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  • Five warning signs from new White House communications director Scaramucci's first press conference

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    1. He refused to commit to the return of regular on-camera press briefings.

    JON KARL: I see the cameras are back, will you commit now to holding regular on-camera briefings? 

    ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: If [Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders] provides hair and makeup, I will consider it. But I need a lot of hair and makeup, Jon, OK? […] I am up here today only because I think it's the first day; we made a mutual decision that would make sense for me to come up here and try to answer as many questions as possible. But -- and the answer is we may. I have to talk to the president about that. I like consulting with the president before I make decisions like that.

    2. When asked if he’ll promise “accurate information and truth,” he responded "I sort of feel like I don't even have to answer that question," adding “I hope you can feel that from me, just from my body language.”

    KARL: There's been a question about credibility, some things that have been said in this room. Let me ask you a variation of what I asked Sean Spicer on his first day. Is it your commitment to, to the best of your ability, give accurate information and truth from that podium? 

    SCARAMUCCI: I sort of feel like I don't even have to answer that question. I hope you can feel that from me, just from my body language, that's the kind of person I am. I'm going to do the best I can.

    3. He deflected from a question about the Russia investigation by bragging about President Trump's supposed sports abilities.

    SARA MURRAY: Obviously we know the president has been feeling under siege with the Russia investigation, both from the Department of Justice but also on the Hill. Do you feel like he was feeling exposed? He didn't have people adequately coming to his defense? Is that part of the reason that we have you here today? 

    SCARAMUCCI: No, I don’t think so. So, one of the things that I’m doing today is – I sort of didn’t have my White House counsel briefing before I'm having the press briefing, so I want to limit my remarks related to the Russia situation and things like that. But here's what I'll tell you about the president: he's the most competitive person I've ever met, OK? I’ve seen this guy throw a dead spiral through a tire. I've seen him at Madison Square Garden with a topcoat on, he's standing in the key and he's hitting foul shots and swishing them, OK? He sinks three-foot putts. I don't see this guy as a guy that's ever under siege. This is a very, very competitive person. Obviously there's a lot of incoming that comes into the White House, but the president’s a winner, OK, and what we're going to do is we're going to do a lot of winning.

    4. He said “I sort of don’t like the fake news,” and claimed “there feels like there’s a little bit of media bias” out there. 

    MURRAY: One other question, in terms of the relationship that this press operation has had with news outlets, they've made a habit of calling these outlets they don't like "fake news," calling stories they don't like "fake news," calling errors that were then corrected -- using that as an example to call entire news outlets "fake news," is that the kind of relationship you want with media outlets? What kind of -- how do you envision that relationship?

    SCARAMUCCI: Again, I will speak for myself right now, because I don't -- it's my first day on the job, I've got to get familiar with everybody, get direction from the president, but I had a personal incident with your news organization and I thought I handled it well. You guys said something about me that was totally unfair and untrue, you retracted it and issued me an apology, and I accepted the apology immediately. For me, I've never been a journalist, but I have played a journalist on television. I used to host Wall Street Week for Fox Business, so I have empathy for journalists in terms of sometimes they're going to get stories wrong. But I sort of don't like the fake news, and if you said to me that there is some media bias out there – if you want me to be as candid as I would like to be with you guys -- there feels like there's a little bit of media bias, and so what we hope we can do is de-escalate that and turn that around and let’s let the message from the president get out there to the American people.

    5. He claimed there's "probably some level of truth" to the lie that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 general election "if the president says it."  

    REPORTER: Do you stand by some of the factual claims that have been contested, that have been made by this administration -- three million illegal votes cast for the president's opponent? Do you now, do you endorse all of those statements of fact [inaudible]? 

    SCARAMUCCI: So, a little bit of an unfair question because I'm not up to speed on all of that, so I just got to candidly tell you that. 

    REPORTER: The president said that three million people voted illegally and there is no evidence of that. Do you stand by that or not?

    SCARAMUCCI: OK, so if the president says it, OK, let me do more research on it. My guess is that there's probably some level of truth to that. I think what we have found sometimes, the president says stuff, some of you guys in the media think it's not true or isn't true, and it turns out it is closer to the truth than people think. So let me do more homework on that and I'll get back to you.

  • Hate groups hide years of extremism behind baseless "fake news" accusations

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A news site run by anti-LGBTQ hate group American Family Association defended the Alliance Defending Freedom, also a hate group, from being labeled by ABC News and called the outlet “fake news.”

    One News Now (ONN) ran a July 17 article titled “'Fake news' fraternity welcomes a new member” that reported on Alliance Defending Freedom’s (ADF) response to an ABC report that labels the organization as a hate group. The outlet -- like NBC -- was using the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) “hate group” designation in its coverage of the controversy surrounding Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent speech at an ADF event. Both reports drew a right-wing media outcry. SPLC designated ADF a hate group in February for “regularly demoniz[ing] LGBT people” and supporting “the criminalization of homosexuality in several countries.”

    In her interview with ONN about SPLC’s designation and recent news reports using the “hate group” designation, ADF director of communications Kerri Kupec described SPLC’s claim that ADF supports “recriminalization of homosexuality abroad” as “fake news.” She said: “I have no idea where that came from.” Despite trying to hide behind accusations of “fake news,” ADF has a longstanding history of extremism and a body of work that is well-documented in the media. That work has included filing amicus briefs in the landmark 2003 Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas, one of which argued that “sodomy is criminally punishable conduct and not a constitutionally protected activity.” ADF’s international efforts are far-reaching and include previously supporting anti-sodomy laws in Jamaica, offering legal assistance to a group working to keep gay sex a crime in Belize, and supporting a law that that made gay sex illegal in India.

    ONN is an affiliate of American Family News Networks (AFN), a media conglomerate run by the hate group American Family Association (AFA). AFA operates a large network of media outlets, action arms, and engagement campaigns aimed at individuals who “are alarmed by the increasing ungodliness and depravity assaulting our nation, tired of cursing the darkness, and ready to light a bonfire.” AFN describes itself as a “Christian news service - with more than 1,200 broadcast, print, and online affiliates in 45 states and 11 foreign countries - that exists to present the day's stories from a biblical perspective.” The SPLC designated AFA a hate group in 2010 for spreading “demonizing propaganda” and “known falsehoods” about LGBTQ people.

  • ABC's This Week to host Eric Bolling, a misogynistic, bigoted birther from Fox News

    Fox luminary to join Sunday show panel

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Fox News host and Trump shill Eric Bolling is scheduled to appear as a panelist on ABC’s This Week. Aside from cheerleading everything President Donald Trump says and does, Bolling was a prominent birther who challenged former President Barack Obama’s legitimacy, as well as a racist, sexist and Islamophobic conspiracy theorist.

    Bolling has been one of Trump’s most outspoken media sycophants, even on Fox News. He’s dismissed Trump’s lies, downplayed the controversies surrounding the president, and deflected blame from Trump and his allies. Even his colleagues at Fox News have called him a “Trump apologist.” Bolling has also criticized the integrity of the host of This Week, George Stephanopoulos. In October, Bolling speculated that Good Morning America, ABC’s morning show which Stephanopoulos also hosts, did not cover hacked emails from former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s top aides released on WikiLeaks because Stephanopoulos used to work for former President Bill Clinton.

    Bolling’s affection for Trump makes sense. After all, they both have a history of using racist, sexist and Islamophobic rhetoric, as well as a pattern of hyping conspiracy theories.

    “Boobs on the ground” and more casual sexism

    Bolling had a pattern of making sexist remarks as a co-host of Fox News’ The Five. In 2014, Bolling had to apologize for asking if the first female pilot for the United Arab Emirates, who conducted bombing against Islamic State terrorists, “would … be considered boobs on the ground.” Later that year, Bolling said men are “more successful ... and better leaders” than women. In 2013, he lamented that allowing young girls to play football was part of “the wussification of American men.” The year before, he had criticized a story of a 9-year-old girl playing football, saying, “Let the boys be boys, let the girls be girls.” And in 2015, Bolling cackled in response to co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle’s remark that “anything a guy can do, a woman can do better.”

    “Step away from the crack pipe” and other racist remarks

    Bolling also has a history of racist remarks. In 2012, Bolling told Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who is African-American, that she should “step away from the crack pipe.” Bolling also lectured "rappers" last year, saying that they should be happy because white people are “financing their lifestyles” by buying their music. When the Gabonese president Ali Bongo visited the White House during the Obama administration, Bolling characterized it as "a hoodlum in the hizzouse." Bolling also criticized Obama's leadership in 2011 by claiming the first African-American president was "chugging a few 40s" instead of doing his job. 

    Bolling has said that racism doesn’t exist anymore, because the U.S. elected a black president and there are “black entertainment channels.” He has also argued, “There’s no racial aspect of [police] profiling” and called Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder “race merchants” for defending the Voting Rights Act.

    “Every terrorist on American soil has been a Muslim,” and other everyday Islamophobia

    Bolling has also made a series of Islamophobic remarks on Fox News. In 2012, Bolling alleged that “every terrorist on American soil has been a Muslim.” Bolling also opposed the proposal to build a Muslim community center near ground zero in New York City, suggesting it could be “a meeting place for some of the scariest minds,” even “some of the biggest terrorist minds.”

    In addition to his own rhetoric, Bolling has defended Islamophobic remarks made by others. After then-presidential candidate Ben Carson said in 2015 that the U.S. shouldn’t elect a Muslim president, Bolling defended him, saying, “Unless you’re willing to denounce Sharia law as the governing law over yourself, and anyone you oversee, I wouldn’t vote for a Muslim either.” Bolling also defended Trump’s false claim that “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey cheered on 9/11 as the twin towers came down, alleging, “I know there were Muslims and Muslim groups who were happy that the World Trade Center came down.”

    Birtherism, Muppets, and other conspiracy theories from Bolling

    During his time at Fox News, Bolling has pushed a number of conspiracy theories. He was a big force behind the “birther” conspiracy theory that alleged that Obama was not born in the U.S. After Obama released his long-form birth certificate, Bolling still claimed, that “there is a legitimate question as to whether or not the president of the United States is allowed to be president of the United States.” Bolling took it upon himself to thoroughly examine Obama’s birth certificate on air, even speculating that the certificate’s border showed it may have been photoshopped.

    Bolling also speculated about the death of former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich who was murdered in 2016, dismissing the police conclusion that his death was the result of a botched robbery: “It’s clearly not a robbery. There wasn’t a robbery. … This was a hit.” Bolling concluded that there’s “lots of smoke right now” and that the death was “like an episode of Homeland.”

    Beyond that, Bolling has pushed a number of other conspiracy theories, alleging that Obama was trying to “bring people closer to the cities” to keep an eye on them and questioning whether Obama “let” an oil rig leak so he “could renege on his promise” to “allow some offshore drilling.” Perhaps his most entertaining conspiracy theory came in 2011 when Bolling wondered if “liberal Hollywood was using class warfare [in a Muppets movie] to brainwash our kids”:

    Just this week, Bolling lived up to his reputation when he suggested that “maybe the Russians were colluding with Hillary Clinton to get information on Donald Trump,” claimed he was unsure “if the climate’s getting warmer or colder,” and attempted to deflect from reports of a previously undisclosed meeting Trump had with Russian President Vladimir Putin at last week’s G-20 conference, calling it a “fake news headline” “generated by the biased left media.”

  • The lights are going down on the Sean Spicer show. Here’s the mess he leaves behind.

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    UPDATE: At today's press briefing, new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci announced that Sarah Huckabee Sanders will replace Sean Spicer as press secretary. Sanders has a long record of lying and attacking the press on President Donald Trump's behalf, and she will doubtlessly continue Spicer's shameful record. 

    Sean Spicer is on his way out, The New York Times reports, resigning from his post at the end of August to protest President Donald Trump’s plan to make financier Anthony Scaramucci his new communications director. But the former White House press secretary will not be forgotten. A respected Republican political operative who served as communications director for the Republican National Committee, Spicer provided establishment polish to the president’s war on the media, serving as the administration’s heavy until Trump grew tired of his performance. As much as any other member of the president’s team, Spicer is responsible for the dissolution of political norms that Trump’s administration has effected as it tries to delegitimize its critics in order to maintain power.

    Spicer turned the daily press briefings from a give-and-take between reporters and a White House seeking to inform the public into a grueling battleground where journalists were constantly denigrated for diverting from the party line. When he wasn’t lashing out at mainstream reporters, he was trying to stack the deck with more favorable questions by elevating representatives from conservative outlets -- particularly through the innovation of “Skype seats.” The length of the briefings -- which were short to begin with -- had plummeted in recent months, with the press office often demanding that they be kept off-camera.

    Spicer’s relationship with the press as press secretary began in crisis. On the evening after Trump’s inauguration, he convened the press corps. What followed was a shocking and unprecedented scolding, as Spicer lashed out at the press for its supposed “shameful and wrong” coverage of the inaugural crowd. Spicer, lying, claimed before images of the crowd that “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period -- both in person and around the globe.” Setting the tone for future encounters, Spicer said that he intended to “hold the press accountable” for reporting facts that the administration denied, and then he left the briefing room without taking questions, to the shock and dismay of the journalism community.

    Two days later, a more subdued Spicer appeared for his first official White House press briefing. Spicer denied that he had lied about the inaugural crowd, saying that “sometimes we can disagree with the facts,” while standing by his comments. Spicer told the same lies he had before, but because he did so in a calmer fashion, he received plaudits from reporters who no doubt hoped that the trend would improve.

    It did not. In order to defend a president who lies on a shockingly regular basis, Spicer would need to bend the truth again and again in the months to come.

    But lies alone cannot sustain an administration like this. In order to preserve the backing of its supporters, the White House would need to delegitimize any source of information that provides unfavorable facts about the administration. That strategy required regular attacks on the press from the White House briefing podium. Spicer filled that role with vigor. He attacked outlets and demeaned reporters who produced reporting damaging to the administration on a regular basis. He compared reporters to children, called one an “idiot,” and demanded another stop shaking her head in the briefing room.

    Spicer consistently harangued the media for its “negative” narrative and its “fake news” reports. When other members of the administration criticized the press as the “opposition party” or even the “enemy of the American people,” Spicer had no apparent problem standing by them. Nor did he see an issue with helping along the president’s attacks on other government entities.

    Spicer’s overzealous willingness to do anything and everything to defend the president notably caused an international incident back in March. In order to try to back up Trump’s baseless conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama wiretapped him during the 2016 presidential campaign, Spicer read a series of articles from the podium. This included a Fox analyst’s anonymously sourced claim that a British intelligence service spied on Trump on Obama’s behalf. The intelligence service denied the claim, Fox repudiated the reporting, and the administration was forced to discuss the incident with the British government. When Spicer was asked about the incident the following week, he shut down the briefing.

    Spicer was performing for an audience of one -- Trump, who regularly watched the press briefings on TV and even reportedly would send notes on his performance to the podium -- and he was willing to do anything to make the president happy. Spicer’s loyalty to the administration and his complete lack of standards or honesty in his role did little to help him.

    In May, the president’s firing of FBI Director James Comey led to a communications disaster that ended with the president saying that his own spokespeople could not be trusted to convey the facts and suggesting that the administration might cancel all press briefings. Angry with his handling of the story, the president reportedly considered firing Spicer. In the months since, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy press secretary, has often taken Spicer’s place at the podium, and rumors constantly swirled about possible replacements.

    On Tuesday, Spicer conducted his final briefing before news of his resignation broke -- it was his first briefing in three weeks. According to The Washington Post, his performance was “clueless,” and he seemed “out of the loop… often punting on basic questions.”

    The White House press corps should not expect things to improve with Spicer gone. Sanders has shown the same willingness to lash out at journalists, has demonstrated little interest in answering their questions or providing the slightest bit of information, has overseen the continuing de-emphasis of the briefings, and has eagerly worked with pro-Trump media outlets to undermine the rest of the press. Any political operative who comes from outside the administration to replace Spicer will know exactly what he or she is getting into and what is expected of the role, including continued attacks on the free press.

    Spicer will be gone, but the show will go on.

  • Fox pushes absurd claim that Trump’s election boosted economy by $4 trillion

    Stuart Varney: Ignore Trump’s political failures, praise “MAGAnomics”

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    Fox Business host Stuart Varney celebrated the first six months of the Trump administration by ridiculously claiming that the election and inauguration of President Donald Trump are responsible for adding trillions of dollars to the economy and lifting wages for low-income workers around the country. Varney’s claims are the latest in a long-running right-wing media fantasy that the Republican Party’s economic agenda will unleash the American economy, which conveniently ignores more than six years of steady economic progress under the Obama administration.

    On July 20, Trump celebrated the six-month anniversary of his inauguration as president of the United States. By any objective measure, Trump’s presidency has already been one of the strangest and most chaotic in living memory. The Trump administration is consumed by scandals of its own making, and, according to a Washington Post report published on Trump’s six-month anniversary, the president is beginning to ask his political and legal advisers “about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself.”

    Despite these facts, the team at Fox News and Fox Business attempted to find a silver lining for the Trump presidency by falsely crediting his administration for the continued overall health of the American economy. In a July 20 op-ed published by FoxNews.com and a corresponding segment on Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney credited Trump with “add[ing] $4.1 trillion to the nation’s wealth” thanks to a post-election stock market rally. Varney also preposterously claimed that “during [Trump’s] presidency,” long-established American tech giants “Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft and Facebook” have “emerged as global technology leaders.” Varney’s ridiculous claims were promoted by the network’s social media accounts and parroted again from the Trump-friendly confines of Fox & Friends during a segment in which Varney also credited Trump for wage growth witnessed by low-income workers. From the July 21 segment:

    Fox’s claim that Trump is responsible for low-income wage increases stems from a July 20 Wall Street Journal article, which said that “full-time earners at the lowest 10th percentile of the wage scale” witnessed a 3.4 percent year-to-year wage increase in the second quarter of 2017, according to data from the Department of Labor. Contrary to Fox’s argument that Trump deserves credit for the increase, the Journal pointed to consistently low unemployment rates and minimum wage increases enacted by states and municipalities across the country as primary drivers of the uptick, which continued an accelerating wage trend for low-wage workers dating back to 2015. Minimum wage increases have been found to correlate with significant gains to low-income earnings, as the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget) reported on September 5, and 19 states increased their minimum wages at the beginning of the year:

    In addition to falsely crediting Trump for years-long wage growth trends, the team at Fox News also claimed that Trump is responsible for a $4.1 trillion increase in stock market capitalization since Election Day, citing the Wilshire 5000 composite index. It is true that American stock markets have gained value since November, but as CNN business correspondent Christine Romans pointed out last month, stocks had been gaining value for years before Trump’s election. Indeed, the Wilshire 5000 index, like other major stock indices, has been consistently climbing since bottoming out in March 2009 in the midst of the Great Recession and financial crisis.

    Fox’s promotion of Trump’s supposed economic success was not lost on the network’s number one fan, as the president posted a video of Varney’s celebratory July 20 segment on Twitter just this morning:

    Fox has repeatedly pushed misleading economic data to hype Trump since the start of his administration, and the network has even fought against increased minimum wages, which are partly responsible for the wage growth its hosts now celebrate. Fox’s sycophantic devotion to Trump runs so deep that Varney even once admitted his unwillingness to criticize the president, a complete reversal from the tone of his coverage during the Obama administration.

  • Alex Jones: Sandy Hook dad “needs to clarify” whether he actually held his son’s body and saw the bullet hole in his head

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones called on Neil Heslin, who lost his son during the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, to clarify whether he actually held his son’s body and observed a bullet hole in his head.

    Jones made the demand during the July 20 broadcast of The Alex Jones Show while complaining that he has come under attack for questioning official accounts of the December 2012 shooting, which claimed 26 lives.

    The statement that Jones wants Heslin to clarify was made during Megyn Kelly’s interview with Heslin as part of her June 18 profile of Jones for her NBC show Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly. Heslin rebutted conspiracy theories surrounding the shooting, telling Kelly, “I lost my son. I buried my son. I held my son with a bullet hole through his head.”

    Heslin’s son, Jesse Lewis, saved several classmates’ lives during the shooting by telling them to run when the gunman’s weapon jammed, according to investigators.

    During the July 20 broadcast, Jones played a June video report from Infowars reporter Owen Shroyer that claimed it was impossible for Heslin to have held his son.

    In the report, Shroyer said of Heslin, “The statement he made, fact-checkers on this have said cannot be accurate. He’s claiming that he held his son and saw the bullet hole in his head. That is his claim. Now according to a timeline of events and a coroner’s testimony, that is not possible.”

    As evidence of his claims, Shroyer played a video clip from shortly after the shooting where a coroner explained to press that the victims were identified by parents with photographs rather than in person. Shroyer ended his report by saying, “Will there be a clarification from Heslin or Megyn Kelly? I wouldn’t hold your breath. So now they’re fueling the conspiracy theory claims.”

    Shroyer’s report is easily debunked; according to news accounts, the bodies of the victims were released from the coroner and taken to funeral homes. Funerals where the children’s bodies were in the custody of their parents were widely reported on by the press.

    Jones vacillated on whether Heslin was lying about seeing his son’s body and called on him to “clarify” what happened during his July 20 broadcast.

    Before playing the Shroyer segment, Jones said, “Quite frankly, the father needs to clarify, NBC needs to clarify, because the coroner said none of the parents were allowed to touch the kids or see the kids and maybe meaning at the school. I’m sure later maybe the parents saw their children.”

    After showing the segment, Jones said he told Shroyer, “I could never find out. The stuff I found was they never let them see their bodies. That’s kind of what’s weird about this. But maybe they did. So I’m sure it’s all real. But for some reason they don’t want you to see [Shroyer’s segment].”

    Speaking more broadly about the shooting, Jones said, “Can I prove that New Haven (sic) didn’t happen? No. So I’ve said, for years, we’ve had debates about it, that I don’t know. But you can’t blame people for asking.”

    Jones is lying. In the years following the shooting, he definitively called the tragedy a hoax. For example, in December 2014, Jones said, “It took me about a year with Sandy Hook to come to grips with the fact that the whole thing was fake.”

    After Jones’ profile was raised by his close association with President Donald Trump, he was heavily criticized for these claims and has subsequently tried to sanitize them by saying he was merely asking questions or debating whether the shooting happened. The bottom line is that even this type of commentary casts doubt on the shooting and fuels conspiracy theories that are used to harass the victims’ family members.

  • Somehow, Sean Hannity managed to talk about Hillary Clinton more than health care in the last week

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Over the past week, Senate Republicans worked tirelessly to take health insurance away from 32 million people -- or slightly fewer, paired with giant tax cuts for their wealthiest friends. However, Hannity viewers might have thought we were still in the election cycle of 2016 and that the news of the week actually revolved around former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

    A Media Matters analysis found that from July 13 to 19, Fox News’ Sean Hannity devoted more time to so-called “scandals” surrounding Hillary Clinton than to health care -- spending 1 hour, 7 minutes and 51 seconds on his prime-time show on the Clintons compared to 44 minutes and 34 seconds on health care.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Although one whose main source for news is Hannity might not realize it, there has been a lot of health care news in the past week. On July 13, the Senate finally unveiled its newest plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). By July 17, Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) had announced they wouldn’t be supporting the motion to proceed on the bill, effectively killing the legislation. The same night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated that Republicans would move forward with a straight repeal, an idea that met its demise the next day. The Senate GOP’s health care bills have been almost universally criticized and marred by bad poll numbers. Amid the negative coverage of the latest bill, it appears as if Hannity chose instead to focus his attention, and his viewers’, on a common right-wing foe instead: Hillary Clinton.

    Hannity’s obsessive Clinton chatter focused on bogus and debunked smears, including accusations that she colluded with Ukraine:

    Hannity also hyped a previously debunked smear from the error-filled book Clinton Cash that as secretary of state, Clinton approved the transfer of up to 20 percent of America’s uranium to Russia:

    Hannity’s absurd focus on Clinton and sycophantic coverage of President Donald Trump are nothing new. But it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Hannity’s Clinton crusade is an attempt to paint an alternate reality for his viewers -- a reality where Clinton “scandals” are more relevant than Trump’s disastrous policy agenda. It’s clear that not only is Hannity incapable of moving past the 2016 election, but that the only move he has in his playbook is attacking Clinton.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts and SnapStream for mentions of health care, healthcare, Better Care Reconciliation Act, BCRA, Senate health, GOP health, or Republican health, Affordable Care Act, ACA, Obama care, and Obamacare, as well as Bill, Hillary, and Clinton on Fox News’ Hannity between July 13 and 19.

    Conversations were included in this study if health care or the Clintons was the stated topic or discussion or if two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed health care or the Clintons with one another. If a speaker mentioned health care or the Clintons in a multitopic segment and no other speaker in that segment engaged with the comment, then it was excluded from the analysis as a passing mention. All teasers of upcoming segments about health care or the Clintons were excluded from the analysis.

  • Devos’ address to ALEC furthers alignment with corporate-driven education reform

    Blog ››› ››› BRETT ROBERTSON


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On July 20, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will address conservative legislators and corporate lobbyists at the annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Media outlets have spotlighted DeVos’ long-time support of right-wing corporate education reform proposals advocated by ALEC, including, among other things, so-called “school-choice” programs that weaken traditional public schools.

    ALEC is a corporate-funded “membership organization.” It connects right-wing state legislators across the country with model legislation that represents “the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism” and corresponds with corporate interests on a given policy issue. Almost one-quarter of all state legislators in the U.S. are part of the ALEC network, giving it unmatched influence in turning its model legislation into law. ALEC has promoted legislation on private school choice programs including voucher programs and scholarship tax credits. They have been a key part of the successful push to massively expand private school voucher policies across an increasing number of states over the past 10 years. Additionally, in line with its right-wing agenda, ALEC is also behind so-called “right to work” legislation that severely weakens unions -- including teachers unions.

    In reporting on her upcoming address, Education Week described DeVos and ALEC as “natural allies” because DeVos promotes education policies that are beneficial to the large corporations that make up ALEC’s membership. Education Week noted that “the current co-chair of the group’s education committee” is Tom Bolvin, “who works for K12 Inc., the for-profit education company that has been under fire for poor performance of many of the online charter schools it operates.” DeVos has also delayed the implementation of two measures designed to deter for-profit colleges from defrauding and impoverishing students. This delay has prevented victimized students from getting debt relief, but may help buoy the financial stability of ALEC-affiliated for-profit college corporations. DeVos and ALEC are both in favor of expanding online for-profit charter schools, which have a dismal record of academic performance but are extremely profitable.

    NPR also highlighted the extent to which DeVos’ and ALEC’s agendas overlap, quoting ALEC’s education policy head, Inez Feltscher, saying that DeVos "has been a wonderful champion for school choice both before and after becoming secretary of education, and advancing educational choice is one of the key issues we work on here at ALEC." University of Wisconsin-Madison education professor Julie Underwood summarized ALEC’s education policy agenda to NPR as "vouchers, vouchers, vouchers."

    DeVos indeed views the expansion of vouchers as a key policy objective, and she and ALEC even point to the same states as role models. DeVos has praised Arizona's, Indiana’s, and Florida’s versions of voucher programs. Arizona just passed legislation enacting an unprecedented voucher program with universal eligibility and functionally no regulation. Florida has the highest total number of students enrolled in voucher programs of any state in the country (not counting individual tax credit programs), and Indiana has the largest traditional voucher program. Arizona, Florida, and Indiana are also the only three states to receive the highest grade that ALEC awarded on its annual state education policy report card. ALEC was a co-signatory on a recent letter praising Devos’ “vision for empowering parents to choose the best educational setting for their children.” The letter emphasized the “innovative programs that are in place in states like Arizona, Florida, and Ohio.”

    DeVos is not the first member of the Trump administration to address ALEC’s annual meeting. Vice President Mike Pence addressed ALEC’s conference last summer, when he was governor of Indiana, in Indianapolis. As governor, Pence oversaw the rapid expansion of vouchers in Indiana. In his speech at the conference, he named this expansion of Indiana’s voucher program as one of his key accomplishments.

  • 6 months later: Trump’s war on the press, by the numbers

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN


    Sarah Wasko/Media Matters

    President Donald Trump and his administration have waged an unprecedented war on the media since he took office. Here’s a look at some numbers that exemplify the conflicts, six months after his inauguration:

    • Over 200: number of times Trump or his administration have attacked the press, per Media Matters’ running tally. [Media Matters, accessed 7/20/17]

    • 69: number of times Trump has used the phrase “fake news” or “fakenews” on Twitter. [Trump Twitter Archive, accessed 7/20/17]

    • 16: number of national TV interviews the president has done between his inauguration and the six-month anniversary of his inauguration, according to a Media Matters count.

    • 10 out of 16: number of Trump’s national televised interviews that aired on Fox News or Fox Business in his first six months in office, according to a Media Matters count.

    • 21: number of days since the last on-camera White House press briefing, according to The Associated Press. [The Associated Press, 7/17/17]

    • 46: number of times Trump has either tweeted at the program Fox & Friends or retweeted the show’s tweets in his first six months in office. [Trump Twitter Archive, accessed 7/20/17]

    • One: number of solo press conferences Trump has held since inauguration. [The American Presidency Project, accessed 7/20/17]

    • 43: percentage of people who trust Trump more than CNN, according to a SurveyMonkey poll. [Axios, 7/4/17]

    • 50: percentage of people who trust CNN more than Trump, according to a SurveyMonkey poll. [Axios, 7/4/17]

    • 22: percent of the accounts Trump follows on Twitter that are or have been affiliated with Fox News. [Twitter, accessed 7/20/17]

    Methodology

    To determine how many times Trump has tweeted the words “fake news” since his inauguration, Media Matters searched the Trump Twitter Archive database for Trump’s tweets containing the phrase “fake news” and “fakenews.”

    To determine how many national televised interviews Trump has conducted since his inauguration, Media Matters searched ProPublica’s database for the interviews Trump conducted.

    To determine how many tweets Trump has sent about Fox & Friends since his inauguration, Media Matters searched the Trump Twitter Archive database for mentions of the show’s Twitter handle, “@foxandfriends,” in Trump’s tweets.

  • The NY Times missed an opportunity to press Trump on health care specifics

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The New York Times is drawing well-earned plaudits for yesterday’s news-making interview with President Donald Trump. In their wide-ranging conversation, reporters Peter Baker, Michael Schmidt, and Maggie Haberman repeatedly used to great effect a strategy of asking open-ended questions and gently prodding the president along, breaking lots of new ground with regard to the ongoing Russia investigation.

    But in contrast to its other successes, the Times missed out on an opportunity to get Trump to answer questions about health care policy.

    There was certainly a need for such an interrogation. The interview came just days after the Senate health care bill collapsed because conservative and more moderate Republicans were unable to reach agreement on the legislation’s contours. Trump has been generally vague about which side’s policy views he favors, but he supported the Senate legislation even though it violates many of the promises he has made to the American people. In tweets and other public statements since it became clear the bill lacked the votes to pass, Trump has taken a variety of positions on what to do next.

    Based on the voluminous excerpts from the interview the paper has published, which “omit several off-the-record comments and asides,” the Times reporters appeared to make no real effort to get at any of the contradictions surrounding Trump’s health care position, or to elucidate for their audience the type of policies he favors. Millions of people will be impacted by the results of this debate; the Times reporters, though, seem primarily concerned with the senators who will vote on it.

    Here are all the questions The New York Times reporters asked Trump about health care, as well as one comment that inspired a response:

    • PETER BAKER: Good. Good. How was your lunch [with Republican senators]?

    • MAGGIE HABERMAN: That’s been the thing for four years. When you win an entitlement, you can’t take it back.

    • HABERMAN: Am I wrong in thinking — I’ve talked to you a bunch of times about this over the last couple years, but you are generally of the view that people should have health care, right? I mean, I think that you come at it from the view of …

    • BAKER: Did the senators want to try again?

    • HABERMAN: How about the last [meeting with Republican senators about health care] in June? Do you guys remember how many came?

    • BAKER: Who is the key guy?

    • HABERMAN: Where does it go from here, do you think?

    • MICHAEL SCHMIDT: How’s [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell to work with?

    As you can see, their questions about health care were almost entirely driven by the process and politics of the bill. The closest they came to asking about policy was Haberman’s vague question about whether Trump is “generally of the view that people should have health care”; Trump responded, “Yes, yes,” and the conversation moved on.

    There were some tantalizing openings for the reporters to quiz Trump on his health care policy views that were not taken. At one point, Trump said of Obamacare, “Once you get something for pre-existing conditions, etc., etc. Once you get something, it’s awfully tough to take it away.” A reporter could have followed up and asked why, in spite of the political challenge, Trump believes there is a policy imperative to remove that guarantee and limit the ability of people with pre-existing conditions to gain coverage.

    Trump also said:

    Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, “I want my insurance.” It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.

    I don't really understand what the president is saying here. He appears to be claiming that the model for health insurance is people pay a very low amount of money beginning when they are young and hope to garner benefits when they are old. If true, that’s a staggering display of ignorance; that’s how term life insurance works, not health insurance. Unfortunately, it’s hard to really nail this down because there were no follow-up questions.

    Trump also said of passing health care legislation, “If we don’t get it done, we are going to watch Obamacare go down the tubes, and we’ll blame the Democrats.” This would have been a good opportunity to point out that experts say Obamacare is not failing, ask the president why his administration is taking steps to ensure the system’s decline, or discuss the impact that Obamacare failing might have on Americans who depend on the legislation. Instead, Baker asked, “Did the senators want to try again?”

    The failure of the Times to ask the president tough questions about his health care position is all the more important because there have been vanishingly few opportunities for reporters to do so. The president has largely retreated from press scrutiny in recent months. Trump has not held a full press conference since February; he broke with tradition and did not hold one following the G20 meeting earlier this month. His only on-camera interviews in the last two months have been with the pro-Trump propagandists at Fox and, most recently, with The 700 Club’s Pat Robertson, who has said the president’s critics serve Satan.

    When mainstream journalists have had the opportunity to ask Trump to discuss the legislation, they’ve largely dropped the ball. Health care is not mentioned in the excerpts Reuters released of reporter Steve Holland’s July 12 interview with the president. The only reference to the issue in the excerpts the White House released of a conversation Trump had with the press corps during their trip to Paris that night involves the president saying that passing a bill is “tough” but the result will be “really good.” (It’s possible that health care had been discussed in more detail and the White House refused to release those portions, but Haberman would have been aware of this since she participated in that conversation, and that should have provided all the more reason for the Times reporters to ask him about the issue.)

    This is unfortunately typical of a media that has largely focused on politics and process, not policy or the personal stories of those who will be impacted by the passage of the Republican legislation.

    The Times lost out on its opportunity to put the president on the record on his top priority. Given how rare these chances have become, that’s a big miss.