez telling Castile not to reach for his gun, and Castile can be heard responding, “I’m not pulling it out” right before Yanez fired seven shots, fatally wounding Castile.

    Between the release of the footage on June 20 and noon on June 21, the three major cable news networks -- CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC -- spent 44 minutes covering the release of the footage. CNN spent 36 minutes and seven seconds on it, and MSNBC spent 7 minutes and 12 seconds detailing the new information from the video, while Fox News ignored the video’s release entirely. CNN’s seven segments on the video and MSNBC’s three all showed the newly released footage.

     

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News contributor Eboni Williams made a passing comment on The Fox News Specialists about the “lack of empathy seen in the wake of the tragic death of Philando Castile” in a discussion about Otto Warmbier -- the American college student who recently died after having been detained in North Korea for over a year -- but none of her colleagues responded to the mention, and there was never a discussion of the video footage showing his fatal shooting. Fox’s glaring lack of coverage with regards to the video of Castile’s death is strikingly similar to the network’s lack of coverage following the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling, also a black man.

    Fox News’ coverage, or lack thereof, is also indicative of a larger problem: how right-wing media figures discuss (or don’t discuss) the deaths of people of color at the hands of police. In the aftermath of Castile’s shooting, Fox News host Sean Hannity and then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly both discussed Castile’s shooting only to criticize his girlfriend for not having done more to help him, and Fox News contributor Kevin Jackson used the case to blame Obama for violence against police officers. National Rifle Association (NRA) board member Ted Nugent smeared Castile and used his death to claim former President Barack Obama wanted to start a race war.

    Additionally, the shooting of Castile, a law-abiding gun owner, who, from the evidence available was following the officer’s requests, has prompted outrage from NRA members. The association, however, has made no statement on the verdict or video in Castile’s case, despite having defended other gun owners whose stories made national news.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of “Philando” and “Castile” between 5 p.m. June 20 and noon June 21, 2017. Time counts began when the segment was introduced and ended when the individual finished speaking. Teasers were not included.

  • Media follow GOP's lead and host mainly white men to discuss Republican health care bill

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

      As Senate Republicans face mounting criticism for including almost exclusively white men in their working group on the upcoming health care bill, media aren’t doing much better when discussing the legislation. Like the GOP, media are relying on mainly white people, particularly men, for their analysis and reporting on the health care bill, even though the bill would reportedly have serious consequences for women and minorities.

      Shortly after the House of Representatives passed its version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), Senate Republicans put together a working group to draft their own version of the legislation. The working group was roundly criticized for its lack of diversity. For instance, CNN’s Erin Burnett took issue with the all-male group, asking, “What can they realistically bring to the table when the conversation turns to, let’s just say, childbirth, maternity leave, ovarian cancer or breast cancer?” Likewise, Roll Call’s Patricia Murphy wrote that adding diverse voices to the group would allow people to “bring their own personal experiences to the debate,” noting that African-Americans have “a higher incidence of chronic disease” and are “more likely to require ongoing medical interventions over the course of their lives.”

      Unfortunately, if people are hoping to hear a diverse group of people discussing the health care bill, media are of little help. A Media Matters analysis found that the people hosted on television to discuss the bill were disproportionately white men. Key findings include:

      • Male guest appearances outnumbered female guest appearances 2-to-1 on prime-time cable news, broadcast morning and nightly news shows, and Sunday morning political shows during discussions of the Republican health care bill.
      • Over 87 percent of appearances on prime-time cable news, broadcast morning and nightly news shows, and Sunday morning political shows during discussions of the Republican health care bill were made by white guests.

      Race

      Of the 448 guest appearances* on prime-time cable news, broadcast morning and nightly news shows, and Sunday morning political shows, 392 appearances, or over 87 percent, were made by white guests.

      During Fox News and CNN’s prime-time coverage of the health care bill, white guests made up over 90 percent of total guest appearances:


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      • Fox News hosted 77 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 75, or over 97 percent, were made by white guests. Only two appearances were made by black guests, and there were no appearances made by Asian or Hispanic guests.
      • CNN hosted 120 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 108, or 90 percent, were made by white guests. Only seven appearances, or 6 percent, were made by black guests, three appearances by Asian guests, and two appearances by Hispanic guests.
      • MSNBC hosted 134 guest during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 108, or over 80 percent, were made by white guests. Eighteen appearances, or about 13 percent, were made by black guests, four, or nearly 3 percent, by Asian guests, and four appearances by Hispanic guests.

      CBS hosted only white guests to discuss the bill during its morning and nightly news shows:


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      • ABC hosted 12 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 10, or just over 83 percent, were made by white guests. The network hosted no black or Asian guests, but two appearances, or 7 percent, were made by Hispanic guests.
      • CBS hosted 16 guests during discussions of the bill, all of whom were white.
      • NBC hosted 18 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 17, or over 94 percent, were made by white guests. The network hosted no black or Asian guests, and only one appearance, or about 5 percent, was made by a Hispanic guest.

      During Fox News Sunday and Meet the Press’s coverage of the health care bill, over 90 percent of appearances were made by white guests:


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      • ABC's This Week hosted nine guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, seven, or nearly 78 percent, were made by white guests. Only one appearance each was made by black and Asian guests, but the program did not host any Hispanic guests.
      • CBS' Face the Nation hosted 17 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 13, or over 76 percent, were made by white guests. Two appearances were made by black guests, one by Asian, and one by a Hispanic guest.
      • NBC's Meet the Press hosted 11 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 10, or nearly 91 percent, were made by white guests.One appearance was made by a black guest, but the program did not host any Asian or Hispanic guests.
      • CNN's State of the Union hosted 18 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 13, or over 72 percent, were made by white guests. Four appearances were made by black guests and one by a Hispanic guest, but the program did not host any Asian guests.
      • Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday hosted 16 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 15, or nearly 94 percent, were made by white guests. One appearance was made by a black guest, but the program did not host any Hispanic or Asian guests.

      Gender

      Of the 448 guest appearances* on prime-time cable news, broadcast news’ morning and nightly shows, and Sunday morning political shows, 299 were made by men, meaning two-thirds of the voices viewers heard were male.

      During prime-time cable news, Fox News was the network that fared the worst on gender diversity:


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      • Fox News hosted 77 guests during discussions of the health care bill throughout prime-time programming. Of those guest appearances, 60, or nearly 78 percent, were made be men. Only 17 of the appearances were made by women, making up about 22 percent of guest appearances on the health care bill.
      • MSNBC hosted 134 guests during discussions of the health care bill throughout prime-time programming. Of those guest appearances, 90, or over 67 percent, were made by men. Only 44 of the appearances were made by women, making up just under 33 percent of guests hosted to discuss the bill.
      • CNN hosted 120 guests during discussions of the health care bill throughout prime-time programming. Of those guest appearances, 78, or 65 percent, were made by men. Only 42 of the appearances were made by women, making up about 35 percent of guests hosted to discuss the bill.

      During broadcast morning and nightly news shows, CBS was the only network to host more women than men to discuss the bill:


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      • CBS hosted 16 guests during discussions of the health care bill. Of those guest appearances, 11, or nearly 69 percent, were made by men. Five, or just over 31 percent, were made by women.
      • NBC hosted 18 guests during discussions of the health care bill. Of those guest appearances, 10, or nearly 56 percent, were made by men. The network featured eight appearances by women in discussions of the bill, making up just over 44 percent of guest appearances.
      • ABC hosted 12 guests during discussions of the health care bill. Of those guest appearances, eight, or nearly 67 percent, were made by men. Four appearances, or about 33 percent, were made by women.

      On the Sunday political shows, men outnumbered women 2-to-1, but some shows fared better than others. NBC’s Meet the Press was the closest to having equal representation, while ABC’s This Week had the highest gender imbalance:


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      • ABC’s This Week hosted nine guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, seven, or nearly 78 percent, were made by men. Only two appearances were made by women, making up over 22 percent of guest appearances.
      • CBS’ Face the Nation hosted 17 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 12, or nearly 71 percent, were made by men. Only five appearances were made by women, making up over 29 percent of guest appearances.
      • NBC’s Meet the Press hosted 11 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, six, or nearly 55 percent were made by men. Five appearances were made by women, making up over 45 percent of guest appearances.
      • CNN’s State of the Union hosted 16 guests during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 12, or 75 percent, were made by men. Four appearances were made by women, making up 25 percent of guest appearances.
      • Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday hosted 18 guests to discuss the bill. Of those appearances, 11, or over 61 percent, were made by men. Seven appearances were made by, making up nearly 39 percent of guest appearances.

      Sadly, the groups that have been marginalized by Senate Republicans and television news have a lot to lose with the AHCA. As FamiliesUSA noted, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) “greatly benefited Black communities, who are likely to disproportionately suffer the consequences of ACA repeal and the elimination of Medicaid as we know it” under the AHCA. And, as The Hill pointed out, “Hispanics benefited more than any other group from the Affordable Care Act,” and under the AHCA, “Many Hispanic leaders are worried their communities could be forced out of coverage and back into emergency rooms for primary care.” Additionally, groups fighting for the rights of Asian Americans have condemned the AHCA for the harm it would cause.

      Women also have much to lose if the AHCA passes the Senate. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, cuts to Medicaid would drastically hurt women who “comprise the majority of Medicaid beneficiaries.” The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicted that about 15 percent of low-income people “would lose access to care” under the AHCA due to the defunding of Planned Parenthood. And, as Marie Claire pointed out:

      For women who let their insurance lapse, maternity coverage will no longer be guaranteed, and pregnant women may face surcharges up to $17,000 for care. C-sections could also be considered a pre-existing condition, meaning that a woman could incur costs of roughly $50,000 for simply wanting another child. States could determine that having a heavy period or other menstrual irregularities is a pre-existing condition to be paid for out of pocket.

      The Republican health care bill presents a clear and present danger to millions of Americans, but minorities and women have the most to lose. Unfortunately, they’re nearly shut out of discussions about the bill, in politics and media alike.

      * Repeated guests were counted each time they appeared.

      Methodology

      Media Matters searched Nexis for mentions of health care, the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, the American Health Care Act, or AHCA on prime-time cable news, broadcast news’ morning and evening news shows, and Sunday political shows between May 4 (after the House of Representatives passed the bill) and June 18. Segments were coded if they included a significant discussion of the Republican health care bill. “Significant discussion” was defined as at least two speakers in the segment engaging on the topic with one another.

      Prime-time cable news refers to CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC programming between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. on weekdays. Broadcast news refers to ABC’s Good Morning America and World News Tonight, CBS’ CBS This Morning and CBS Evening News, and NBC’s Today and NBC Nightly News. Sunday political shows refers to ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, NBC’s Meet the Press, CNN’s State of the Union, and Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday.

    • Newspapers buried reports on health care, while TV news missed the Senate’s back room dealmaking

      Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH


      Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

      Television news largely missed reporting on Republican Senate leaders’ secretive drafting of its version of American Health Care Act (AHCA) that could radically alter health care for millions of Americans. New research from Media Matters has found that the five major newspapers almost completely ignored the GOP Senate leadership’s back room dealmaking on their front pages -- having a combined total of only two front page stories during a two-week period.

      On June 16, Vox asked eight Republican senators to explain their party’s prospective bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But the senators couldn’t “answer simple and critical questions” on their own bill. Vox Senior Editor Sarah Kliff pointed out on June 15 that “the Senate is running a remarkably closed process” to hide the bill; it has not released a draft to the public, has held no committee hearings, and has had no speeches “defending the policy provisions of the bill” on the Senate floor. The New York Times reported, also on June 15, that the “remarkable” secrecy around the bill has raised alarm with senators in both parties:

      “They’re ashamed of the bill,” the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, said. “If they liked the bill, they’d have brass bands marching down the middle of small-town America saying what a great bill it is. But they know it isn’t.”

      [...]

      Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, offered a hint of the same frustration felt by Democrats seeking more information about the bill.

      “I come from a manufacturing background,” Mr. Johnson said. “I’ve solved a lot of problems. It starts with information. Seems like around here, the last step is getting information, which doesn’t seem to be necessarily the most effective process.”

      The day Vox and the Times reported on the GOP senators’ unprecedented secrecy surrounding the bill, Media Matters released a report documenting the insufficient amount of weekday coverage on broadcast and cable news dedicated to the Senate health care bill from June 1 to June 14. Media Matters reported that the big three broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) dedicated a fraction of their airtime -- roughly three minutes across all three networks -- to the Senate deliberations out of 15 total hours of scheduled weekday programming. The performance of cable news channels was not much better, as MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News provided just under two combined hours of coverage to the Senate bill out of 150 hours of scheduled weekday programming.

      Television news’ lack of coverage would help the Republican Party move the legislative process forward on this bill without a public debate that would highlight the real human cost of such legislation. Media Matters research also found that in addition to television channels falling flat, print media did not fair much better either on covering the the Senate health care bill.

      An analysis of five major newspapers -- Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post -- showed that though newspapers did provide more in-depth coverage than television news, those papers almost completely ignored the issue on the front page. In fact, Media Matters did not identify a single front page story on the Republican Senate’s health care bill in the Times, USA Today, or the LA Times from June 1-14 and only identified one front page story each in the Post and the Journal. On June 19, ThinkProgess reported on this lack of front page coverage (which had continued beyond June 14) and noted that it was also a problem with local papers in areas that supported President Donald Trump -- areas which ThinkProgress noted would be “hit hardest by Trumpcare.”

      In total, Media Matters identified 29 print edition news articles in these five major national newspapers that discussed the Senate health care bill from June 1 through June 14. Of these five outlets, the Post and the Times provided the most total coverage -- the Post published 11 articles on eight different days, and the Times published nine articles on seven different days. The Journal was third with six pieces published on five separate days. The Los Angeles Times published just two articles on two separate days, and Media Matters only identified one article in USA Today.

      The GOP is counting on media’s silence and right-wing media myths to push a train wreck of a health care bill that would strip health care from tens of millions to slash taxes for the wealthiest Americans. Right-wing media have repeatedly assisted the GOP with claims that ACA is in a “death spiral” and have attempted to discredit the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office after its report found that up to 24 million people would lose health insurance under the AHCA. Right-wing media have even tried to pacify millions of Americans that would lose access to insurance by absurdly telling them to just go to the emergency room. As Talk Poverty’s Jeremy Slevin pointed out, “It is the responsibility of the press to draw out the contents of the Senate’s health care bill—before it is too late.”

      Methodology

      Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of print editions of the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The New York Times, and The Washington Post from June 1, 2017, through June 14, 2017. We identified and reviewed all non-editorial print content that included any of the following keywords: health care or healthcare or health reform or AHCA or Trumpcare or American Health Care Act or ACA or Obamacare or affordable care act or cbo within 20 words of the word Senate.

      Media Matters conducted a Factiva search of print editions of The Wall Street Journal from June 1, 2017, through June 14, 2017. health care or healthcare or health reform or AHCA or Trumpcare or American Health Care Act or ACA or Obamacare or affordable care act or cbo within 10 words of the word Senate (the maximum distance allowed by Factiva).

    • MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle is obsessed with a Republican talking point about Jon Ossoff

      At least 21 congressional representatives also live outside the districts they were elected to represent

      Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

      MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle has obsessed over a right-wing talking point about Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff's decision not to establish residence in the 6th district where he is running in a June 20 special election. However, as The Washington Post has noted, at least 21 congressional representatives live outside of the districts they represent and Ossoff grew up in the 6th district before moving a few miles away.

      For months, Republicans and right-wing media attacked Ossoff for living just outside of Georgia’s 6th congressional district, and during the race it has become a major talking point, with outside groups running ads against him. President Donald Trump also tweeted similar attacks on the days of the primary election in April and the special election in June:

      During an interview on CNN in April, Ossoff made it clear that he intends to move back to the 6th congressional district where he “grew up” once his fiancee finishes medical school. But Ruhle has repeatedly raised this Republican talking point during interviews with him and during discussions of the race.

      During a June 16 interview, Ruhle noted that this line of attack had been used by Ossoff’s Republican opponent and acknowledged his reason for living outside the district. But she still pressed him on it, asking: “Why don’t you just move, at this point? I mean, you want to get this job, to me it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, why wouldn’t you just move so you could represent the district that you’d be governing?”

      She brought up this GOP talking point again the morning of the election in a panel discussion, saying, “This is one I just can’t get over -- if you think about what people are going after him over -- the president tweeting about it this morning. This is resolvable. He just needs to get a house in the district.” And just minutes later, Ruhle again grilled Ossoff about his address, demanding to know why he just doesn’t move (emphasis added):

      STEPHANIE RUHLE (HOST): Jon, I know you said it earlier, every vote counts. It is all about voter turnout. And I asked you the other day, but it's extraordinary, one of the main points that Karen Handel and even President Trump has pushed against you is something that's very easy to solve: where you live. And if you get elected you're going to be spending the majority of your time in Washington. And while people respect across the board your desire to support your fiancee, she is in medical school, she walks to work across the street at 4 a.m., you're going to be getting a job that has you on a plane living in another part of the country most days of the week. With every vote counting, with every point counting, why not move, sir?

      JON OSSOFF: Well, Steph, voters just aren't asking me this question. Voters are asking me what I'm going to do to improve our local economy, voters are asking me what I'm going to do to ensure they have access to health care. Voters are asking me what I'm going to do to bring greater accountability to Washington. Folks here in Georgia’s 6th district care about how their representation is going to impact their daily lives. And frankly, if this is the best argument my opponents have against me, I'm feeling pretty good about the outcome tonight. I grew up in this community, as you mentioned I live a couple of miles down the road to support my fiancee while she finishes medical school. I’m running to serve my hometown in Congress and I want to make them proud.

      RUHLE: But, Jon, since the special election where you were at 48.1, things have only moved to 48.8 with 50 million bucks under your belt. So voters care about a lot. If you look back on this and things are that tight, wouldn't you say to yourself, just get an apartment in the district, this race counts so much?

      OSSOFF: Well, if voters were raising that as a serious concern, Steph, maybe I would. But voters care about how policy and how representation is going to impact their daily lives. They know I grew up in this community, they know I grew up in the 6th district, they know why I'm a couple miles south of the line. It's just not a major issue in the race. I'm focused on delivering representation that will serve our local economy, that will serve the daily needs of the people I hope to represent. And I'm offering a fresh voice to bring that kind of service to the 6th district.

      Ruhle’s obsession with this GOP attack against Ossoff is undermined by data showing at least 21 members of the House of Representatives live outside of the districts they represent. The Washington Post published an analysis on June 20 that found “that at least 5 percent of [House members] live outside their districts” (emphasis added):

      There’s no legal reason he should have to live in the district he hopes to represent; the Constitution mandates only that members of the House live in the state they are going to represent. That said, it’s generally considered politically advantageous to actually be a resident of the area you hope to represent.

      If elected, Ossoff wouldn’t be the only member of Congress living in Georgia’s 5th District. There’s also Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who represents the district. But a review of vote registration records by The Washington Post suggests that Ossoff would be the third member of Congress to make his home in the 5th. According to voter data provided to The Post by the political data firm L2, Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) is also registered to vote in the district, instead of the 13th District that he represents.

      In fact, The Post identified 20 members of Congress who are registered to vote outside of the districts they serve. In some cases, it’s clearly a function of redistricting. Four members of the House from southern Florida, for example, live outside of the districts they represent, but that’s likely because the Florida Supreme Court redrew the district boundaries at the end of 2015.

      In total, we identified the records for 395 members of Congress, matching names and birthdates to voter files.

      [...]

      The broader point, though, is a simple one: Should Ossoff win the run-off in the 6th District in June, he will hardly be the only member of Congress to live outside of his district.

    • Can White House press briefings be saved?

      Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

      Is the era of Trump White House daily press briefings now, for all practical purposes, over?

      On Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer held an off-camera “gaggle” where all video and audio recordings were banned. It was only the latest example of an administration obsessed with secrecy and committed to embracing the opposite of transparency. (The White House held a similar “no audio” briefing last week.) That hallmark lack of transparency extends specifically to keeping journalists and voters as uninformed as possible.

      Today, White House press briefings are dying on the vine. They’re becoming increasingly scarce and unhelpful. “When Spicer and [deputy Sarah Huckabee] Sanders do take questions from journalists, they increasingly offer nonanswers,” The Washington Post noted this week.

      This trend fits a larger, disturbing strategy as the GOP-run Senate scrambles in total secrecy to pass a sprawling health care bill without holding any public hearings, without hearing from any health care experts, and without releasing the text of the bill. Reporters today have no idea what’s in the bill, simply because Republicans won’t make the contents public. (Reporters have to rely solely on Republican sources for legislative information.)

      It all constitutes a historic, incremental effort by the Trump administration to lock out the press -- and, by extension, the public -- from the government’s official duties and business.

      This was my warning just days after Trump’s November victory: Moving forward, news organizations face a stark, and possibly defining choice in terms of how they respond to any radical efforts to curb the media’s White House access."

      Today, some journalists, and specifically the large, influential news organizations they work for, deserve a healthy dose of blame for largely sleepwalking past a dangerous problem for months.

      For much of 2017, Media Matters has urged news outlets to take collective action to push back against the White House’s anti-press steamroller operation.

      This week, following the outrageous “gaggle” lock-out, CNN’s senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta spoke out, suggesting “collective action” is the only option news outlets have in the face of the White House’s unprecedented attack on newsgathering:

      “It's bizarre,” said Acosta, who despite being labeled “fake news” to his face during a press conference with President Trump in February is not known for editorializing his reporting. “I don’t know what world we’re living in right now, Brooke, where we’re standing at the White House and they bring us into the briefing room here at the White House, and they won’t answer these questions on camera or let us record the audio... I don’t understand why we covered that gaggle today, quite honestly, Brooke. If they can’t give us the answers to the questions on camera or where we can record the audio, they’re basically pointless.”

      But is it now too late? The time for robust pushback was certainly back in January or February when the White House was still assembling its obstructionist strategy. The press should’ve been raising holy hell from day one. (Following yesterday’s controversy, the White House announced Spicer will be holding an on-camera briefing today.)

      Reminder: When the Obama White House tweaked an access policy in a way news organizations didn’t like, they instantly staged a “mini-revolt” by indignantly, and collectively, demanding a meeting with Democratic administration officials to fix the problem.

      Acosta's forceful and important commentary on Monday has been the exception, not the rule -- and criticism like Acosta's has not been bolstered by much tangible action from major news organizations.

      Why the media’s signature timidity? My guess is it was the dream of access journalism that prevented many in the press from doing the right thing from day one. It was the dream of access journalism that kept reporters, editors, and producers from loudly, angrily, and collectively, demanding traditional access from the Trump White House.

      Nervous about having their access cut off -- about not being called on at briefings, about being shut out of gaggles, about having no chance at landing a presidential interview -- many journalists and news organizations sat on their hands and hoped for the best. Nervous of offending a Republican president they deemed as a TV celebrity, journalists backed down. (Or worse, laughed along.)

      And leading the access brigade was the White House Correspondents’ Association. No matter how many obstacles the administration erected for the press, the group has routinely seemed to downplay them -- all while stressing the Trump team was providing access.

      But of course today the White House does not provide beloved access. It’s doing the exact opposite. The new paucity of on-camera briefings prove that point, as does the fact that when truncated briefings do occur the main objective appears to be to share as little helpful information as possible.

      Example: Three weeks ago a reporter at a briefing asked Spicer if Trump believed in climate change. Spicer said he didn’t know because he had never asked Trump. To date, Spicer still does not seem to have an answer for that very simple question.

      So yes, journalists sat on their hands while angling for access that never came. Trump hasn’t had a full-fledged press conference since February; it’s been more than a month since he sat down with a legitimate journalist to answer extended questions. And as scandal allegations mount, there’s no reason to think Trump’s personal attorney will allow him to give any in-depth interviews soon.

      While networks have gone overboard with airing almost all of Spicer's briefings, on-camera briefings -- even ones in which Spicer is his usual, evasive self -- are still better than nothing in terms of creating a video record of the administration's answers to reporters' questions on important issues.

      Nonetheless, the window to save the press briefings is closing quickly. I wish CNN and the rest of the press corps would take Acosta’s current advice (“we should walk out”), and do something.

    • Trump's appointees are promoting anti-choice “alternative science” ripped from right-wing media

      LA Times describes appointees as “the four horsewomen of disinformation” on abortion and contraception

      Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

      A new article in the New England Journal of Medicine called out four of President Donald Trump’s recent appointees for promoting bad policy on contraception and abortion -- policies that are rooted in “alternative science” supported by discredited research and right-wing media.

      In a June 14 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, University of Wisconsin Law School professor R. Alta Charo, who focuses on the law and bioethics, wrote about President Donald Trump’s appointment of Charmaine Yoest, Teresa Manning, and Valerie Huber to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), as well as his assignment of Katy Talento to serve as a health care adviser on his Domestic Policy Council. Charo lamented that these appointments exemplified how “reproduction has become the victim of alternative science, rife with alternative definitions of well-understood medical conditions.”

      In a June 15 article for the Los Angeles Times, Michael Hiltzik characterized Charo’s article as “identifying four Trump appointees as carriers of the disinformation virus” and called the appointees “the four horsewomen of disinformation.” Most alarmingly, Charo told Hiltzik that these four appointees “could influence an entire generation’s attitude toward contraception, for the worse.”

      For example, Charmaine Yoest, the assistant secretary for public affairs at DHHS and the former president of the anti-abortion group Americans United For Life, has a long history of misinforming on contraception, abortion, and LGBTQ rights. One of Yoest’s most egregious and often repeated claims is that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, an assertion that Charo explained “will only encourage the alarming pattern of state legislation requiring physicians to provide this misinformation in the name of ‘informed consent.’”

      Similarly, Teresa Manning, the deputy assistant secretary for population affairs at DHHS, is a former legislative analyst for the hate group Family Research Council and a former lobbyist for the National Right to Life Committee. Although Manning doesn’t believe that contraception can be effective, she is now in charge of the Title X program, which provides family planning funds for low-income people. Manning’s belief, which will shape the federal policy, is not supported by science. As Charo noted, there is ample evidence that “hormonal methods are 91% effective and long-acting reversible contraceptives such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.”

      Trump’s recent appointment of Valerie Huber to serve as chief of staff to the assistant secretary for health is problematic given the department’s oversight of adolescent health programs. As the former head of a group called Ascend, Huber promoted abstinence-only sex education, which Charo rightfully identified as having “repeatedly been shown to be ineffective at preventing” teen pregnancy. Indeed, as multiple studies have found, abstinence-only sex education failed to prevent a long-term delay in sex or teen pregnancy, and, in some cases, actually led to a decrease in the use of condoms or contraception, increasing the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

      The final appointee Charo criticized was Katy Talento, who now serves as a health care adviser on the Domestic Policy Council. Talento believes birth control causes infertility and miscarriages, which is not supported by the majority of scientific studies. To demonstrate the lack of scientific evidence behind Talento’s claims, Charo pointed to an article Talento had written in which she incorrectly cited a study to claim birth control is “breaking your uterus.”

      According to Charo, misinformation on abortion and other reproductive choices has “been used to support abortion restrictions” at the state level, despite having little factual or scientific basis. Such rewriting of science, Charo claimed, is not done by “reasonable people” for they “may disagree about how to interpret data, but they do not ignore scientific method by giving credence to flawed, fraudulent, or misrepresented studies.”

      Although the appointment of these anti-choice stalwarts may be recent, the misinformation they advance is nothing new in the world of right-wing media. Fox News has continually provided legitimacy to the discredited anti-abortion group the Center for Medical Progress and carried water for its disproven claims about fetal tissue donation and Planned Parenthood. Fox News has also hosted people like White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who advocates for 20-week abortion bans based on a flawed scientific premise and has a long history of promoting anti-choice misinformation during her appearances on the network. During the 2016 election, Fox News also alleged multiple times that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton supported “partial-birth” abortion, a term that has no medical basis and was, in fact, invented by anti-abortion groups to demonize people seeking medically necessary late-term abortions. Similarly, the congressional Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives relied heavily on claims from anti-abortion groups that were promoted as credible evidence by right-wing media.

      Trump’s health care appointees exist in the right-wing media world of “alternative science.” And as the New England Journal of Medicine reported, the impact of these discredited anti-choice views will lead to unsound policies that will have a substantial impact on abortion access and reproductive health throughout the country.

    • Reporters fall into the “alt-right” trap with Julius Caesar stunt

      Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

      Ever since President Donald Trump hired then-Breitbart.com chief executive Stephen Bannon to run his presidential campaign, the press has been struggling to comprehend the “alt-right” movement that his website helped promote. While many journalists have done yeoman’s work catching up on the assortment of white nationalists, misogynists, and conspiracy theorists behind this new wave of fringe media outlets, they’ve been less effective in learning about the tactics those figures use to manipulate the press. That failing was evident over the weekend, as major news outlets reported on Friday night’s “alt-right” interruption of a performance of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

      That controversy, which triggered stories by The Associated Press, CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major publications, demonstrated that the news judgment of mainstream news outlets has yet to adjust to the new reality. And it is a sad reminder that the “alt-right’s” greatest strength is its ability to exploit the media for its own ends.

      Conservative criticism of the Public Theater’s production of Julius Caesar in New York’s Central Park, which debuted in late May and concluded Sunday night, hit the public consciousness on June 11 after it came under attack from Fox News. In an appearance on the weekend edition of the network’s Fox & Friends morning show, TownHall.com Political Editor Guy Benson denounced the play for placing a Trump look-alike in the titular role of the Roman leader who is assassinated onstage.

      As other conservative media figures and Trump’s own sons joined the chorus, Delta and Bank of America ended their corporate sponsorship of the production. And after a gunman targeted Republican members of Congress practicing on a baseball field last week, wounding Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), right-wing commentators linked the attack to the play.

      These arguments are foolish and made in bad faith. Caesar’s assassination is not glamorized in the production -- indeed, the message of the play is that misguided political violence will inevitably breed disastrous consequences. “Likening Shakespeare’s monarchs and politicians to real-life figures is a long-standing performance practice, seized by directors with sometimes illuminating, sometimes boneheaded results,” Slate’s Issac Butler noted after the initial complaints, pointing out that performances of Julius Caesar have featured then-President Barack Obama in the titular role without incident.

      The controversy culminated in a "protest" at Friday night’s performance, when the production was interrupted for roughly a minute when the “alt-right” online outlet Rebel Media’s Laura Loomer stormed the stage, shouting, “Do you want Trump to be assassinated?” She was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespass. Jack Posobiec, another “alt-right” figure, also interrupted the performance, yelling, “The blood of Steve Scalise is on your hands” and comparing the audience to the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels before being removed from the theater. Posobiec taped the disturbance and posted it on Twitter, where it quickly circulated.

      Why did they do it? The incident has the hallmarks of a grift: The disturbances came after “alt-right” personality Mike Cernovich offered a $1,000 bounty to anyone who successfully interrupted the performance, and Loomer is seeking to crowdfund $25,000, supposedly for her legal defense.

      It’s not unusual for protesters to use civil disobedience to garner media attention for their cause. But this "protest" had no real aim other than the aggrandizement of its participants. It had all the moral force of a pair of drunken assholes running onto the field to halt a baseball game, and deserved a similar degree of attention from the media. Instead, mainstream reporters have been transfixed by the story, generating reams of coverage that bolster the profiles of Posobiec and Loomer. For the cost of a ticket, they were able to troll the public with their nonsense claims, with mainstream outlets regurgitating their trolling at the top of their stories and burying the reasons not to believe them.

      This manipulation of the mainstream press by subversive elements who don’t play by the traditional rules of journalism should be an ongoing concern. We’ve seen the press fall for these efforts time and time again -- indeed, NBC News spent most of last week getting outmaneuvered at every turn by Infowars chief Alex Jones.

      Mainstream reporters rightfully feel compelled to cover the rising tide of fringe-right outlets because of their close ties to the president, and the manner in which their seemingly-absurd conspiracy theories have translated into harassment. Their claims about a pedophile ring operating out of a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor led to gunfire at the restaurant; Seth Rich’s family was hassled following their allegations that the murdered Democratic staffer was actually bumped off by Hillary Clinton’s campaign; their lies that the Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax turn the lives of the victims’ parents into waking nightmares.

      But the pro-Trump fringe has become adept at taking advantage of those inclinations to increase its own influence. As they come under more scrutiny, these “alt-right” figures are learning how to gin up grievances, manufacture new controversies, and troll the press to garner attention and make money.

      Reporters need to show better news judgment when they engage with the “alt-right.” When the movement’s media personalities are stirring controversies that have a real impact on people’s lives, they have earned national attention.

      But when the “alt-right” personalities are deliberately screwing with journalists to bolster their own profiles, the best thing journalists can do for their readers is refuse to play their game.