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  • Anti-abortion extremist group resurfaces to promote anti-choice misinformation in Wash. Times

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    After disbanding earlier this year, the anti-choice extremists behind Protest ABQ are back and operating under a new name -- and thanks to The Washington Times, they’re getting a bigger platform than ever to spread misinformation about late-term abortion and demonize abortion providers.

    In a June 20 article, The Washington Times gave an uncritical platform to a newly re-formed New Mexico anti-abortion group, Abortion Free New Mexico (AFNM). This group is the latest venture of longtime anti-choice extremists Bud and Tara Shaver. The Shavers are acolytes of Troy Newman, the head of the extreme anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, which has for years pushed violent rhetoric against, and harassment of, abortion providers. Prior to forming AFNM, the Shavers headed a similar campaign in New Mexico, called Protest ABQ. Protest ABQ operated from 2014 to March 2017 and not only targeted individual abortion providers and clinics, but also deceptively recorded comments made by clinic staff in order to allege wrongdoing. Before concluding the Protest ABQ campaign, the Shavers leaked their baseless information to a congressional panel investigating disproven claims against Planned Parenthood.

    According to the Times, AFNM and the anti-abortion group Priests for Life “have released a series of undercover audio recordings of abortion clinic workers” engaged in behavior they consider unlawful. Although there has been no external confirmation of these claims -- or validation of the recordings themselves -- the Times drew a comparison between AFNM’s recordings and a set of deceptively edited videos from the discredited anti-abortion organization Center for Medical Progress (CMP). The Times excluded the information that multiple investigations have disproved CMP’s claims of wrongdoing. Instead, the article credited AFNM for attempting to “to raise awareness about the prevalence of late-term abortion, especially in New Mexico,” via similar tactics.

    The Shavers launched AFNM in April, using a model touted by Newman in his book Abortion Free that centers on surveilling and harassing abortion providers. AFNM then began what it calls the #NewMexicoTrue project, a “6 Part Series exposing the [New Mexico] Abortion Cartel.” As part of this effort, AFNM began posting audio it claims represents illicit practices by abortion providers at clinics across the state. As of late June, AFNM had posted four videos that it alleges demonstrate discriminatory and dangerous practices by abortion providers. For example, in the most recent installment, AFNM claims that its “undercover recording … reveals just how arbitrary the standard is for determining which baby lives or dies” in New Mexico. Despite having no external corroboration, the Times not only promoted AFNM’s recordings, but also thus legitimized the tactic of deceptively filming and releasing video of abortion providers.

    Unfortunately, this is only the latest example of right-wing media giving a platform to an anti-abortion group that is attempting to manufacture outrage through deceptive “undercover” recordings. In May, when CMP released footage that identified abortion providers in violation of a court order, right-wing and anti-choice media did much of the legwork of spreading the organization’s disproven and malicious claims. 

    There is an even longer history of right-wing media figures assisting anti-choice groups by amplifying their attacks on individual abortion providers. For example, former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly spent years openly bullying abortion providers like Dr. George Tiller, who was assassinated in 2009. O’Reilly often referred to the doctor as “Tiller the baby killer” and insisted there was “a special place in hell for this guy.” Indeed, Newman praised O’Reilly in Abortion Free for how he “spoke passionately against Tiller’s late-term abortion business” and “often used television as a bully pulpit to denounce” Tiller. O’Reilly also actively collaborated with Newman to more effectively target Tiller, as Newman explained, helping “locate Tiller gassing his armored Jeep at a QuikTrip near his abortion clinic” so Fox News’ Jesse Watters could be filmed “surprising Tiller with questions about his late-term abortion business.”

    This type of targeted harassment and monitoring of abortion providers breeds conditions for anti-choice violence. According to a recent report from the National Abortion Federation, in 2016, there was “an increase in a wide range of intimidation tactics meant to disrupt the provision of health care at facilities, including vandalism, picketing, obstruction, invasion, trespassing, burglary, stalking, assault and battery, and bomb threats.”  

    Late-term abortion is an essential and legal medical service in the United States -- and neither patients nor providers should be demonized for receiving or performing the procedure. Nearly 99 percent of abortions performed in this country take place “before 21 weeks” of pregnancy, according to Planned Parenthood. After the 20th week, the Supreme Court has explicitly protected a woman’s right to an abortion if it is “necessary to preserve [her] life or health.” By promoting the work of anti-abortion groups like AFNM, the Times and other right-wing media are not only encouraging such groups to use deceptive tactics, but also enabling the type of targeted harassment that endangers abortion providers, patients, and clinics.

  • Fringe media target new Minneapolis hate crime hotline as imposing “Shariah” and “fascism”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    “Alt-right”-affiliated outlets and fake news purveyors are targeting Minneapolis, MN, after the city installed a hotline for residents to report possible hate crimes, baselessly claiming it is imposing "Shariah" law, that the move amounts to "fascism," and that it’s related to a United Nations resolution.

    On June 19, the Star Tribune reported that Minneapolis had “set up a hot line for residents to report hate-crime incidents and other acts of intolerance.” Though the report mentioned that the hotline “comes amid signs of a recent surge of such incidents affecting Muslims and Jews across the country, many of which go unreported,” neither the news report nor the city’s press release suggested that the hotline is meant for people who subscribe to a specific religion.

    Nonetheless, “alt-right”-affiliated outlets and fake news purveyors jumped on the announcement to suggest the hotline was a front for a Muslim takeover. WorldNetDaily published a piece, which Infowars cross-posted, calling it a “Shariah hotline” for “snitches,” and The Gateway Pundit alleged that the hotline was set up in response to “false stories.” Fake news purveyor Freedom Daily called it the “anti-blasphemy hotline,” comparing it to blasphemy laws in other countries which “followers of Islam” can use to “have people who speak out or criticize their religion thrown into prison.” It said that the hotline was “only the beginning of Democrats’ plans for full-blown fascism in our country,” and also suggested that it is connected to a U.N. resolution pushed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “that encouraged nations to criminalize a person who defames or criticizes a person’s religious views,” a claim also suggested by WND.

    In addition, fake news purveyor USA Newsflash also claimed the new hotline is “fascism” against “opinions deemed forbidden by the state,” and fake news purveyor Conservative Daily Post called the hotline “Gestapo-like.” Fake news purveyor The Washington Feed accused the city’s “loony” mayor of “embrac[ing] … Islamic culture” at the expense of the First Amendment, and fake news purveyor TruthFeed criticized the idea of “taxpayer dollars and energy being wasted on this hateful, foreign religion.” A contributor for fake news purveyor Before It’s News accused the city of “surrender[ing] to the supremacism” of Muslims.

    The WorldNetDaily, Infowars, Gateway Pundit, Freedom Daily, Conservative Daily Post, and TruthFeed articles have drawn numerous Facebook engagements, according to social media analytics website BuzzSumo. There were at least 2,200 engagements with WorldNetDaily's article, 140 with Infowars' article, 319 with Gateway Pundit's article, 65,400 with Freedom Daily's article, 7,200 with Conservative Daily Post's article, and 1,100 with TruthFeed's article.

    The absurd attacks come as the “alt-right”/fake news ecosystem continues to push Islamophobic smears against anyone associated with Islam. This ecosystem has also repeatedly targeted brands and public figures who seek to promote unity, and it has amplified other dubious claims, baseless conspiracy theories, and lies.

  • After the Senate bill is released, cable news fails to offer diverse voices on health care

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Once again, cable news largely failed to present diverse voices when reporting on the ongoing health care debate, missing an opportunity, yet again, to inform audiences of the personal cost millions of Americans will incur if Republicans pass their bills into law.

    Over six weeks after the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) on May 4, Senate Republicans finally publicly introduced their health care proposal on June 22. The Senate committee that drafted the bill was roundly criticized for its “almost-unprecedented opacity” and lack of diversity. Leading up to that introduction, cable news coverage of the bill didn’t fare much better. And when cable news did cover the bill prior to its release, the guests were almost always white men.

    The day the Senate Republicans released the bill, cable news figures had an opportunity to redeem themselves. Sadly, they did not rise to the challenge:


    Sarah Wasko/Media Matters

    • CNN featured 105 guest appearances during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 92, or about 88 percent, were made by white guests. Eight appearances, or nearly 8 percent, were made by African-American guests, and five appearances, or almost 5 percent, were made by Asian-American guests. The network hosted no Hispanic guests to discuss the bill
    • Fox News featured 41 guest appearances during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 37, or just over 90 percent, were made by white guests. Only four appearances, or about 10 percent, were made by African-American guests. The network hosted no Asian-American or Hispanic guests to discuss the bill.
    • MSNBC featured 94 guest appearances during discussions of the bill. Of those guest appearances, 84, or just over 89 percent, were made by white guests. Only four appearances, or about 4 percent, were made by African-American guests, and six appearances, or about 6 percent, were made by Asian-American guests. The network hosted no Hispanic guests to discuss the bill.


    Sarah Wasko/Media Matters

    • CNN featured 105 guest appearances -- 61 appearances by men and 44 by women -- during discussions of the bill, meaning men comprised 58 percent of guest appearances, while women comprised about 42 percent.
    • Fox News featured 41 guest appearances -- 31 appearances by men and 10 by women -- during discussions of the bill. Thus, almost 76 percent of guest appearances were made by men, while only 25 percent were made by women.
    • MSNBC featured 94 guest appearances -- 61 appearances by men and 33 by women -- during discussions of the bill, meaning men comprised about 65 percent of guest appearances, while women comprised about 35 percent.

    It is necessary to include diverse voices in discussions about a bill with such dire consequences. African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, women and low-income people greatly benefited from the Affordable Care Act and stand to lose disproportionately if it is rolled back. Diversifying the discussion on cable news will help bring needed attention to the devastating harm that will occur if the Republican bills become law. 

  • DOE appointee: “Second U.S. Civil War may be necessary,” “Imagine a world without Islam,” “Transgenderism is a mental illness”

    Wash. Post previously reported on former right-wing columnist William C. Bradford's "disturbing tweets”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    The Trump administration recently appointed William C. Bradford to be director of the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs. Bradford has a history of making incendiary, conspiratorial, and violent commentary on Twitter and in a regular online column.

    The Washington Post’s Dino Grandoni reported that Bradford, formerly the attorney general of the Chiricahua Apache Nation, had written a number of “disturbing tweets,” including calling former President Barack Obama “a Kenyan creampuff,” calling Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg a “little arrogant self-hating Jew,” questioning in 2016 whether a “military coup” might be needed if Obama refused to leave office, and claiming that Japanese internment camps were “necessary.” He also “wrote that women should not serve in the military and referred to then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly as ‘MegOBgyn Kelly,’” the Post noted.

    Bradford has since deleted his Twitter account and apologized for his remarks, stating, “As a minority and member of the Jewish faith, I sincerely apologize for my disrespectful and offensive comments.” He also said that “as a public servant, I hold myself to a higher standard.”  

    In 2015, Bradford resigned from his job as a professor in West Point’s law program “after arguing that fellow legal scholars who criticize the war on terrorism are ‘treasonous’ and should be arrested, interrogated and even attacked as ‘unlawful enemy combatants,’” according to the Post.

    Following the Post report, Media Matters found that Bradford also tweeted, “Imagine a world without Islam” and “Transgenderism is a mental illness” (via Internet Archive).

    In addition, Bradford wrote columns for the website Communities Digital News, an online site that split off from The Washington Times in 2014. Bradford wrote columns there from 2015 to January 2017 and claimed that the death of White House deputy counsel Vince Foster was “suspicious”; warned in January 2016 that “a second U.S. Civil War may be necessary” if a Democrat is elected president; and disparaged women in combat as “inadequate” and said that putting them there “is a deliberate act of national self-destruction and a gift to our enemies.”


    Here are some of the lowlights of his columns:

    Bradford called Vince Foster’s death “suspicious.” In one column, Bradford wrote that Hillary Clinton “may be the most godless person in D.C. She may have a date with fire.” He then added that “Stumping for Hillary, [Madeleine] Albright is silent about Vince Foster. Foster was a longtime Clinton colleague and deputy White House counsel, whose suspicious 1993 death prevented him from testifying in criminal matters involving Hillary, including the mysterious disappearance of subpoeanaed (sic) Rose Law Firm billing records. His death was officially ruled a suicide, but many doubt Foster killed himself.” [Communities Digital News, 2/16/16]

    Bradford said “a second U.S. Civil War may be necessary” if the country elected a Democrat. In a January 2016 column, he warned that “Americans will elect slavery over freedom for the goodies bought with other people’s money, time, and toil. And so, a second U.S. Civil War may be necessary to pull up the roots Communism has sunk deep into our soil. But election 2016 is our last best hope to avoid it. Pray the voters choose well.” In a December 2015 piece, he wrote that “a second U.S. civil war that inflicted death on the scale of the first would kill ten million Americans. Let’s … [commit] to limited government, a traditional understanding of the Constitution, and a relearning of the concept of the ‘enemy.’ Only by doing so can we ensure that Americans never suffer the hell of civil war again.” [Communities Digital News, 1/30/16; 12/5/15]

    Bradford: Putting women in combat “is a deliberate act of national self-destruction and a gift to our enemies.” He wrote in December 2015 that women “have no place in combat,” writing that then-President Obama’s “feminization of the U.S. military is not about promoting equality of opportunity. It is a deliberate act of national self-destruction and a gift to our enemies. It denies men their exclusive role as protectors. It strips women of a special protected status. And it destroys a social compact that predicates civilizational self-defense upon sex-role differences that has saved the West from barbarism for millennia.” He added:

    That the West of 2015 has abnegated the ancient social compact for civilizational self-defense is most acutely on display in the U.S. armed forces, where transgendered soldiers openly serve a commander-in-chief who throws like a girl, rides a bicycle with a helmet, golfs in 1950s-era girl’s saddle shoes and—against logic and expert military advice—now sends women to battle men.  The dangerous and suicidal lie underlying Obama’s fundamental transformation of the military is that women, far physically weaker and less aggressive than men, can prevail in the physical death struggle of combat.

    Could anything be further from the truth? Who doubts that if men and women fight hand-to-hand the former will make short, ugly work of the latter? Given a choice, what enemy would not elect to battle female American soldiers rather than their bigger, stronger, meaner, more vicious, testosterone-fueled male counterparts?

    Placing American women in combat sends terrible and morally corrosive messages: We are not serious about defeating radical Islam. Men no longer merit the pride that comes with bearing the sacred duty of protecting women, children and nation. Women are the functional equivalents of men without special responsibilities or aptitude for raising children, nurturing families and transmitting moral values.  And our civilization is no longer worth preserving since women, who we know are inadequate to the task, are sent to defend it. [Communities Digital News, 12/18/15]

    Bradford: The military “may be justified in ousting President Obama.” He wrote of then-President Obama in November 2015:

    A military coup is not yet and may not prove necessary to safeguard Americans against radical Islam. The voters may yet have the chance to usher in a new president committed to the destruction of ISIS and its wicked ideology.

    Much can happen between now and the end of President Obama’s term in January 2017. Yet ISIS has vowed and U.S. intelligence agencies expect follow-on attacks on the U.S. and its allies. And if past is prologue Obama will do next to nothing in response other than recite some of the “legitimate grievances” Islamists incubate against the U.S.

    Obama has proven for seven shameful years that he is the best friend radical Islam could possibly have in the Oval Office and, as such, is a domestic enemy of the Constitution and the American people.

    If partisan politics continues to prevent other constitutional methods from removing a president willfully derelict in his duty to defend the nation against radical Islam, the U.S. military—bound by its oath of office to “defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic”—may be justified in ousting President Obama.

    Whatever transpires between now and January 2017, the risible response to the Friday the 13th attacks establishes that it is past time, by any lawful means, to remove President Obama from power for dereliction of his duty to engage and defeat radical Islam. [Communities Digital News, 11/20/15]

    Bradford: Government “hope[s] the socialist-Islamist Red-Green axis will wreck capitalism.” He wrote in February 2016:

    Because government, media, and academic totalitarians hope the socialist-Islamist Red-Green axis will wreck capitalism faster than Big Brother can by himself, they blind themselves to Bigger Brother’s true nature and wage infowar on his behalf. Perhaps no one better embodies the intersection of Red and Green than President Obama himself, a socialist for whom al-Qaeda and ISIS would have voted had they been able.

    If Orwell were writing today, he might call socialism “Red Brother” and radical Islam “Green Brother” for clarity’s sake. Government, media, and university socialists have ensnared us in a dystopia where not just one, but two evil ideologies—Red Brother and Green Brother—are warring against us.

    The GOP decided years ago it would rather collaborate than battle Democrats and risk losing elections. Constitutional fidelity is rarer than marital fidelity in the single-party leviathan inhabiting D.C.’s swamp. Democrats have engineered a train of Red and Green abuses that rolled over Americans and their Constitution with Republicans riding along as freight.

    Government’s service to Red Brother is never-ending: ObamaCare; open borders; a feminized military; lawless judges; an $19 trillion national debt; “climate change” treaties; IRS threats against conservatives; the Second Amendment under siege; FCC regulation of the Internet. [Communities Digital News, 2/9/16]

  • 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.