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  • How Fox News botched a Comey story and then furiously tried to backtrack

    Fox & Friends' lack of journalistic standards: A story in 3 parts

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Throughout the June 23 edition of Fox & Friends, the morning show hosts had to continuously walk back and correct a report in which they claimed that former FBI Director James Comey had visited The New York Times the night before. Fox & Friends’ initial incorrect reporting, which was eventually walked back through two follow-up segments, highlights the lack of journalistic standards on Fox News’ flagship morning show. 
     
    In the first report, Fox & Friends reporter Jillian Mele stated, “The New York Times gets a special visitor,” to which guest host Ed Henry replied, “Wonder what James Comey was doing at The New York Times. It’s so odd.”
     

    JILLIAN MELE: The New York Times gets a special visitor. The Daily Mail got these pictures of former FBI Director James Comey stopping by their office in Manhattan. He reportedly spent three hours inside.
     
    [...]
     
    ED HENRY (CO-HOST): Wonder what James Comey was doing at The New York Times. It's so odd.
     
    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Why would he go right in the front door?
     
    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): I know. He’s not even trying to hide.
     
    HENRY: He’s wearing sunglasses.

    Fox & Friends began to backtrack in its second segment on the matter, noting that a spokesperson for The New York Times had stated that Comey hadn’t gone to the paper's offices, and admitting that Comey could have entered other offices within the New York Times building. The hosts semi-acknowledged that “there may be a law firm in that building that had some sort of event for abused children” that Comey actually attended. (Reporting from the previous night had pictures of Comey at that event.) The hosts, however, continued to cast doubt, stating, “We just don’t know.”

    STEVE DOOCY: Well, yesterday, just about four blocks from where we’re sitting right now, somebody realized, hey, who’s that really tall guy going into The New York Times?
     
    ED HENRY: I’ve seen him on TV.
     
    DOOCY: He’s wearing sunglasses. There he is right there, he’s holding his coat. He’s going in with his wife, and he came out with his wife, and --
     
    HENRY: It’s James Comey.
     
    DOOCY: -- and sunglasses off. It's the former FBI director going into the New York Times building.
     
    AINSLEY EARHARDT: Clearly didn't want to hide it. He’s going in the front door, not the even a back door. He was in there for three hours. 
     
    DOOCY: Yeah. The New York Times spokesperson says he did not visit the New York Times newsroom, however, there are other businesses in that building. Also, didn't go to the newsroom, could have gone to another part. 
     
    EARHARDT: It just doesn’t look good. After he admitted to leaking to his friends that work in, that are his journalist friends, it doesn't look good. 
     
    HENRY: There are reporters for The New York Times, we should say, who are tweeting last night and this morning that there may be a law firm in that building that had some sort of event for abused children and that James Comey and his wife may have been visiting them as a charitable thing. They were in there for a couple of hours. Whether they visited more than one office we simply don't know. 
     
    DOOCY: So, it would just be a coincidence that he also leaked stuff to somebody who leaked to them. 
     
    HENRY: Yeah, might be a coincidence, yeah.
     
    EARHARDT: Could be a Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton thing. They talked about grandkids, but they were in the plane for a long time; he was in there for three hours.
     
    HENRY: What kind of sunglasses to wear.

    In the final report on this topic, hosts continued to walk back their own reporting and speculation, claiming that “now we’re learning more,” despite the fact the tweet they were referring to was sent the previous evening. Host Steve Doocy noted that “there was some speculation” that Comey was at the New York Times building to meet with reporters, failing to note that he and his co-hosts contributed to the speculation, but adding, “As it turns out, that is not the case.” 
     

    STEVE DOOCY: Speaking of talk, yesterday there was extremely tall man with glasses seen walking into the New York Times building.
     
    ED HENRY: There he is.
     
    DOOCY: Does that look familiar? 
     
    HENRY: That’s James Comey. 
     
    DOOCY: That is James Comey.
     
    HENRY: He’s going into the New York Times building. 
     
    DOOCY: Three hours later there he comes out. There’s a great big story on Daily Mail about James Comey spotted at the New York Times building. We reported that this morning. We said that the New York Times spokesperson said that he did not visit the newsroom, and now we're learning more from, I think, Maggie Haberman at The New York Times -
     
    HENRY: Yeah, saying he didn't visit the newsroom. A person close to him said that he and his wife went to a ceremony for CASA, at Covington & Burling, a major law firm, which is also in the New York Times building, and apparently that law firm was hosting some sort of charity event for abused kids. There’s some photos on Twitter of James Comey and his wife talking to those kids. Sounds like a wonderful cause. If that’s what he was doing, hats off to him.
     
    DOOCY: Sure. And there was some speculation -- well, maybe he went to The New York Times because it wasn’t so long ago he gave that Columbia professor his notes so that they could leak it to the Times. As it turns out, that is not the case. He was there --
     
    HENRY: Great if he was doing charity work. It does not erase the fact there’s been all kinds of leaks at The New York Times. Period, end of story.

    The evolution and complete breakdown of Fox & Friends' initial reporting highlights the complete lack of journalistic standards on Fox’s morning show. Earlier this month, the hosts cited a story relying solely on “one of the online blogs.” The Fox & Friends hosts have consistently shown that they will report on a story without looking for the facts or truth behind the narrative they want to push; no one should take them at their word.

  • Fox & Friends is Donald Trump's safe space

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko and Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump loves rallies, but he can't hold a rally every day. Sometimes he has to turn to Fox & Friends.

    Amid a series of moves closing off access to the administration for journalists -- including recent major changes to the frequency and format of official press briefings --  the president and first lady Melania Trump are taping an exclusive interview today with Fox News’ Ainsley Earhardt, his first televised, in-person interview in six weeks. (The interview is set to air Friday.) This move makes perfect sense for Trump, who is mired in countless major scandals and can expect to avoid being grilled about any of them on Fox & Friends, known more for its family-barbecue brand of casual, coded racism and xenophobia than for actual journalism.

    The interview also speaks to a larger trend in the president’s approach to the press, as he increasingly elevates and prioritizes loyal conservative sycophants over actual news outlets. After tomorrow’s Fox & Friends interview, Trump will have given as many interviews to Fox & Friends (three) during his presidency as he has to ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN combined.

    Since his inauguration, Trump has given 10 televised interviews in total to Fox News (and one to Fox Business), one each to CBS, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, and the Christian Broadcasting Network, and none to CNN. 

    Trump's decision to grant another sit-down interview to his friends at Fox & Friends comes 40 days after his last one-on-one interview with Fox’s Jeanine Pirro, who also asked him predictable softball questions. It is an ideal move for a president who wants to appear as if he’s granting media access without being accessible to any members of the media who might actually ask him a critical question. (The last time he allowed that to happen, he stepped on a James Comey-shaped rake courtesy of NBC’s Lester Holt.)

    Trump’s retreat to his friends at Fox is happening in the midst of his administration’s unprecedented war on the press at large. On the same day the president and first lady are sitting down with Earhardt, elsewhere in the White House, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders conducted yet another bizarre and pointless press briefing that barred video recordings. The frequency of the White House press briefings and gaggles -- recorded or otherwise -- has been sharply declining in recent months. The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers calculated that the total White House press briefing time for June will shrink to about a third of what it was in March.

    Trump also lags far behind his predecessors in holding solo presidential press conferences. So far, Trump has held just one press conference, in which he called CNN’s Jim Acosta “fake news”; at this point in previous administrations, President Barack Obama had held six, President George W. Bush had held three, and President Bill Clinton had held seven solo press conferences.

    Fox News (and Fox & Friends, in particular) is predictably the runaway favorite when Trump is compelled to branch out from public interaction via Twitter and rallies. As Politico’s Joanna Weiss wrote last month:

    Trump’s cozy relationship with “Fox & Friends” has become one of the great curiosities of his unusual presidency. A well-known cable TV devotee, Trump has found inspiration for his Twitter timeline in various programs—but none so much as Fox News Channel’s 6-9 a.m. talk show.

    […]

    It’s not hard to understand the show’s appeal. While the rest of the media frets and wails over Trump’s policies and sounds the alarm over his tweets, “Fox & Friends” remains unrelentingly positive. It’s pitched to the frequency of the Trump base, but it also feels intentionally designed for Trump himself—a three-hour, high-definition ego fix. For a president who no longer regularly receives adulation from screaming crowds at mega rallies, “Fox & Friends” offers daily affirmation that he is successful and adored, that his America is winning after all.

    On Twitter, his preferred mode of communication with the public, the president has repeatedly lavished Fox & Friends with praise since taking office. Trump routinely appeared on the show throughout his campaign, often calling in just to talk or complain about whatever was bothering him, including on Election Day. For years beforehand, he even had a weekly call-in segment on the show to share this thoughts about the news of the day. 

    The warm and familiar embrace of Fox & Friends is where Trump turns for unconditional support in furthering an alternate reality where his presidency is historically successful and his critics are merely unfair or needlessly mean. Perhaps that's why Ivanka Trump is also now frequenting the show -- her own one-on-one interview with Earhardt was pushed back to accomodate her father's, but it will air on Monday.  

    Rob Savillo contributed original research to this post. 

  • What pundits call a "moderate" Senate health care bill will kill people

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    As Senate Republicans unveil the draft of their health care proposal, the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, media have already taken to framing the Senate GOP’s attempt at destroying the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as “more moderate” than a similar bill passed by the House last month. But comparing the Senate bill to the House bill whitewashes the portions of the proposal that are in fact at least as extreme as the previous one and the immense harm they would do to American people if this bill became law.

    After drafting the bill with an “almost-unprecedented opacity,” Senate Republicans finally publicly introduced their health care proposal on June 22. The Senate draft comes over a month after the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) on May 4. Several reports on the Senate health care bill, however, are deceptively framed as they suggest that the bill is “more moderate” than its counterpart passed by the House. The New York Times wrote that the Senate version was “in some respects, more moderate than the House bill” because it offers “more financial assistance to some lower-income people to help them defray the rapidly rising cost of private health insurance.” USA Today speculated that if the Senate passes the bill, it would “likely to be more moderate than what the House passed.” Additionally, Fox News’ Peter Doocy stated the bill appeared “more moderate than the House version” because it would “let states that took more Medicaid money” under the ACA’s Medicaid expansion “keep more of it for longer than the House bill would.”

    Calling the Senate bill “more moderate” than the House’s AHCA is a low bar and framing the Senate bill that way is deceptive. First of all, the House bill is nowhere close to moderate. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the AHCA would increase “the number of uninsured people relative to the number projected” under the ACA by 23 million by 2026. Additionally, under the AHCA, those with pre-existing conditions would be in jeopardy of losing coverage. At the very least, those with pre-existing conditions would face skyrocketing premiums. And those who want policies to cover essential health benefits, like maternity care and mental health and substance abuse services, are “likely to be priced out of the market,” according to NBC News. It would be hard to imagine a bill less moderate than the AHCA.

    The Senate bill is largely a replica of the AHCA that also includes its own extreme measures. As NBC News reported, the Senate draft “makes deeper cuts” to Medicaid “in the long run” compared to the House bill. And according to the Center for American Progress, the Senate bill’s essential health benefit waivers would “erode or eliminate financial protections for about 27 million workers and their dependents,” including those who are in employer health care plans.

    As Andy Slavitt, the former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, noted, “The Senate bill needs to be compared to current law, not the House bill.” People will die if this bill becomes law. That’s the context reporters should be using when discussing this new proposal.

  • New MSNBC host Hugh Hewitt is Sean Hannity in glasses

    The Trump supporter puts an intellectual shine on partisan hackery

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    “It is hard work to read widely and broadly, and on both sides of the political aisle,” conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt wrote in a July 2014 explanation of why he had decided to, in his words, “embarrass” a young Huffington Post journalist during an interview on his radio show by quizzing him about what books he had read about the war on terror. “Time consuming. Not very fun actually. But necessary. If you intend to be taken seriously. More importantly, if you intend the country to endure.”

    Since then, NBC hired Hewitt as a political analyst, The Washington Post brought him on as a contributing columnist, and MSNBC has now announced that it is handing Hewitt a weekly show airing on Saturday mornings. These media outlets fell for the idea that he is a different type of conservative talker, the “antidote” to “bombastic personalities” like Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh. In reality, his actions during the 2016 presidential election campaign and the early months of the Trump administration have showed that he simply puts an intellectual gloss on their same brand of partisan hackery.

    In recent weeks, while pundits who share Hewitt's reputation for erudition have castigated the president as dangerously unlearned and incurious, Hewitt has instead stood alongside the president's media sycophants, laying down cover fire for Trump. Hewitt supported Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey, who was investigating his campaign's connections to the Russian government; he downplayed reports that Trump had revealed highly classified information in a meeting with Russian officials; after numerous outlets reported that Comey had kept notes of a meeting with Trump in which the president suggested he halt an investigation into a Trump aide, Hewitt's focus was on whether Comey, not Trump, had behaved appropriately. 

    A breakout media star of the campaign, Hewitt garnered numerous glowing profiles stressing his intellectual heft and curiosity: the “necessary bookshelf” of national security tomes he promotes on this website; how he opens interviews by asking his guests if they know who Alger Hiss is and have read Lawrence Wright’s book The Looming Tower*; his friends on all sides of the political debate; his regular interviews of prominent mainstream journalists; his experience in politics, law, and academia; and in particular the way those features make him distinct from other conservative radio and cable news hosts.

    But Hewitt set aside his concern for the life of the mind and voted for Donald Trump for president, a man of manifest ignorance and intellectual laziness who is unaware of basic historical facts and legal principles, uninterested in policy nuance or detail. As Hewitt had noted in demolishing a 31-year-old journalist, it is “hard work to read widely,” and Trump never bothered to try -- it seems plausible he has read fewer books as an adult than he is credited with writing. Asked to name the last book he had read in an interview last May, Trump commented, “I read passages. I read -- I read areas, I read chapters. I just -- I don't have the time."

    For Hewitt, reading widely was necessary to credibly comment on foreign policy, but not to make it.

    Hewitt, who remained neutral during the Republican presidential primary, frequently provided Trump with friendly access to his audience; he was “the very best interview in America,” according to the host. In none of those interviews with a man who was seeking to be the potential next leader of the free world was Hewitt nearly as aggressive as he had been in his interview with a young Huffington Post reporter.**

    In their first interview, in February 2015, Trump acknowledged that he hadn’t read The Looming Tower, couldn’t name any works of fiction that he’d read, and admitted that he could not speak about nuclear submarines in any real detail (“I just know this. Military is very important to me.”). None of this seemed to strike Hewitt as a problem.

    Hewitt could perhaps be forgiven for not going after Trump with guns blazing at that time, before Trump had announced he was running for president, when many commentators thought that his potential run was a joke. But as the months passed and Trump became and remained the Republican front-runner, Hewitt never pivoted to consistently scrutinizing Trump’s intellectual stature.

    Hewitt drew attention and praise for their seventh interview in September 2015. Saying that he was finally going to give the Republican front-runner “commander in chief questions,” the radio host quizzed Trump about major terrorist leaders and international events. “I’m looking for the next commander-in-chief, to know who Hassan Nasrallah is, and Zawahiri, and al-Julani, and al-Baghdadi. Do you know the players without a scorecard, yet, Donald Trump?” Hewitt asks at one point. “No, you know, I’ll tell you honestly, I think by the time we get to office, they’ll all be changed. They’ll be all gone,” Trump replied.

    Commentators praised Hewitt for having “stumped” and “tripped up” Trump. Hewitt himself takes issue with those characterizations, and indeed, if you review the interview transcript, you’ll find Hewitt repeatedly bringing Trump back from the ledge that the candidate’s ignorance put him on.

    Hewitt let Trump get away with saying it was appropriate for him not to learn about foreign policy issues until he’s elected and claiming that he wasn’t willing to talk about hypotheticals because he didn’t “want the other side to know” what he would do. At one point Trump openly rejected the entire premise of Hewitt’s purported worldview, saying that because he’s a “delegator” who hires “great people” it’s “ridiculous” to ask him specific questions about prominent figures and world events.

    Following the interview, as pundits criticized Trump for his performance, the candidate lashed out at Hewitt as a “third-rate radio announcer.” After initially defending his own performance, Hewitt said that it was his fault that Trump had "misunderstood" his question.

    Trump's criticism got results, as the host adjusted his interview style to get back on Trump’s good side. Hewitt interviewed Trump eight more times over the course of the presidential campaign. He never again asked Trump a question intended to demonstrate whether the candidate had specific knowledge, instead focusing on open-ended foreign policy hypotheticals, process questions, and softballs about Clinton’s alleged misdeeds.

    In the end, the erudite Hewitt, who cast aspersions at a reporter for commenting on foreign policy without first reading the right books, ended up supporting Trump just as Limbaugh and Hannity did, and for much the same reasons. In the end, Hewitt was a partisan, towing the Republican line and supporting the party’s nominee in spite of Trump’s manifest ignorance.

    “Of course I am voting for Donald Trump. You should be too if you are a conservative,” Hewitt wrote in July. His case was a raw appeal to the need to ensure that Republicans gained access to the levers of power. Conservative dominance of the U.S. Supreme Court outweighed all other factors, according to Hewitt; his other arguments included the claim that “Hillary Clinton is thoroughly compromised by the Russians,” that Trump will appoint conservatives to positions of power, and that he definitely really “isn’t a racist, or a dangerous demagogue, a Mussolini-in-waiting, a Caesar off-stage.”

    When Hewitt did speak out against Trump -- at times even calling for the Republican National Committee to take action to prevent him from being nominated and urging the nominee to drop out -- his argument was again partisan: that Trump should be replaced because he could not win. Trump was on the ticket on Election Day, and so Hewitt voted for him.

    This sort of naked partisanship -- the belief that one’s party is better for the country than the alternative, and thus should be supported as long as its candidate can meet some bare minimum standard (“isn’t a racist, or a dangerous demagogue”) -- is a defensible position. But it’s certainly not the position one would expect from someone with Hewitt’s exalted reputation, especially with that bare minimum very much in question.

    Trump’s rise was a revelatory moment that separated out the conservative commentators who had a political principle beyond ensuring the Republican Party gained power from those who did not. Several of Hewitt’s colleagues who are similarly regarded as intellectuals distinguished themselves by condemning Trump, saying that they could not in good conscience support someone with his history of ignorance, bigotry, vulgarity, and demagoguery. Hewitt failed this test, in a manner that clashes with the story Hewitt tells about himself, and the one that others tell about him.

    Since Trump clinched the Republican nomination, some in the conservative press have blamed right-wing commentators like Limbaugh and Hannity for being willing to set aside principles and carry water for the candidate. But that behavior was completely in character for the right-wing talk radio hosts, who have long served as standard bearers of the Republican Party.

    While his megaphone is much smaller than those of Limbaugh and Hannity, Hewitt presents a bigger problem for the conservative movement. He was one of the few with a reputation as an intellectual force who was willing to sacrifice his principles to back the GOP nominee -- and was rewarded with new posts at The Washington Post and MSNBC as an in-house Trump supporter.

    Like other pro-Trump pundits, Hewitt is regularly called upon to defend the indefensible, and he frequently rises to the challenge. His recent missives at the Post include columns headlined "It's time to relax about Trump," "Stop the Trump hysteria," and "Trump’s first 100 days give conservatives a lot to celebrate."

    But unlike the Jeffrey Lords and Kayleigh McEnanys, and perhaps because of his strong relationships with mainstream journalists and pundits, Hewitt has largely managed to keep his reputation intact. He doesn’t deserve to.

    “I would not go through life ignorant of key facts, especially important facts. So many of the people writing under bylines are willing to do just the opposite today,” Hewitt concluded in his essay about why he embarrasses journalists. “It cannot end well when a free people are choosing leaders based upon the reporting of a class of people both biased and blind as well as wholly unaware of both or if aware, unwilling to work at getting smart enough to do their jobs well.”

    Fair enough. But surely it also “cannot end well” when the leaders we choose are also “unwilling to work at getting smart.” That is, perhaps, a key fact of which Hewitt remains ignorant.

    Hewitt got his Supreme Court justice. All it cost him was his dignity.

    Shelby Jamerson provided additional research. Images by Sarah Wasko.

    *Hewitt says he asks about Hiss “because the answer provides a baseline as to the journalist’s grasp of both modern American political history and to a crucial fault-line through it,” and about The Looming Tower because “It is almost journalistic malpractice to opine on any aspect of the West’s conflict with Islamist radicalism without having read Wright’s work, which won the Pulitzer Prize and which is the standard text.” For the record, the author knows who Hiss is, believes the evidentiary record supports the conclusion that he was a Soviet spy, and has read The Looming Tower.

    ** Hewitt has interviewed Trump 15 times during the campaign, for the following editions of his radio show: February 25, 2015; June 22, 2015; August 3, 2015; August 12, 2015; August 26, 2015; August 29, 2015; September 3, 2015; September 21, 2015; October 22, 2015; November 5, 2015; December 1, 2015; February 4, 2016; February 22, 2016; June 23, 2016; and August 11, 2016.

  • 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.”

    UPDATE: Wintrich is disavowing responsibility for the "flyer" and claims that he posted it without reservation because it has "the correct time/place."

    On June 23, Forney posted a YouTube stream with homophobic attacks where he stated that Wintrich had promoted a "joke flyer," clarified that he thinks feminists "want women to be raped," and criticized the current in-fighting and divisions occuring in the "alt-right."   

  • 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.

      A chart was updated to include corrected data.

    • 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).