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  • 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.

  • A defense of Trump’s unforgivable statements on Charlottesville may be airing on your local news

    Sinclair stations are airing pro-Trump propaganda

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Former aide to President Donald Trump and current administration media shill Boris Epshteyn is now using local television news spots across the country to back Trump in his disgraceful “both sides” treatment of violent neo-Nazism and white supremacy in Charlottesville, VA.

    Epshteyn is the chief political analyst of Sinclair Broadcast Group, a conservative local TV giant that currently owns and operates 173 stations in 33 states and the District of Columbia. He produces several 90-second commentary videos each week, which Sinclair dictates must be aired on all its stations nationwide. There is apparently no required disclosure Epshteyn must make in the segments he produces to inform viewers across the country that they’re hearing commentary from a former Trump staffer, even as his defenses of Trump’s most indefensible moments grow increasingly embarrassing.

    Epshteyn may have reached a new low last night with his take on Trump’s chilling defenses of neo-Nazis and white supremacists who rallied in Charlottesville last weekend.

    On August 11, a white supremacist "Unite the Right" rally kicked off with a tiki torch-wielding mob chanting "Jews will not replace us" on the University of Virginia campus in defense of a Confederate statue. The next day, the large gathering turned violent, when a neo-Nazi drove a car into the crowd of ralliers and counter-protesters, murdering anti-racism activist Heather Heyer. On Saturday, Trump issued a short statement refusing to specifically call out the white supremacists and neo-Nazis behind the rally, instead pointing to blame "on many sides." Following two days of intense criticism, Trump issued a low-energy statement Monday nominally condemning the KKK and white supremacists, then completely undermined that statement in an unhinged Tuesday press conference where he returned to pinning blame on "both sides," and claimed that there were "very fine people" included among the white supremacists.

    And yet, Epshteyn’s segment begins, “The sky is blue. Does the president have to repeat that fact day-in and day-out for us to believe it? No, he does not.”

    The “Bottom Line with Boris” segment completely ignores Trump’s statements on Charlottesville aside from his Teleprompter-dependent, hostage video from the White House on Monday afternoon in which he finally specifically condemned neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups. Epshteyn did not acknowledge Trump’s initial comments about the rally, in which he referred to violence “on many sides,” nor did he acknowledge Trump’s Tuesday press conference in which he gave “white supremacists an unequivocal boost.”  

    Epshteyn ends the segment with a personal note, explaining that he is Jewish and thus knows that Trump is not anti-Semitic. This analysis, however, does not account for years of Trump’s public footsie with prominent white nationalists and anti-Semites, including former KKK grand wizard David Duke.

    Sinclair’s other two right-wing “must-run” commentary segments -- “Behind the Headlines” with Mark Hyman and the “Terrorism Alert Desk” -- have yet to address the terror in Charlottesville. (Here are the “Terrorism Alert Desk” segments that ran on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday on Sinclair-owned Virginia station WSET.)  

    Local TV news viewers from Maine to Utah -- including some in Charlottesville’s backyard -- may have seen this segment last night or this morning as they turned to their local station for the news of the day. Folks in other cities and states across the country are also watching, waiting to hear if Sinclair will soon own their local TV station and extend the reach of its Trump apologism to Chicago or New Orleans, too.

  • As the nation reels from Trump’s embrace of neo-Nazis, Fox News invites racist, anti-Semite Ted Nugent on for full hour

    Nugent in 2012: "I'm beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News’ The Specialists included racist Ted Nugent on its panel for the full hour one day after President Donald Trump praised the “very fine people” participating in a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, VA, that resulted in the murder of a woman protesting the racism and bigotry espoused by the white supremacists.

    Nugent was introduced as a “rock and roll legend” who specializes in “planting trees.” The hosts neglected to mention Nugent’s history of racism and gave him the forum to spout white supremacist talking points and give cover to the Nazis who murdered a woman by claiming “all sides” instigated violence at the rally:

    Fox News’ decision to book Nugent should embarrass everyone at the network given his history of racist comments. In January 2014, Nugent referred to Barack Obama as a “subhuman mongrel,” a slur he said before, referring to African-American rappers as “big uneducated greasy black mongrels.” In 2013, Nugent appeared with conspiracy theorist and Trump ally Alex Jones, and said African-Americans could solve “the black problem” if they put their “heart and soul into being honest, [and] law-abiding.” In 2013, Nugent defended George Zimmerman's shooting of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin by claiming Martin showed “the same mindless tendency to violence we see in black communities across America.” In 2012, Nugent wrote in The Washington Times that he was “beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War.”

  • CNN law enforcement analyst claims “the left” shares blame for Heather Heyer’s death

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    CNN law enforcement analyst Harry Houck tweeted today that “the left has to take some responsibility” for the death of anti-racism activist Heather Heyer. He also defended the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA:

    Houck had previously claimed that “antifa” (short for anti-fascists) and Black Lives Matter “started the violence” and that “haters on both the far left and far right invaded what was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration in VA yesterday.”

    He has also claimed:

    Media Matters has documented that Houck has a long history of race-baiting commentary, which includes frequently blaming victims of police brutality and describing Black Lives Matter as a “thug group.” He also regularly uses his national platform on CNN to peddle racist tropes about black criminality. He recently claimed that President Donald Trump encouraging police brutality is not "that big a deal."

    As Carlos Maza -- now with Vox -- wrote for Media Matters last year: “Despite his rhetoric, CNN continues to pay Houck as an expert, bringing his race-baiting to a national audience any time a story of over-policing or police brutality makes headlines.”

  • Cheyenne Mountain Resort cancels plans to host white nationalist VDare conference after wide criticism

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The Colorado resort that was scheduled to host a conference for the white nationalist group VDare has canceled those plans.  

    As Media Matters reported, VDare recently announced, and started taking reservations for, its April 2018 conference at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs, CO. The event was scheduled to feature “a weekend of candor, fellowship, and top-notch speakers, as we celebrate the shifting political tides and discuss the way forward for patriotic immigration reform and American national identity.”

    Those plans were canceled today by the resort, which is a part of Benchmark Resorts & Hotels. The resort emailed the following statement: “Cheyenne Mountain Resort will not be hosting the VDARE Foundation in April of next year.  We remain committed to respecting the privacy of guests at the resort.”

    VDare regularly posts white nationalist content that argues against nonwhite immigration and attacks minorities. For its conference next year, VDare had similarly scheduled speakers with a history of pushing racist, anti-immigrant, and white nationalist views. Those speakers included Breitbart.com columnist and former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), who demonized immigrants as dangerous and disloyal invaders; writer John Derbyshire, who has described himself as “a mild and tolerant” “racist” and “homophobe” and was fired from the National Review after he penned a column suggesting that white and Asian parents warn their children about the supposed threats posed by black people; and VDare leader Peter Brimelow, who has warned that nonwhite immigrants are destroying the country.

    Jason Kessler, the white supremacist who organized the recent August rally in Charlottesville, VA, has written multiple articles for VDare.

    Numerous media outlets based in Colorado covered VDare’s plans for the conference and noted the group’s white nationalist ideology. Anti-racism activists in the area organized against VDare’s plans and were scheduled to voice their opposition to the event. Colorado Springs Republican Mayor John Suthers issued a statement saying he “would encourage local businesses to be attentive to the types of events they accept and the groups that they invite to our great city” and the city wouldn’t “provide any support or resources” to the event.

    VDare had attempted to hold a conference earlier this year at Tenaya Lodge in at Yosemite National Park. The company that owns the lodge ultimately decided to cancel that booking.

  • There will be no pivot

    Journalists have been predicting Trump will change for more than a year. It isn't going to happen.

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    It’s been 17 days since retired Gen. John Kelly joined the White House amid a wave of media goodwill. As chief of staff in the place of the feckless Republican political operative Reince Priebus, the theory went, Kelly might be able to “rein in” President Donald Trump. Kelly would impose “military discipline” on a White House that had devolved into warring factions, controlling the information the president received, restoring order to the decision-making process, and curtailing Trump’s Twitter habit. “There hasn’t been much good to say about Trump in a long time,” wrote Vanity Fair’s T.A. Frank. “But recruiting Kelly suggests that he learns, very belatedly, from his mistakes, and that he’s capable of some small degree of humility.” Journalists often caveated their commentary with acknowledgments that the White House’s problem was far deeper than communications failures, and that much would depend on whether Trump was willing to listen to Kelly’s advice. But expectations for the new chief of staff were sky-high -- Frank’s piece was titled, “Will John Kelly Save Trump’s Soul?” The pivot, at long last, had arrived.

    To put it mildly, those takes haven’t aged well.

    Under Kelly’s tenure, the president offered up unhinged, improvised threats toward North Korea that suggested he was on the brink of ordering a nuclear strike. He lashed out at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for expelling U.S. diplomats, and his White House openly admitted he had helped draft his son’s deceptive response to reports that he had met with Russians during the presidential campaign. And yesterday, Trump used a press conference to all but offer open support to the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who rampaged through Charlottesville, VA, over the weekend in support of a statue honoring Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

    Kelly was present yesterday as Trump put those racists on equal footing with those who showed up to oppose them, declaring that both sides included some “very fine people” and were equally to blame for the violence that erupted. He watched with apparent despair as the president praised protesters who had carried torches while chanting, “Jews will not replace us.” He looked on as Trump did his best to shred the fabric of a nation sorely in need of healing. No American general has been so thoroughly routed since Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse.

    And yet, while the events of recent weeks are horrifying, they are not entirely surprising. Critics -- including Trump’s Democratic opponent -- warned throughout the campaign that Trump lacked the necessary temperament to be trusted with the U.S. nuclear arsenal, that he would never be able to work with Congress, that he was too closely tied to Russia, and that he was the candidate of choice for white nationalists and other deplorables. These were all known quantities; things are proceeding as we might have expected. And that leads us, inexorably, to the following conclusion.

    The pivot is not coming. There is no decision this president can make that will alter the trajectory of his administration. It’s long past time for journalists to stop predicting a change in course is imminent, or even possible.

    For more than a year, every brief moment of normalcy -- every instance in which Trump did not devolve into crude attacks on his opponents during a speech, or fired a controversial staffer, or even managed to avoid tweeting anything “controversial” for a handful of days -- has been accompanied by journalists willing to say that Trump had hit the “reset” button, that now he was finally becoming “presidential.” Inevitably, those journalists found themselves with egg on their faces in a matter of days, as Trump reverted to form and proved those moments anomalies, not the beginnings of a trend.

    I understand why reporters and commentators might be overeager to declare that change is on the way. It is uncomfortable to live in a world in which the president of the United States is an unhinged egomaniac who offers sympathy for literally the worst people in American society and lashes out at the institutions that support democratic governance. It makes sense that those whose jobs involve trying to make sense of this situation might grasp for anything that could reestablish normalcy.

    There’s also a bias in the press toward a change in storylines. Reporters strive to identify “new news,” and as such are susceptible to over-reading discrete instances as the start of a new trend. “Trump is doing something new” is a much more interesting story to tell than “Trump is doing the same thing,” and so it’s a story that gets told disproportionately to the reality.

    But the reality is, things aren’t normal because Trump is the president -- no shuffle in the White House or effort to change the message can change that. This is who he is. He rose to political prominence by questioning the legitimacy of the first black president, started his campaign with a racist rant against Mexicans, and was elected in spite of the publication of a tape in which he bragged about sexually assaulting women. He obviously cares more for his private interest than he does for public service. He values people and organizations solely on the basis of whether they support him personally. He has shown over and over again that he lacks either the intellect or the temperament to do his job. He is 71 years old -- none of this is going to change.

    This week, there were rumblings (though to some extent they have dissipated) that White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon might be on his way out, having lost the president’s favor. It would be an unalloyed positive for the despicable former chief of Breitbart.com to no longer have a job steps from the Oval Office. If that were to happen, I would expect some in the media to declare that the pivot had finally arrived. They would be wrong. As Trump said yesterday, Bannon joined his campaign late in the game. Trump was an unhinged racist before Bannon, and he’ll still be one if Bannon leaves. Anyone who claims that a Bannon removal would be the start of a real change will inevitably be quickly embarrassed.

    Instead of constantly looking for signs of the pivot, journalists should be stressing the remarkable consistency of Trump’s tenure. The administration’s throughline is chaos and hate, failure propagated by laziness and stupidity. Trump told us who he was, and he is living up to it.

  • Get ready. Things are going to get much, much worse.

    Trump's horrific media analysis shows that we're just in the beginning of the spiral

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Amid the horror of President Donald Trump’s press conference today -- his praise for the “fine people” he claimed marched among the neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, VA, over the weekend; the declaration that they had a good point in opposing the removal of statues celebrating Confederate leaders from the public square; the obvious lie that he had needed more time to get all the facts before criticizing the protesters; the cheers for the president that followed from white supremacist leaders -- came a moment of unusual clarity.

    In a mere 25 words, the president laid out everything you need to know about his view of the media and its role in public life and continued his strategy of convincing his supporters that critical journalists are all acting in bad faith, a political effort that could have dire consequences.

    Asked why he had blamed both the white supremacist protestors and the counter-protesters for Saturday’s conflagration, Trump said that he believed both sides were responsible. “I have no doubt about it,” he added, “and you don’t have any doubt about it either.” “And,” he said, gesturing for attention and raising his voice as reporters tried to interject, “if you reported it accurately, you would say it.”

    That’s the president’s media analysis in a nutshell: Any time the media’s coverage diverges from the world he describes, he just told the public, the journalists are deliberately lying to the public. There is no possibility that he might be wrong, no room for dissent. There are two types of journalists: The ones who report that what the president believes is true, and the liars.

    That’s one of the few constants to the Trump administration, and a key way he’s wrangled the support of a large faction of the conservative press, in spite of his failures and weaknesses. The media stands against me, Trump says again and again. They are the enemy. I am telling you the truth, he tells his flock. They are the liars.

    It’s an argument the president needs to make because the world Trump describes does not match the one we inhabit. On issue after issue, large and small, the president lies to us. Only by undermining anyone who provides contrary information -- the Democrats, the Republicans, the courts, the bureaucrats, and the media most of all -- can he maintain his support.

    Meanwhile, the president supports a powerful network of sycophants -- from established players like Sean Hannity, who spent last night’s show attacking the press for their criticism of the president’s earlier Charlottesville comments, and Fox & Friends, which laid the groundwork for his defense of the protestors, to rising fringe figures like Alex Jones and Jack Posobiec. All of them are willing to say that reality is whatever Trump says it is.

    It’s a dangerous path. Most people now trust the press more than they trust Trump, but he still retains the loyalty of his core supporters -- who include, of course, the sorts of people who listen to the president’s propagandists and are overjoyed to hear the president of the United States defend white supremacists and neo-Nazis. As of yet, the president has largely avoided major calamities not of his own making. What happens when one strikes -- a war, a large-scale terrorist attack, a natural disaster -- and the American people need information from the president? What happens when he tells the truth, and they don’t believe him?

    What happens when he lies again, and journalists call him out, and he says they are the real liars?

    As of yet, all we’ve lost amid Trump’s lies and hatred and filth are our dignity as a country. Things can still get much worse. And as long as Trump is president, they will.

  • White nationalists cheer Trump for assigning blame to “both sides” for Charlottesville violence

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    White nationalists applauded President Donald Trump for giving a press conference where he cast “blame on both sides” for an August 12 white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, VA, that culminated in a neo-Nazi plowing his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing activist Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

    During his August 15 remarks from Trump Tower, Trump also blamed the “alt left” for violence and defended an earlier protest held the evening of August 11 where white nationalists carried torches while shouting racist and anti-Semitic chants.

    David Duke -- a white nationalist radio host, noted anti-Semite, and former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard -- wrote on Twitter, “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa”:

    Duke was an early Trump backer and has been a strong supporter of the president and his administration. In February 2016, Trump declined to denounce Duke after being pressed several times by CNN’s Jake Tapper during an appearance on State of the Union. In other instances, Trump has denounced Duke under pressure.

    White nationalist website VDare used the presser to call Trump a “God-Emperor,” a common compliment for Trump among racists:

    James Edwards, the host of white nationalist radio show The Political Cesspool, wrote, “Progress! @realDonaldTrump now puts #Charlottesville blame at the feet of 'Alt-Left' who came in 'without a permit'":