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  • With Bannon gone, the far-right media trolls are ready to break up with the White House

    The anti-establishment trolls have lost their biggest White House ally and are starting to go after Pence. Prepare for the right-wing media food fight.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Stephen Bannon is no longer the White House chief strategist. His departure, in addition to furthering the narrative of a Trump administration in constant chaos, is likely to become a source of acrimony between right-wing anti-establishment outlets and online trolls and those who remain in the Trump administration.

    Bannon’s departure has prompted a shift in amongst pro-Trump outlets and far-right trolls -- like The Gateway Pundit and Mike Cernovich -- who are now reporting that the White House is being taken over by a “deep state” coup led by Vice President Mike Pence. Cernovich is a right-wing opportunistic troll who rode to prominence by supporting President Donald Trump but has recently announced “a big pivot” away from the president. In response to the news about Bannon getting fired, Cernovich took to Periscope to claim that “there’s a full-on coup” organized by Pence but that Trump doesn’t deserve any sympathy because he’s “a 71-year old man” who chose to listen to his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner instead of Bannon. Pro-Trump troll Jack Posobiec (who has also recently tried to move away from the “alt-right” movement) pushed the coup narrative as well, suggesting that the “RNC is counting impeachment votes from Congress against Trump,” adding, “They want rid of him.” Milo Yiannopoulos, a right-wing troll who was formerly employed by Breitbart.com, celebrated Bannon’s departure by launching Bannon 2020 merchandise on his online store and saying he looks forward to “having Steve back in the trenches again.” Yiannopoulos also said he wants to see “Bannon the Barbarian crush his enemies.”

    Bannon’s departure has other possible impacts for the far-right media universe. According to reports, Bannon might be returning to Breitbart, the Mercer-funded outlet he once claimed was “platform for the ‘alt-right,’” a term its current editors (much like former proud supporters of the movement) are trying to move away from. With Bannon in the White House, Breitbart behaved like any other pro-Trump outlet, showing little editorial independence and supporting Trump’s agenda (including his war on the press). But this support lasted as long as Trump’s agenda aligned with Bannon’s: Breitbart did not shy away from attacking Kushner, who is a White House senior adviser, to defend Bannon. With Bannon out, it seems like Breitbart will hold no punches in a war against a White House it now perceives as controlled by globalists.

    The right-wing media landscape is about to shift once more, putting the Bannon-loyalists, nationalist ideologues, and opportunistic trolls in a war against an establishment Republican Party faction they think is being led by Pence and, likely, Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of Fox News and owner of the Wall Street Journal. It remains to be seen whether Trump and his White House will be caught in the middle.

  • European "alt-right" ship tries to stop refugee rescue missions, fails miserably

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The campaign of Defend Europe, a European white nationalist “Identitarian” movement, to disrupt humanitarian search-and-rescue missions for migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, ended yesterday after months of problems, from its ship’s mechanical failure to the crew’s sea-sickness. Despite the group’s claims of total and undisputable success, its campaign was nothing more than a stunt, and a failed one at that.

    Here’s a list of mishaps the campaign suffered over the past four months, as reported by HuffPost UK, the U.K.-based anti-extremism research and education group HOPE Not Hate, and others:

    • In May, pro-Trump troll Lauren Southern and three Defend Europe members were detained by the Italian Coast Guard after they attempted to block a search-and-rescue ship travelling to Sicily.
    • In June, the group’s PayPal account, through which it was soliciting donations, was frozen for violating the service’s terms
    • In July, the group’s ship, C-Star, was reportedly detained by Egyptian authorities in the Suez Canal due to a “lack of documentation and papers”; this detainment delayed the ship’s effort to reach the Mediterranean Sea.
    • Shortly after, several individuals linked to Defend Europe had their Patreon accounts suspended for violating the company’s terms by soliciting donations for “activities that are likely to cause loss of life.”
    • In late July, the ship’s captain and owner were detained in Northern Cyprus, and the crew was investigated for possible human trafficking. Following a two-day detention, the Defend Europe members were then deported from the port “for alleged people-smuggling.”
    • In several countries, regional government authorities, NGOs, and citizens protesting the group’s racist activities prevented the C-Star from resupplying, docking, and refueling at ports in Italy, Tunisia, Crete, Greek Cyprus, and Malta.
    • In August, the C-Star broke down and had to be rescued by a real refugee rescue ship.

    And, as HuffPost UK noted, the "successes" the group took credit for were actually spurred by regional governments and humanitarian organizations. Specifically, the recent decline in migrant crossings of the Mediterranean Sea was spurred by Italian and Libyan Coast Guard missions, Islamic State group clashes along the Libyan coast, and the weather -- not by a motley crew of anti-refugee 20-year-olds.

    As the outlet also documented, the actual activities of members of Defend Europe amounted to little more than shouting at faraway ships, unfurling anti-immigrant banners, and interviewing each other to promote their online brands. One thing is clear from Defend Europe’s months long operation -- it was an embarrassing failure.

  • Why is Tucker Carlson so reluctant to condemn white supremacists?

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    White supremacists and neo-Nazis marched on Charlottesville, VA, last weekend. Support for the town’s statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee was their rallying point, though the underlying rationale was a toxic mixture of racism and anti-Semitism. The protesters were met by a coalition of progressives, religious leaders, and the antifa movement; violence erupted, and Heather Heyer was killed when an alleged neo-Nazi crashed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters. Since then, journalists and activists have spent hours on cable news discussing the validity of removing Confederate statues from the public square, the appropriateness of President Donald Trump’s response to the tragic incident, and whether “left-wing violence” is a dangerous phenomenon. But the throughline of the coverage has been the fervent, universal denunciation of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis as advocates of a violent, racist ideology that has no place in public life.

    But one curious exception stands out from this trend: Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, one of the most popular cable news programs in the country. Over the past four nights, Tucker Carlson has seemed unusually loath to offer harsh words for the protesters and their ideology, instead focusing his criticism on progressives who responded by seeking to remove more Confederate statues or curtail the speech of extremists. Carlson is a skilled polemicist, but he has devoted no monologues to railing against the bigotry of white supremacy, no analysis of the aims or history of their growing movement. He is a talented debater who uses his program to brutally dispatch guests who lack his skill, but hasn’t brought a neo-Nazi onto his program for the explicit purpose of exposing their hatred.

    Carlson’s hesitancy to offer a fervent condemnation of the protesters and his preference for using the issue to criticize the left mirrors Trump’s reaction. And like that of the president, Carlson’s rise has been applauded by the very same racists who marched on Charlottesville. White supremacists love Carlson because he uses his program to push issues they care about -- namely condemnations of immigrants and Muslims and the promotion of “European culture” -- to a massive audience. As neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin of the website Daily Stormer put it, “Tucker Carlson is literally our greatest ally.” (The website urged its readers to attend the Charlottesville rally in order to “end Jewish influence in America.”)

    To be clear, it’s not that Carlson has refused to criticize white supremacists altogether this week, it’s just that his criticisms are brief, perfunctory statements he uses to set up his attacks on the left. He’ll say he doesn’t like that white supremacists put “race at the center of their worldview,” before accusing the left of having a similar obsession with race. He will agree with a guest that KKK rhetoric is “awful” and “hateful,” using that admission to set up a critique of arguments for restricting “hate speech.” He will clear his throat by saying of white nationalist groups, “I’m not a part of them and don’t like them” before ripping the left for curtailing their speech. And that’s about as far as Carlson has been willing to go over the past four days. Such reticence to employ harsh language is unusual for Carlson; over the same period, for example, he’s described Google as “authoritarian” and “un-American,” and accused progressive activists of engaging in the “textbook definition of racism.”

    Carlson doesn’t seem to view the weekend’s violent eruption as the result of a racist ideology. Instead, he had described the events as “chaos” featuring a “lunatic hell-bent” on murder who was inadvertently aided politicians who wouldn’t let law enforcement do their jobs. “What country was this?” he asked on his first program after the protests. “Where were the authorities? What happened to the police? Is this America?” Carlson had a very different take after the terrorist attack Thursday in Barcelona, Spain. He quickly blamed “radical Islam” and increased Muslim immigration. “If your population changes, your society is going to change for good and bad, probably, but this is one of the downsides,” he said, adding that Western European leaders who refuse to “draw that obvious conclusion” are “paralyzed by guilt and self-hatred.”

    Meanwhile, the Fox host has devoted substantial time on each night this week to what he apparently considers a far greater threat: efforts by liberal activists to tear down historical statues. Carlson has devoted little attention to the fact that the Charlottesville protesters rallied in support of the Lee statue. But he has painted the activist movement rising in the wake of that atrocity as ignorant of history and ideologically committed to abolishing our collective understanding of the past. And he’s warned those activists are dangerous, claiming that “if a crowd of people with strong political views can destroy a statue, why can't they set your house on fire? I mean, in other words, why doesn't this stuff accelerate into something really dangerous? Why wouldn't it?” That is more concern than he has demonstrated about the white supremacists with “strong political views” who already have blood on their hands.

    On Wednesday he championed the free speech rights of white supremacists, warning against “the prospect of big companies using their power to enforce ideological conformity” by refusing them access to their platforms. He even said his guest’s contention that the protesters were “camping about with tiki torches like the right did and rambling on about Jews” because their speech rights had been denied was “exactly right.”

    It would be easy to write off Carlson’s lack of interest and explain it away, except for the fact that Tucker is a star among the very collection of deplorables he has been so uninterested in criticizing.

    Yes, the issues of who is publicly venerated by our society and whether speech rights are absolute are complex, important ones on which people of good faith may disagree.

    Yes, Carlson could argue that the virulence of white supremacist ideology should go without saying, or that many other shows are already providing that service and he wanted to do something different.

    But surely a program that found several minutes this week to berate Weekly Standard editor at large Bill Kristol could also manage to find some time to more forcefully condemn neo-Nazis in the wake of the weekend’s events.

    Carlson has the biggest platform on cable news. More than three million people tune in to his show every night. Some of them are prominent white supremacists and neo-Nazis. It seems unlikely that Carlson is unaware of this fact. If he wanted to, he could use his power to confront and condemn their behavior, in a longshot even attempt to use his rhetorical skills to move them away from racism. Instead, he followed up a violent white nationalist conflagration with days of programming that they must have loved.

  • Media Matters to James Murdoch: Your letter took a stand against white nationalism. Now keep it up by living your values at Fox News.

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Washington, DC-- Media Matters President Angelo Carusone released the following statement after James Murdoch circulated an email expressing concern about President Donald Trump’s defense of white supremacists and neo-Nazis -- and emphasized the need to “stand up to” this toxic hatred.

    “Much of what Donald Trump said this week that James Murdoch is condemning actually came directly from Fox News. So, if James Murdoch really believes what he wrote in that email, then he needs to start with Fox News, the network that he runs. Until James stands up to Fox News preying on racial anxieties and serving as state-aligned propaganda for Trump, his sentiments ring hollow.

    His $1 million donation to the Anti-Defamation League is laudable. But, it is hardly proportional to the damage that Fox News has done and will continue to do unless James Murdoch acts.”

    Earlier this week, as shown in a Media Matters supercut, Donald Trump parroted several Fox News talking points during a press conference as he responded to questions about deadly white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, VA. These talking points included Trump smearing counter-protesters as the “alt-left,” suggesting that calls to take down Confederate statues is a slippery slope that could lead to demands to take down statues of other historical figures, and defending his failure to condemn white supremacists in his initial response to the violence.

  • Pro-Trump media conspiracy theory: The white supremacist who organized Charlottesville rally is really a liberal spy 

    Fringe outlets and fake news purveyors claim Charlottesville was staged to make conservatives look bad 

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Hyperpartisan media outlets, fake news purveyors, and fringe right-wing media figures are promoting a conspiracy theory that suggests that one of the white supremacist organizers of the rally in Charlottesville, VA, was really a “liberal double agent” who staged the rallies in order to “depict conservatives as white supremacists.”

    On the weekend of August 11, white supremacists and neo-Nazis gathered in Charlottesville for an “alt-right” “Unite The Right” rally protesting the city’s plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Throughout the weekend, the neo-Nazi and white supremacist crowd carried torches and weapons and shouted racist and anti-Semitic slogans. The rally turned deadly on Saturday when a man drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a woman.

    Jason Kessler, a white supremacist who has previously written for and appeared in right-wing and far-right media outlets, was one of the main organizers of the gathering. But pro-Trump media and fake news purveyors are now spinning a sentence from a Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) profile of Kessler to question whether Kessler is really a “liberal double agent.”

    After pro-Trump outlet The Gateway Pundit drew attention to the SPLC report, which noted that “rumors abound on white nationalist forums that Kessler’s ideological pedigree before 2016 was less than pure and seem to point to involvement in the Occupy movement and past support for President Obama,” fringe right-wing media figures and hyperpartisan fake news purveyors quickly jumped on the claim. Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, who is also a host at the conspiracy theory outlet Infowars, tweeted the Gateway Pundit article, writing, “Oops ! Charlottesville “White Supremacist" was an Obama Supporter/Occupy protestor (sic) #fishy #falseflag #SorosOp.” Fake news purveyor Conservative Daily Post suggested the rally was organized by the left to “shatter Trump’s base and depict conservatives as white supremacists.”

    This conspiracy theory picked up more steam after Breitbart also highlighted the mention from the SPLC report on rumors about Kessler’s past political leanings and his role in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Discredited author Dinesh D’Souza tweeted the Breitbart article, asking, “Could it be that the organizer of the #Charlottesville rally is a left-wing fascist pretending to be a right-winger?” He additionally tweeted, “The whole rally may have been staged to feed the mainstream media’s big lie that racism & fascism are on the right.” Fake news purveyor Right Wing News questioned if Kessler was “a plant and this whole thing a set up to pit Americans against each other.” Fake news purveyor YourNewsWire claimed that Kessler may be “a plant, inserted into the Trump Movement to find a way to take it down,” and argued he was possibly a “deep state operative.” And fake news purveyor Freedom Daily posited that Kessler was either so fed up with eight years of Obama that he “sw[ore] off an entire race … or he’s a liberal double agent.”

    Users on online forums popular among the “alt-right” also jumped on the conspiracy theory. People on Reddit’s “r/The_Donald” and 4chan’s “politically incorrect” message board (commonly referred to as /pol/) that have helped spread conspiracy theories previously wondered if Kessler was “planted by Soros/deep state,” claimed that Kessler was a “PLANT/OBAMA SHILL” who helped create a “professional staged event,” and wrote that the Charlottesville events were “all false flag protests.” One Reddit user even claimed he was the reason the SPLC report had spread to begin with.

    The spread of this conspiracy theory among far-right figures, forums, and fake news purveyors is yet another example of how the fringe as an ecosystem spreads dubious claims, conspiracy theories, and lies, while simultaneously attacking perceived enemies.

  • NRA’s double standard on terror is on display following vehicle attacks in the US and Spain

    NRA’s live news show used Barcelona terror attacks to suggest “political correctness” could cause an attack in the U.S., but has had nothing to say about last week’s Charlottesville attack

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Rifle Association’s live news show Stinchfield issued a “terror alert” following terrorist van attacks in Spain, in which ISIS supporters drove vans into crowds at two locations, killing 14 and injuring more than 100 people. But the show has yet to mention the events of August 12 in Charlottesville, VA, where a neo-Nazi plowed his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing activist Heather Heyer and wounding 19 others.

    Since the terror in Charlottesville, Stinchfield -- which consists of five daily updates at the top of the hour on weekdays starting at 9 a.m. EST -- has run 21 segments totalling approximately 210 minutes of airtime without mentioning the attack in Virginia.

    During its 9 a.m. update on August 18, Stinchfield used the tragedy in Spain to push right-wing talking points. During the broadcast, a “terror alert” appeared on the screen, which the NRA show has displayed after other attacks.

    Recounting the details of the attack, host Grant Stinchfield said to NRATV correspondent Chuck Holton, “All of this, though, reminds me, Chuck, of the lessons we can learn here in America, which is open borders are very dangerous, the terrorists will certainly exploit it. We have that situation going on in Europe with the open borders. And the other is political correctness.”

    He continued, “In Europe, they are so afraid to offend anyone when it comes to keeping people safe. And so you combine those two things together, and this is what’s going to happen in places like Europe, and I’m afraid, Chuck, in America as well.”

    During the segment, Holton criticized Spain’s gun laws (falsely claiming that “people are not allowed to have guns here”) and Stinchfield called on “patriotic Muslims” to “infiltrate” terror cells in the United States and in Europe.

    Stinchfield routinely uses terror attacks in Europe to push right-wing talking points and promote gun ownership. Following the bombing at Manchester Arena in May, Holton claimed that the U.K. “has had this coming for a long time” in part because of the country’s gun laws, and also blamed the attack on “gender-bending,” “multiculturalism,” and open borders for refugees. Following the March vehicle and knife attack at London Bridge, Stinchfield said, “This attack should serve as a reminder of how important our gun rights are here in America.”

    Beyond the double standard about what types of terror warrant mention on Stinchfield, the lack of coverage of Charlottesville stands out more within the context of the NRA being widely criticized earlier this year for releasing an ad that critics said encouraged violence against left-wing protesters.

    Both of these tragedies call for widespread media coverage, but Stinchfield is making a very conspicuous choice to only commentate on one.

  • Business lobbying coalition recruits right-wing hosts to deliver virtually identical town hall ads

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Conservative radio listeners have been hearing some of their favorite hosts implore them to visit local town halls hosted by members of Congress to make their “voices” heard. But far from being a “grassroots” campaign, the coordinated ads are part of an effort by a business lobbying coalition that’s paying those hosts to deliver virtually identical “live read” ads to their audiences.

    The Job Creators Network (JCN), which claims to be the “voice of small business people,” wants to repeal Obamacare, block minimum wage laws, lower business taxes, and stop environmental protection regulations. It conducts its operations through the 501(c)(3) Job Creators Network Foundation and the 501(c)(4) advocacy group Job Creators Network Inc. JCN was originally founded as the Job Creators Alliance but changed its name in October 2013.

    JCN has lobbied Congress through the firm Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas on “policies to promote small business, especially tax relief and deregulation” and other tax issues, according to federal lobbying records. It also recently retained the Bockorny Group to lobby on its behalf on taxes. For publicity efforts, JCN has contracted with Berman and Company, the notorious firm headed by conservative pundit Rick Berman.

    JCN groups' raised roughly $4.6 million in 2015, the most recent year in which their financials are available. Founders to the group in recent years include the Mercer Family Foundation, run by Republican megadonor and Breitbart News investor Rebekah Mercer; the Marcus Foundation, led by Home Depot co-founder and JCN co-founder Bernie Marcus; and the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

    A major part of JCN’s current media efforts is the website StopIgnoringMyVoice.com, which has a list of upcoming town halls by legislators and encourages conservatives “to show up at town halls and to have your voice heard.” The website states that it is “a project of the Job Creators Network” and is partnered with conservative groups such as FreedomWorks, National Taxpayers Union, and Let Freedom Ring.

    Leading conservative radio hosts such as Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham have been doing “live reads” for JCN in the past several weeks, according to a Media Matters review of conservative radio programs. Live reads are a common advertising practice in which radio hosts integrate sponsors into their program by delivering, and often personalizing, advertising copy themselves (“live reads” can be delivered live during radio segments or aired prerecorded during designated commercial breaks).

    Ingraham did the following prerecorded one-minute read for JCN, which has aired during her program this month:

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): You sent a message to the media and the political elites last fall loud and clear. You wanted new leadership that focused on the middle class, not the political class. On your lives, not theirs. Well, the media elites didn’t get the message. They’ve been working nonstop since Election Day to undo your vote. Their goal is clear -- to delegitimize your candidates and the issues you care about and set up Democratic victories in 2018 and beyond. Well this summer, Democratic activists, with the media’s help, plan to overwhelm the town halls of our congressmen and senators. But that can’t happen. And you can stop it by showing up and being heard. That’s why I’m urging all of you to go to StopIgnoringMyVoice.com now and find out what you can do. Again, it’s StopIgnoringMyVoice.com. Don’t let the mainstream media and the Democrats steal your voice or our town halls. Go to StopIgnoringMyVoice.com now and find out how you can be heard. That’s StopIgnoringMyVoice.com.

    Mark LevinLarry ElderSean Hannity, Dana Loesch, Mike Gallagher, and Hugh Hewitt have delivered similar reads for JCN, though some hosts varied their script.

    Hewitt included his other employer, MSNBC, in his read, stating on his August 9 program that StopIgnoringMyVoice.com is a project of JCN, a “great sponsor of his program,” and adding: “You sent a message to the media and political elites last fall -- I talked about it on [the MSNBC program] Hardball last night -- it was loud, it was clear. It was like the dragon in Game of Thrones: it shows up, you can not miss it.” Gallagher added during his advertising read that the effort was truly “grassroots.”

    Such advertisements have been very lucrative for conservative radio hosts for years.

    Politico reported in 2011 that “prominent conservative groups are paying hefty sponsorship fees” to conservative hosts to buy “a variety of promotional tie-ins, as well as regular on-air plugs – praising or sometimes defending the groups, while urging listeners to donate – often woven seamlessly into programming in ways that do not seem like paid advertising.” The publication added in 2014 that “conservative groups spent nearly $22 million to broker and pay for involved advertising relationships known as sponsorships with a handful of influential talkers including [Glenn] Beck, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh between the first talk radio deals in 2008 and the end of 2012.” Levin defended the practice in 2011 by writing: “This is how the market of ideas and commerce work. There is no secret about it. It is all done in open, in front of tens of millions of listeners. It is ethical, legitimate, and legal in every respect.”

    JCN did not respond to requests for comment.

  • Sean Hannity has been dumpster diving with conspiracy theorists again

    Fringe claim that Charlottesville counterprotesters were paid actors jumps to Hannity's radio show

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News host Sean Hannity used his radio show to promote the inane conspiracy theory that “antifa agitators” who opposed the neo-Nazi and white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville, VA, on Saturday were actually actors hired by a publicity firm.

    The claim seems to have originated from the fever swamp of pro-Trump online message boards and social media accounts before making its way through conspiracy websites and onto Hannity’s program.

    For some reason, all parties involved in promoting the moronic claim have interpreted a Craigslist ad posted August 7 by the firm Crowds on Demand which offered $25 per hour to "actors and photographers" to participate in events in the "Charlotte, NC area" as evidence that the firm was hiring counter-protesters for the event in Charlottesville, roughly 300 miles away. Crowds on Demand has flatly denied the charge, saying that the company was "not involved in any capacity with the recent tragic events in Charlottesville.”

    The Craigslist ad “began to spread on social media and chat forums like Reddit and 4Chan” on August 14, as Snopes detailed. Last night, the former actor and Trump supporter Scott Baio pushed a version of this fable on his Facebook page, promoting private messages he had received from an unnamed associate which claimed that the hired protesters traveled on “buses [that] were hired by media matters which is owned by George Soros” (none of this is true).

    Earlier today, the claim made the jump to ZeroHedge, a regular clearinghouse for conspiracy theories. The post’s pseudonymous author, “Tyler Durden,” claimed the ad “is raising new questions over whether paid protesters were sourced by a Los Angeles based ‘public relations firm specializing in innovative events’ to serve as agitators in counterprotests,” and tied the “discovery” to President Donald Trump’s claim that there was “blame on both sides” for the Charlottesville violence. The ZeroHedge piece was reposted later today on Infowars.com, radio host Alex Jones’ conspiracy theory website.

    From those conspiracy sites, the claim jumped to two of the most prominent radio shows in the country, with audiences of millions. “There's a story out today that raises a question whether or not antifa agitators that showed up in Charlottesville on Saturday were bought and paid for,” Hannity claimed. Hannity continued, “Apparently it was uncovered, and some of the media reported it, that some suspicious activity by an LA-based company that calls itself Crowds on Demand.”

    Hannity then seemingly read from the Zero Hedge article, saying, “A Craigslist post last Monday, a full week before the Charlottesville protest, raising questions about whether paid protesters were sourced by a Los Angeles-based PR firm specializing in innovative events to serve as agitators and counterprotests. 25 bucks an hour to actors, photographers in that particular case to participate in events in Charlotte, NC, area as opposed to Charlottesville, VA.”

    “So maybe it's just a coincidence,” he concluded. “I don't know for sure. But we're going to keep an eye on that.”

    Rush Limbaugh also mentioned the conspiracy theory on his radio show, claiming that progressives “were hiring for Charlottesville in advance. The ad has been found on, I think it's Craigslist.”

    This is far from the first time Hannity has promoted trash from the dregs of the Internet. Most infamously, the Fox star embarked on an extensive on-air campaign in support of the obscene conspiracy theory that the late Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was murdered because he was a source for WikiLeaks.

  • Thanks to Fox's Tucker Carlson, pro-Trump Reddit is discovering anti-abortion extremism

    Fox News' Carlson has been hosting more anti-abortion extremists -- and members of a pro-Trump Reddit forum are taking notice 

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News’ Tucker Carlson had a night off on August 7, but that didn’t stop him from airing yet another interview with anti-choice extremist and spreading misinformation about Planned Parenthood. And Reddit’s “r/The_Donald” forum, where “alt-right” members supporting President Donald Trump congregate, is starting to take notice.

    During the August 7 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, guest host Laura Ingraham -- who has her own history of spreading misinformation about abortion -- aired a pre-taped interview in which Carlson hosted anti-choice activist Abby Johnson. Although posts about abortion don’t usually gain much traction in “r/The_Donald”, the August 7 segment sparked an unusual amount of interest from users.

    Since moving into a coveted primetime spot in the Fox News lineup, Carlson has seemingly made a habit of hosting anti-abortion activists and packaging their misinformation around the theme of “censorship.” Within the anti-abortion movement, alleging censorship has become a popular tactic, in which an anti-abortion group or outlet alleges it has been persecuted in order to rally followers and raise funds. Although Carlson positions his program to appeal to right-wing and “alt-right” extremists, as Media Matters noted in July, he has taken particular pains to manufacture outrage on behalf of anti-abortion guests by alleging that their misinformation has been censored by another outlet.

    In the pre-taped August 7 interview, Johnson expanded beyond the typical right-wing media attacks on Planned Parenthood that often allege the organization is not an essential health care provider. Johnson additionally argued that Planned Parenthood not only had so-called “abortion quotas” -- a claim that has been soundly debunked -- but also attempted to provide patients with birth control “with a high human error rate” so they would later schedule abortions, another falsehood that is most often repeated by only the most extreme anti-abortion activists.

    Pro-Trump Reddit users don’t often engage with topics related to abortion. For example, during Republicans’ unsuccessful attempt to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a post on “r/The_Donald” about a provision of the repeal bill that would have defunded Planned Parenthood generated only two comments. Similarly, a new smear video from the discredited anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) that was posted to “r/The_Donald” yielded only one comment; and a post promoting a Facebook Live event of another anti-abortion group (Students for Life of America) received zero comments. On other occasions, however, threads about Planned Parenthood on “r/The_Donald” did generate a greater number of comments, but even these topped out at around 200 replies.   

    In contrast, a post concerning the August 7 segment of Carlson’s show generated upwards of 700 comments from pro-Trump Reddit users on “r/The_Donald.” Most notably, a number of users described the segment as a “red pill” moment for them -- a pop culture term referring to an experience that supposedly shows reality to an individual -- or as evidence of so-called “censorship” and responded by making threats against Planned Parenthood employees.

    One poster wrote that “this may be the biggest redpill any of us have ever swallowed,” while another said that it was good because “we need a kick in the ass like this.” A third poster argued, “I've always said that abortion is the biggest red pill you can take. Glad to see [“r/The_Donald”] is taking it.”

    In another example, a user described the segment as “my final red pill on abortion.”

    Beyond expressing general outrage about what are, in reality, inaccurate allegations against Planned Parenthood, some users went a step further and posted threatening statements against the organization’s staff and board members. One poster wrote, “DEFUND THEN (sic) BURN THE BUILDINGS DOWN,” garnering a response from another user that someone should “salt the earth once the flames have died down.”

    Others argued that Planned Parenthood staff should “be imprisoned for life for first degree murder,” that “these demons are not of this earth” and that “every single person on the board of [Planned Parenthood] needs to be strung by the neck.”

    In instances where individuals didn’t call for attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics or staff, they seemingly endorsed acts of anti-choice violence committed by others. As one user wrote, “I used to think the people that attacked these clinics were nuts, but WOW.” Another wrote that they would “be okay if vigilantes started burning these places down in the night.”

    After white supremacists and neo-Nazis rallied in Charlottesville, VA -- leaving one person dead and many injured -- the threat posed by radicalized online communities cannot be understated. Although Carlson may not be the originator of the anti-choice misinformation he spreads, he is specially packaging it for an audience rife with misogyny and primed for violence. And if pro-Trump Reddit’s reaction to Carlson’s segment with Johnson is any indication, these online communities are starting to take notice.

  • Why does USA Today keep publishing op-eds that dispute climate science?

    The paper’s latest opinion piece on climate change was written by an author with undisclosed fossil fuel ties

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    USA Today has once again invited a climate denier onto its opinion pages to cast doubt on mainstream science, and the paper failed to disclose the author’s numerous industry ties.

    On August 14, USA Today's editorial board wrote a well-reasoned editorial highlighting the scientific consensus around climate science, titled “Case for climate change grows ever stronger.” The board noted that the findings of a draft federal climate report provided “ever more troubling evidence” that “humanity is responsible for a dangerously warming planet.”

    But on the same day, the newspaper also published an op-ed by Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute that disparaged the draft report, dismissing it as the work of “the career (and holdover) federal employee ‘resistance’” and part of the “big business” of climate change:

    Another week of the Trump presidency, another bout of fevered reporting on claims promoted by the career (and holdover) federal employee “resistance.” But particularly when it comes to climate change, it seems the ordinary way of doing things is simply too much to ask.

    “Climate” has become very big business since Congress first requested quadrennial “National Assessments on Climate Change” in 1990. A big part of that business is government. Another is the news media. Both of which thrive on the end-of-days narrative.

    The two met this week to ride the latest national assessment, a draft of which prompted excited reportage and a particularly embarrassing correction by The New York Times.

    Readers would have taken Horner’s attack with more than a grain of salt had USA Today disclosed his deep ties to oil and coal companies. He claimed that climate change has become "big business," but Horner's own work has been funded by big fossil fuel corporations for years. Horner has gotten payments from Alpha Natural Resources, one of the largest coal companies in the U.S., and has numerous ties to the coal industry. And Horner’s employer, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, has received more than $2 million from ExxonMobil over almost two decades, as well as funding from Marathon Petroleum, Texaco, the American Petroleum Institute, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, Koch Industries, the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation, and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, among others.

    In his USA Today op-ed, Horner provided no evidence to support his claim that writing reports on climate change is “big business.” According to a ProPublica article, the draft federal climate report was authored by “a mix of government and academic researchers,” and lead author Katharine Hayhoe noted that the academic contributors were not paid for their work. Horner also didn't give any compelling evidence or argument to dispute the findings of the draft report.

    So then why did USA Today publish Horner’s op-ed? The paper’s editorial board has a long-standing practice of publishing “opposing view” counterpoints to its editorials. As Media Matters has documented on multiple occasions, this “opposing view” format leads the newspaper to publish climate denial and misinformation, and go out of its way to find authors willing to dispute the well-established science of human-caused climate change.

    A 2016 Media Matters study examining four major newspapers’ opinion pages found that USA Today published six opinion pieces featuring climate denial or misinformation from January 1, 2015, through August 31, 2016 -- five of which were “opposing view” responses to editorials. Only The Wall Street Journal, which is notorious for pushing climate denial on its opinion pages, published more. All six of these misleading climate opinion pieces were written by individuals with fossil fuel ties, but USA Today did not disclose any of those ties to readers.

    The “opposing view” format is all the more dangerous now that Environmental Protection Agency administrator and climate denier Scott Pruitt is calling for a “red team” of climate deniers to debate mainstream "blue team" scientists. The Trump administration is even reportedly considering having a "red team" vet the draft climate report that Horner criticized. This sort of approach should not be getting an endorsement from the most widely read newspaper in the United States.