Blog | Page 2 | Media Matters for America

Blog

  • Pro-Trump sycophants launch another smear of Christine Blasey Ford, trying to tie her to Fusion GPS

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ & ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fringe conservatives are trying to undermine California professor Christine Blasey Ford’s account that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her by pointing to work her brother has done for a firm with connections to the Russia investigation. Right-wing websites and social media personalities are suggesting they’ve uncovered evidence of a potential conspiracy by noting that Ralph Blasey worked at a law firm that has done legal work for Fusion GPS, the private research firm that conservatives have attacked for its role in the probe. But Blasey’s work for that firm ended in 2004 -- six years before Fusion GPS was even founded -- according to the LinkedIn.com profile the critics are citing.

    The right-wing smear machine is engaged in a feverish effort to discredit Ford by any means necessary. That endeavor has included targeting the unflattering student reviews of a different Christine Ford in order to smear Kavanaugh’s accuser as “dark, mad, scary and troubled,” and misreading court documents to suggest that she holds a grudge against Kavanaugh because his mother presided over the foreclosure of her parents’ home in 1996.

    Another attack turns on the year-long conservative campaign against Fusion GPS, which in 2016 retained the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who compiled a dossier of reports on then-candidate Donald Trump’s ties to Russia. Republicans have sought to discredit the dossier, which contains salacious claims that have not been debunked, in order to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

    Now the fringe right is suggesting that Ford is not credible because her brother was once a litigation partner for Baker Hostetler, a law firm that retained Fusion GPS in 2016 to produce separate research. But according to the very LinkedIn.com profile they cite, Ralph Blasey worked for the firm between 1989 and 2004. Fusion GPS was not even founded until 2010.

    Even if Ralph Blasey had still been working there in 2016, that wouldn't mean he would be connected to Fusion GPS -- Baker Hostetler is a massive firm employing nearly a thousand lawyers, including a former chief counsel to the Republican National Committee and a former national political director for Trump’s presidential campaign. And of course, none of this has any bearing on Christine Blasey Ford's story.

    At times, those promoting the story have noted that Blasey left the firm long before it retained Fusion GPS, but they nonetheless suggested that the connection shows evidence of “enemy action in progress.”

    Here are some of the outlets and media personalities trying to discredit Ford by linking her to Fusion GPS.

    YourNewsWire, which has been one of the most heavily trafficked fake news sites in the United States:

    True Pundit, a major fake news site run by a disgruntled former journalist:

    Lionel Lebron, a YouTube conspiracy theorist best known for pushing “the QAnon conspiracy theory, which claims that top Democrats are part of a global pedophile cult.” He met with Trump in the Oval Office last month:

    Jacob Wohl, who writes for Gateway Pundit, a website that consistently pushes hoaxes and conspiracy theories, and has also contributed to YourNewsWire:

    Ann Vandersteel, president of the pro-Trump podcast company YourVoice America:

    And the extreme anti-abortion group Operation Rescue:

    The story was also shared on Tea Party, a private Facebook group with nearly 95,000 members that regularly circulates conspiracy theories and was moderated by several Republican political candidates until Media Matters exposed their role in the group last month.

    Radio stations in Texas, Illinois, and Ohio also pushed the story.

  • Brett Kavanaugh’s lack of character, credibility and candor

    Right-wing media are trying to distract from the simple fact that Supreme Court nominees have a heavy burden to prove

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After Christine Blasey Ford came forward to say that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school, many, many members of right-wing media adopted a singular purpose: Prove that Ford has character issues to destroy her credibility.

    Those attempts have fallen flat as the two major lines of attack on Ford’s character were based on false information (not that it will stop some from continuing to push the claims). These smears are demonstrative of the vile and apparently uncontrollable urge that some conservatives have to attack survivors of sexual assault. And for what it's worth, Ford's account has been corroborated by her husband, a friend, and therapist notes from 2012. And false reporting of sexual assault is very rare.

    The conservative media-led investigation into Ford’s background also raises the question of why exactly the burden of showing good character is on her and not Kavanaugh, who is interviewing for a job where he must prove his good character and fitness:

    The Senate Judiciary Committee has now set a hearing on September 24 in which it will call Kavanaugh and Ford to testify. Kavanaugh has denied assaulting Ford and will likely repeat the denial under oath on Monday. But as the hearing approaches, it is important to remember that Kavanaugh has a credibility problem and that there is absolutely no reason to take his testimony at face value.

    During his three previous appearances before the Senate Judiciary Committee -- in 2004, 2006, and 2018 -- there’s strong evidence Kavanaugh lied under oath in some cases and had not been forthright during questioning in many other cases.

    Kavanaugh seemed to have repeatedly lied under oath about his time at the Bush White House, including about his receipt of documents stolen from Democratic congressional offices by a GOP operative, his knowledge of a warrantless wiretap program, his involvement in detainee policies for so-called enemy combatants, and his role in advancing the nominations of controversial conservatives for federal judgeships.

    Here’s an exchange between Kavanaugh and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) from the most recent hearings over the stolen document issue:

    As background, Kavanaugh had previously denied during multiple hearings that he knew or had any reason to suspect that documents forwarded to him by GOP staffer Manny Miranda, which included internal strategy documents used by Democrats working on judicial nominations, were stolen from Democratic computers. Leahy confronted Kavanaugh with some of the emails he had received from GOP staffers involved, including one that had the subject “spying.” Kavanaugh’s answer strains credulity:

    PATRICK LEAHY: On June 5, 2003, you received an email from a Republican Senate staffer with a subject line “spying.” That is not overly subtle. This staffer appears in over 1,000 documents we received together with both of you and Mr. Miranda. She says she has a mole for us and so forth. None of this raised a red flag with you?

    BRETT KAVANAUGH: It did not, Senator. Again, people have friends across the aisle who they talk to -- at least this was my experience back then; maybe it's changed. And there was a lot of bipartisanship on the committee. There was a lot of bipartisanship among the staffs. There were a lot of friendships and relationships where people would talk to -- “Oh, I've got a friend on Sen. Kennedy's, Ted Kennedy staff,” or “I have a friend on Sen. Hatch's staff,” or “I have a friend on Sen. Specter's staff.” That kind of conversation and information sharing was common. So did it not raise the flags.

    LEAHY: Judge, I was born at night, but not last night. And if I had something that somebody said “we've stolen this,” or “don't tell anybody we have this,” I think it would raise some red flag.

    In Kavanaugh’s telling, he thought the information he received about Democratic judicial nominee strategy that was clearly for internal use is merely the result of bipartisan work between committee staffers. Is that a believable or even minimally forthright answer?

    Kavanaugh’s lack of candor during his hearings extended well beyond the dodges that some nominees use to hide their ideological views and avoid commenting on hot button issues that may appear before the Supreme Court. When Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) asked Kavanaugh whether he had discussed special counsel Robert Mueller or his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election with anyone who works at the law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, he struggled to answer:

    Kavanaugh’s non-response raised eyebrows and fueled speculation that he was hiding something, especially because Kasowitz Benson Torres is a well-known practice and one of Kavanaugh’s close friends is a partner there. Kavanaugh acknowledged as much the following day when Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) questioned him about it again.

    Kavanaugh’s lack of candor has extended to written responses he has provided as part of his confirmation hearings. Much attention has been paid to up to $200,000 in credit card debt that Kavanaugh had quickly reduced to an amount below reporting thresholds between 2016 and 2017. (Kavanaugh has said the debt was the result of buying multiple season ticket packages for the Washington Nationals for himself and his friends.) Following Kavanaugh’s questioning at the committee hearing, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) sent Kavanaugh detailed questions about his finances, including asking about the season tickets and whether Kavanaugh has a gambling problem. Here is Kavanaugh’s “somewhat cryptic” answer:

    Does that answer provide a clear explanation of what exactly went on with the debt? Of course not.

    Consider also that Kavanaugh once enlisted his friends to keep details of a trip they took together from their spouses. In a 2001 email, Kavanaugh apologized to his friends after the trip for “growing aggressive after blowing still another game of dice” and added, “Reminders to everyone to be very, very vigilant w/r/t confidentiality on all issues and all fronts, including with spouses”:

    What was that about?

    It’s also worth noting that there is another person whose credibility may be important to consider, but that conservative media have shown no interesting in examining.

    According to Ford, while Kavanaugh put a hand over her mouth and was attempting to remove her clothes, one of Kavanaugh’s classmates, Mark Judge, was in the room. Judge, like Kavanaugh, has denied the incident occured. But in his memoir, he has written that he often drank to the point of blacking out during high school. Judge is now a conservative commentator and the disturbing views he has expressed about sexual assault, and women generally, make his claims about the incident even more suspect.

  • A Facebook group masquerading as an official Sean Hannity fan group is actually run by foreign spammers

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    UPDATE (9/19/18): The group has been deleted since the publication of this report.

    A private Facebook group masquerading as an official fan group for Fox News host Sean Hannity is actually run by Eastern Europeans using it to trick fans into clicking on fake news to bring in advertising revenue. The group is the only part remaining of a network of Kosovo groups and accounts previously identified by Media Matters that had also tricked Americans with fake stories for clicks.

    The closed group, called Sean Hannity Fans ( OFFICIAL ), has more than 33,000 members and describes itself as the “Official Group For Sean Hannity.” Many Americans in the group seem to take the group’s name at face value, posting laudatory messages about Hannity and clips from his show.

    But the group’s real purpose is not to promote Hannity. For one, none of the group’s administrators and moderators appear to be American -- one is from Eastern Europe, and others feature Eastern European activity on their accounts. One of the moderators also tagged himself with another moderator in Kosovo in 2017. All five of them also ran a now-deleted group called Sean Hannity FANS, part of a Facebook network based in Podujevo, Kosovo, that pushed fake news. It took Facebook nearly two months after Media Matters uncovered the network to take down most of the groups and pages in it, but the platform still left the Sean Hannity Fans ( OFFICIAL ) group untouched.

    All of the moderators’ accounts have also spammed the Sean Hannity Fans ( OFFICIAL ) group with numerous fake stories, including pieces targeting Muslims and a story about Hillary Clinton originating from fake news site True Pundit.

    Another account that appears to be from Eastern Europe has spammed the group with fake news, such as a debunked story about renaming Florida’s “Old Dixie Highway,” and another fake story about celebrities calling for a Hollywood strike until President Donald Trump resigns.

    The main site, dailygroup.pw, that this account has linked to recently carries Google AdSense (whose ads include the tag “AdChoices” at the top right), meaning the site earns money when group members click on these fake stories.

    Facebook groups continue to be a major problem for the platform. Users frequently employ them to push harassment and conspiracy theories -- and foreign spammers use them to spread hoaxes and smears -- all without much oversight. Facebook has said it is using machine learning to catch spammers sharing fake stories, but many still slip through. Facebook officials have also downplayed the key role groups play in spreading fake news.

  • Right-wing media concocted a conspiracy theory about Christine Blasey Ford's motives. It quickly fell apart.

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    “Why suffer through the annihilation if it’s not going to matter?” California professor Christine Blasey Ford told The Washington Post in explaining why she had decided in late August not to come forward and tell the world that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a party when they were teenagers in the early 1980s. It’s easy to see why she might feel that way. After her story began to leak out but before she was publicly identified, Kavanaugh’s supporters began questioning her motives. And once those leaks pushed her to speak out publicly, a sloppy, intellectually bankrupt coalition of right-wing internet sleuths and members of the conservative media echo chamber began seizing on any scrap of information they could find to try to discredit her.

    I wrote yesterday about a fever swamp of the foolish and the politically motivated who targeted unflattering student reviews of a different Christine Ford in order to smear Kavanaugh’s accuser as “dark, mad, scary and troubled.” At the same time, that nexus pushed a baseless conspiracy theory that Ford held a grudge against Kavanaugh because his mother had presided over the foreclosure of her parents’ home in 1996.

    This was, as more careful reviews of the record found later that day, a dramatic and cynical misreading of publicly available court documents. Martha Kavanaugh, who was a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge at the time, did preside over parts of the 1996 foreclosure case involving Ralph and Paula Blasey, Ford’s parents. But her role was actually to dismiss the case after the Blaseys refinanced their house, which the family still owns to this day.

    The foreclosure conspiracy theory took a well-trod path through the pro-Trump echo chamber.

    #MAGA social media users dredged up the court documents and incorrectly interpreted them.

    Storytelling pro-Trump websites that trawl the online social space for content and have no fact-checking standards then picked up the tale. Jim Hoft, whose Gateway Pundit website consistently falls for fake stories and pushes conspiracy theories, headlined his piece on the story “Bad Blood: Judge Kavanaugh’s Mother Foreclosed on Far Left Accuser’s Parents’ Home.” Pacific Pundit’s take was “Christine Blasey-Ford Motive: Revenge - Kavanaugh’s Mother Judge Against Parents in Foreclosure Case 1996.” America First Media Group, a prominent Seth Rich conspiracy site, also got in on the act. And on, and on, and on.

    As those stories went viral, more prominent right-wing pundits began promoting them. In a since-deleted tweet, Fox News host Laura Ingraham highlighted the America First Media Group piece. The Resurgent’s Erick Erickson, who has spent the last few days flailing incoherently over Ford’s story, urged reporters to “honestly vet” the story that “a growing body of blogs” were posting about.

    And then those reporters vetted the story, making all the conservatives involved look like the cynical fools that they are.

    Crucially, and as with the student reviews hatchet job, even if the smear artists had their facts in order, their argument would still be nonsense. Let’s say Kavanaugh’s mother really had cost Ford’s parents their home. How would Ford’s purported “motive” come into play? Ford told her therapist about the assault in 2012, per notes she has provided, and she reportedly told a friend about it last year, well before Kavanaugh’s appointment. That’s a lot of evidence to plant in advance in order to get her supposed revenge.

    But that’s how the right-wing smear machine operates -- its members take a handful of facts and twist them and twist them in the hope that they can convince their audience not to believe their targets. Those right-wing readers will probably never hear the truth; they’ll continue to believe that Ford is a terrible teacher who’s out to get the son of the judge who foreclosed on her parents’ house. Meanwhile, Erickson, Hoft, and their ilk will simply move on to the next smear.

    This is how bad it got in the first day after Ford came forward. With the Senate Judiciary Committee asking her to give testimony before them next week, there will be more annihilation to come. 

  • Brett Kavanaugh’s character witness Mark Judge has extremely disturbing views about women (and Black and gay people)

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    According to Christine Blasey Ford, when she was 15, a “stumbling drunk” Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party while his classmate Mark Judge was in the room. Both Kavanaugh and Judge have denied the incident occurred, with Judge telling the conservative Weekly Standard, “It's just absolutely nuts. I never saw Brett act that way.” Judge is the author of a memoir in which he described himself as an alcoholic who was often drunk to the point of blacking out during high school. He went on to become a conservative commentator who has promoted disturbing views about women and offered racist and anti-gay commentary.

    Judge, a self-described alcoholic, wrote a memoir saying he often drank to the point of blacking out during high school

    Mother Jones: “The alleged witness in the Kavanaugh case wrote a memoir about his own schoolboy days as blackout drunk.” Mother Jones noted that the extreme drinking and substance abuse described by Judge in his memoir "might suggest his memory of those days may not be entirely reliable":

    In his 2005 book, God and Man at Georgetown Prep, which is now out of print, Judge apparently paints the school as overrun with gay priests who promote a form of liberalism that wrecks Catholic education. He also describes an institution where alcoholism was rampant, a theme he detailed in his 1997 addiction memoir, Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk.

    That book chronicles Judge’s time as a teenage alcoholic. Like many works of the genre, it devotes a lot of ink to the kinds of debauchery that leads to Alcoholics Anonymous and recovery. While there’s nothing in the book that resembles the incident reportedly described in the private letter given to the FBI, Judge says his own blackout drinking while he and Kavanaugh were Georgetown Prep students “reached the point where once I had the first beer, I found it impossible to stop until I was completely annihilated.”

    He describes, for instance, what happened after a night of heavy drinking with friends at a Georgetown bar. “The next thing I knew, I was lying on a bathroom floor. I was curled up in the fetal position with saliva running out of the side of my mouth,” Judge writes, explaining that he had inexplicably woken up inside a nearby Four Seasons Hotel. He writes that he called his mom for help getting home. “I must have come over here and passed out,” he tells her.

    The amount of drinking Judge describes himself undertaking might suggest his memory of those days may not be entirely reliable. [Mother Jones, 9/15/18]

    Judge wrote that he was “thankful that there was no social media to capture” he and his friends’ antics in high school. Relating a get-together he had with friends from high school, Judge wrote, “When my high school buddies and I got together and exchanged memories of that time, we found ourselves genuinely shocked at the stuff we got away with.” [Acculturated, accessed 9/17/18]

    Judge frequently uses his media platforms to offer degrading and abusive commentary about women

    Judge’s views on masculinity are based on domination. In a 2013 column for conservative website The Daily Caller, Judge criticized how then-President Barack Obama interacted with Michelle Obama by writing that President George W. Bush “gave his wife Laura a loving but firm pat on the backside in public. The man knew who was boss.”

    [Twitter, 9/16/18, The Daily Caller, 8/20/13]

    Judge wrote that while there “is never any excuse to rape someone,” nonetheless “what women wear and their body language also send signals about their sexuality” and “women who dress like prostitutes are also sending out signals”:

    [Twitter, 9/16/18, Acculturated, accessed 9/17/18]

    Judge wrote that when men aren’t sure women are interested in sex, men should “allow” themselves to “feel the awesome power, the wonderful beauty, of uncontrollable male passion”:

    [Twitter, 9/16/18, Splice Today, accessed 9/17/18]

    Judge’s high school yearbook quote: “Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs.”

    [Twitter, 9/16/18]

    Judge: Women need to learn how to be more polite when rejecting romantic advances from men. Judge wrote that “younger women seem to have lost the ability to graciously turn down a man who politely and non-aggressively shows an interest in them” in a September 2014 column:

    Younger women seem to have lost the ability to graciously turn down a man who politely and non-aggressively shows an interest in them.

    We’ve all seen it—at bars, in clubs, at parties. A dude screws up the nerve to take that long walk across the room and ask a woman for her number or out for a date. For classy and polite ladies, the reply is a simple no-thank-you. Something like: “Thank you, I appreciate the interest, but I’m seeing someone right now.” Or: “I’m flattered, but I have some other things I’m focusing on now.” Yet for too many women, raised like the boorish catcallers, without the verbal social skills that allow for pleasant interaction, graciousness is just too much to ask for.

    The results can be brutal to observe. Women giggle derisively, or hide behind a more punitive friend who dishes get-the-hell-out-of-here abuse at the man, or the girls-night-out group-laugh right in the guy’s face. [Acculturated, 9/9/14]

    Splinter: Judge uploaded “sexualized videos of young women” on YouTube. A Splinter investigation into Judge’s social media postings, many of which have been deleted, cited “internet sleuths” who “found a YouTube channel that appeared to belong to Judge onto which he uploaded bizarre videos that intercut innocuous visuals of books and cityscapes with sexualized videos of young women”:

    Though Judge quickly deleted his social media profiles as attention focused on him in the wake of the allegations, much of it was documented by internet sleuths. They found a YouTube channel that appeared to belong to Judge onto which he uploaded bizarre videos that intercut innocuous visuals of books and cityscapes with sexualized videos of young women. Twitter user TheDiscomfiture screenshotted many of the videos (some of them have been re-uploaded here). A deleted Flickr account users also linked to Judge featured similar images. Other photos that allegedly originated on Judge’s deleted Facebook page featured young girls in bikinis at a resort. [Splinter, 9/17/18]

    Judge writes sexual fiction about high school age girls. In August 2018, Judge published a work of “fiction” about high school students from Maryland preparatory schools participating in “beach week.” On social media, Judge wrote that the piece was “based on a true story.” The story, written in first person, contains observations about characters from local all-girls preparatory schools, including descriptions like “beautiful tight ass,” “great tits,” and, “I saw love in all the girls from [Trinity] & [St. Anne’s] with large breasts and/or great asses.” [Raw Story, 9/16/18, Liberty Island, 8/15/18]

    Judge: “The rage of the Jezebels is indicative of a serious cultural problem that is potentially fatal for the United States.” Judge wrote a negative review of The Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things in which he repeatedly characterized feminists as irrationally angry:

    When you say feminists are angry, they respond that you are a “Frat Bro” or a right-winger, and the conversation stops. And a deeper analysis of feminist apoplexy is important because the rage of the Jezebels is indicative of a serious cultural problem that is potentially fatal for the United States, which has become a very, very angry country.

    ...

    Thus the malevolence towards “dead white males” and the liberal obsession with feelings and personal grievance. The bogus “war on women” is really nothing but liberal women acting out against bad fathers. The frightening thing about this rage is that it is insatiable even as it demands resolution through politics.

    ...

    Or the infamous 1979 town hall debate between Norman Mailer and Germain Greer and other feminists. Here were feminists faced with Norman Mailer, a Cro-Magnon brawler who had stabbed his own wife, and they (mostly) debated with humor and intelligence, delving deeply into complex psychological and cultural ideas. As the writer James Reich recently put it, in the town hall “the conflicts or navigations of the sexes are articulated with élan, wit, and through both good- and bad-natured mauling.”

    More than thirty years later, and judging by The Book of Jezebel, feminists are so angry that debate with them is no longer possible. To them the only solution to their rage is through politics. There is a steady undercurrent of animus towards conservatives and Republicans in The Book of Jezebel, which is to be expected. But what is revealing is the intensity of the antipathy and its obsessive-compulsive quality (there’s also the heavy juvenile snark which is Jezebel’s calling card).

    ...

    The writers at Jezebel are angry women. Their pain is beyond the reach of politics to solve. To be fair, there are many funny entries in The Book of Jezebel, like the one for Hipster: “Identifier claimed by no one but freely subjected on any person more Navajo-printed, leather-jacketed, asymmetrically-hairstyled, unshowered, ironically racist, Pitchfork-reading, warehouse-dwelling, amateur-mandolin-playing, or neon than you.” But the jokes can’t mask the rage. This is why that even as America has progressed and the treatment of women has vastly improved, the anger of the feminists has grown more acute. Nothing short of a matriarchal utopia will suffice. It’s easier than admitting what really ails you. [The Daily Caller, 10/21/13]

    Judge praised Hugh Hefner and his magazine Playboy for their “ridicule of feminism”:

    Say what you will about Hefner, and yes he’s always been kind of cheesy, but the man had a philosophy. Unlike today’s publishers, who go out of their way to avoid offending advertisers and the public, or journalists, who push their agenda then hide behind claims of “objectivity.” Hefner had balls. In 1955 Esquire magazine rejected “The Crooked Man,” a story by science fiction writer Charles Beaumont. It told the story of a man who lived in a homosexual society and was persecuted for being straight. Hefner published it. Hefner is also a known jazz fan, and the early Playboy ridiculed rock and roll as “noise.” It also made fun of beatniks and hippies. And, of course there was Playboy’s ridicule of feminism. Here’s Playboy’s call-out accompanying a 1970 article about the feminist movement: “militant man-haters do their level worst to distort the distinctions between make (sic) and female and the discredit the legitimate grievances of American women.” Such a piece might appear today in the American Spectator.

    ...

    Hefner also felt that a well employed young bachelor was good for the American economy because of his disposable income. People forget because these days Hefner resembles a viagra-chomping Crypt Keeper, but in the early days Playboy advocated not the destruction of marriage, but rather letting a man have a period of exploration between college and marriage. Hefner had married his first wife Mildred right out of college; the marriage didn’t last, leading Hefner to not unreasonably conclude that having a period of bachelorhood between school and starting a family might be good for men, women, and the economy. Of course, that period for Hefner has now lasted about 107 years. But the Playboy founder’s original feeling was sound: men should have a time to be men and be able to buy stuff and date a lot of girls before taking the gas pipe and getting married. [The Daily Caller, 9/30/13]

    Judge wondered “why are modern women angry” and blamed a “culture of self-affirmation and abundance” for women “feeling unsatisfied.” From a 2016 op-ed at Acculturated:

    By contrast, many modern women seem quick to express anger about their lives. Living in a world of unlimited choices and constant affirmation, they nonetheless seem resentful. Even celebrities aren’t immune: Pop star Madonna is richer than many small countries and is absolutely free to do, say, and wear (or not wear) anything she wants to. Yet when fans have the audacity to be upset that she’s an hour late for a show, as she was recently, she launches into a tirade. American women live in the freest, most open-minded country on earth, yet seem bitter and disappointed.

    ...

    As today’s generation of self-styled feminist women suggests, limitless freedom has not brought the happiness they assumed it would, and as they confront life’s realities, anger is replacing hope. [Acculturated, 6/27/16]

    Judge has published racist writings about Black people, including a piece in which he claimed that Black teenagers in the Washington D.C. area have “absolutely no impulse control”

    Judge wrote a widely derided racist column about his assumption that a Black person stole his bike. [New York magazine, 4/9/12, Gawker, 4/9/12, The Daily Caller, 4/9/12]

    Judge complained about “swarms” of “cacophonously loud” Black teenagers causing problems in the upscale D.C. neighborhood Georgetown on Halloween. Writing for The Daily Caller, Judge shared observations from visiting Georgetown on Halloween 2011, arguing that “we just don’t have the guts to speak honestly about the issue of unsupervised black teenagers from broken homes and the havoc they can cause”:

    At 9:42 on Halloween night, I sent myself an email. It read: “Halloween shooting.” I had just walked a few blocks from Wisconsin and M Streets in the heart of Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood. I knew it was only a matter of time before someone got shot, most likely a black teenager. It was so obvious what was going to happen that I wanted to just email myself a note. There was simply no way, after what I had just seen, that someone was not going to get killed; I think I wanted to predict it just out of sheer frustration. We all know what the problem is. But we just don’t have the guts to speak honestly about the issue of unsupervised black teenagers from broken homes and the havoc they can cause — to themselves and others.

    Just before 11:00 p.m., 90 minutes after my email, a black teenager was shot on 28th and M Streets in Georgetown. He is in critical condition.

    There were swarms of loud — and I mean cacophonously loud — teenagers drifting through downtown Georgetown. I was standing at Wisconsin and M Streets when a mass of about 50 of them poured across the street, ignoring the orders of a police officer who told them to stay behind the barriers set up for pedestrian safety. The kids were absolutely charged with energy; it was the kind of crackling atmosphere that happens before a fight. They spilled into the parking lot of the Riggs Bank. I followed them. On the other side of the parking lot was another group of black kids, mostly males. They were intently telling one of their friends to “not get involved.” “Those guys have guns!” one of them shouted. It was 8:30. On a Monday night. The PC police will have me over the spit, of course, but liberalism has cost so many lives that I don’t care anymore. The fact is, there were not hordes of white teens and preteens roaming through Georgetown on Halloween.

    In all of that, no one would have the guts to tell the truth. It was not Asians or whites or Indians who were wilding in Georgetown. It was black teenagers. Illegitimacy and fatherlessness in black urban areas like Washington, D.C. has created an entire class of youth who have been weaned on gangster culture and have absolutely no impulse control. [The Daily Caller, 11/1/11]

    Judge wrote that Obama was “clearly unqualified” to be president but got the job because of affirmative action. In a 2013 Daily Caller column, Judge wrote, “Obama is a poster child for affirmative action. Rather than relying on his own wit or intelligence, he gamed the system, getting into schools and getting jobs — including the one he has now — that he is clearly unqualified for.” [The Daily Caller, 8/20/13]

    Judge published an anti-gay column at The Daily Caller

    Defending Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson’s homophobia, Judge compared marriage equality to incest and polygamy and said promiscuity by gay men “led to AIDS.” From a December 2013 opinion piece:

    Liberals keep telling us that all that matters is love, but then can’t answer the question of why a father couldn’t then marry his daughter, or why two brothers can’t marry each other. Or why six people can’t get married. They have officially moved to fantasyland, and are trying to drag the rest of us there also.

    ...

    We simply are not allowed to talk about certain things at the risk of our jobs and reputations. One is human anatomy, another is the problem of promiscuity in the gay community. I saw this firsthand when I worked at a record store in a predominantly gay part of Washington, D.C. in the 1980s. The store was right next to a gay bar, and the bizarre and dangerous behavior I would see spilling out from that bar to the street filled me with pity and sadness. There were transvestites, drug addicts, public sex, men I saw each week with a different partner. This kind of recklessness was documented in the film “Gay Sex in the 70s.” I didn’t think that any intellectually honest person would deny that this was a problem in the gay communities, and led to AIDS. It would be like denying that in late 19th century New York there was a crime, alcohol and hygiene problem amongst the immigrant Irish — my people. There was. Pretending there wasn’t didn’t make it so. [The Daily Caller, 12/26/13]

  • Fox News auditions Ben Shapiro as an elections expert

    With a short run and lame gimmick, Shapiro gets his shot at a cable sinecure

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Earlier today, Fox News announced that it will be launching a weekly show hosted by right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro that will have a limited, four-week run ahead of the midterm elections. “Ben is a rising star in conservative political commentary and we are excited to add his signature style and well thought out viewpoint to our pre-election weekend lineup,” Fox News says in the statement, which came hot on the heels of news that Shapiro was a conduit for pro-Russian propaganda cooked up by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

    This is clearly Fox giving a test-run to Shapiro, who the network likely sees as capable of expanding its audience beyond its senior-citizen core. For Shapiro, a part-time Fox News hosting gig is the next step in the life cycle of right-wing punditry: He’s already a columnist and radio host, and he has side hustles hawking gold, dodgy supplements, and doomsday prepper foods, so the obvious next step is “cable news sinecure.”

    What’s weird and funny about Shapiro’s Fox News audition is its transparently phony gimmick. The show is called “The Ben Shapiro Election Special,” and apparently will tap into Shapiro’s supposed expertise in elections analysis. “I am honored to partner with Fox News where we can provide in-depth analysis on the voting trends that will be leading the polls this November,” Shapiro says in the Fox News statement.

    So Ben Shapiro is a hard-right Nate Silver now, I guess. It’s a strange framing to force upon a pundit whose oeuvre is mainly culture-war howling and sensationalized confrontation with ideological adversaries. Shapiro’s chief talent is getting booked for speeches at liberal arts colleges to provoke protests from left-wing student groups and then venerating himself as a warrior for free speech. The meat of his commentary encompasses fairly standard right-wing themes -- rote American exceptionalism, downplaying racial bias in American society, etc. -- dressed up with over-the-top aggressive attacks on “The Left.”

    Shapiro's most significant contribution to our understanding of electoral politics is to offer some variation of “this is why Trump won” whenever a Democrat or media figure does something that annoys him. And, speaking just for myself, I don’t know that I’m quite prepared to trust the electoral analysis of someone who tries to goad candidates for federal office into debating him with bad-faith offers of campaign and/or charitable donations.

    But that’s what Fox News is giving us because … well, I guess they needed something, and the election is coming up, and so sure, why not, let’s have Ben Shapiro be an elections guy now. Whatever.

    It doesn’t actually matter because this is all just a pretext to test out Shapiro as a replacement Sean Hannity for a younger demographic: someone who can theoretically appeal to the youth while giving Fox News’ existing audience the angry, ideologically acceptable opinions it craves.

  • Laura Ingraham’s most vile responses to a report of sexual assault by Brett Kavanaugh 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On Sunday, The Washington Post reported that Christine Blasey Ford wrote a letter this summer to her congresswoman stating that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when they were both high school students. Ford shared her story with the Post:

    Speaking publicly for the first time, Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend — both “stumbling drunk,” Ford alleges — corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County.

    While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.

    “I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”

    Ford said she was able to escape when Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling. She said she ran from the room, briefly locked herself in a bathroom and then fled the house.

    Right-wing media responded to Ford’s story with a mixture of dismissal and disdain. Some conservative pundits questioned whether she ought to be believed, and others contended that the assault -- even if it did occur -- was irrelevant to whether Kavanaugh should serve on the Supreme Court.

    Laura Ingraham’s response, however, was particularly vile. The Fox host informed her radio show listeners on Monday that Ford’s story made her want to “throw up” because she was disturbed by the “rank unfairness” to Kavanaugh. She launched repeated and vicious attacks against Ford, suggested contacting Ford's "former boyfriends," attempted to spin the accusations into evidence of society’s unfair treatment of men, and claimed that Democrats had planned the timing of the accusations. Here are some of her most repugnant responses:

    1. Ingraham suggested that a history of sexual assault is not relevant to a judge serving on the Supreme Court (where major decisions about women's lives and rights are made), asking, “How is it relevant to whether he is qualified to sit on the Supreme Court?”

    2. She compared the current situation to law professor Anita Hill’s accusations against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991, claiming that Democrats “wanted this to come out right before the vote ... just like they did with Justice Thomas. They had to wait until the last minute ... They wanted this to derail his nomination.”

    3. She tried to reframe Ford’s story and make it about men, telling listeners: “This could happen to any of you -- let's focus on men for a moment -- any of your sons, any of your brothers, any of your uncles.” Ingraham further argued that the story demonstrates that it’s a “very precarious place to be as a man today -- very, at every level. It's so unfair.”

    4. Ingraham tweeted out “10 Reasons to Question the Veracity of Kavanaugh's Accuser.”

    5. She viciously lashed out at Ford for not speaking publicly about her story in the past, telling listeners, “Apparently, this accuser was fine with leaving Brett Kavanaugh on the second highest court of the land. She had repressed her memory supposedly until 2012, but was OK with leaving him with three law clerks, interns, all the other women who work at the court, the second highest court of the land. That was OK. That was all right.”

    6. She dismissed Ford as “a partisan,” and claimed Ford’s coming forward with her story is “an unfair process -- it’s unfair to him, his family, and, frankly, to this nation.”

    7. She claimed Ford’s story is “not about fairness, it’s not about the process,” but it is instead part of a “blood sport” played by Democrats to destroy the judge.

    8. She hosted two Kavanaugh backers who signed a letter of support for him and asked what Ford’s “reputation” had been in high school. She then suggested that Ford’s “former boyfriends” should be contacted.

    9. Ingraham tweeted a link to a website run by a conspiracy theorist to suggest that Ford might have a grudge against Kavanaugh because of a 1996 court case that Kavanaugh’s mother presided over involving Ford’s parents.  

    Ingraham has a long and disturbing history of minimizing sexual harassment and assault, and of blaming and shaming survivors. She often chooses to focus her coverage of sexual misconduct on perceived inconvenience for men, rather than the consequences for women. Her responses to Ford’s story, though not surprising given her history, are immensely reprehensible and dangerous, and they directly contribute to why survivors don’t come forward.

  • This is why sexual violence survivors don’t come forward

    “Why suffer through the annihilation if it’s not going to matter?”

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Christine Blasey Ford says she was sexually assaulted in the early 1980s by Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh when they were both high school students. More than 30 years later, the public knows her story -- whether she wanted us to or not. The institutional failures that have led to this moment show exactly why survivors of sexual violence choose not to share their stories of trauma with the world.

    On September 16, The Washington Post published an exclusive interview with Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University. In the article, Ford publicly shared her own account of what happened on that night in Bethesda, MD:

    Speaking publicly for the first time, Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend — both “stumbling drunk,” Ford alleges — corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County.

    While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.

    “I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”

    Ford said she was able to escape when Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling. She said she ran from the room, briefly locked herself in a bathroom and then fled the house.

    The Post additionally reviewed notes from therapy sessions Ford had and spoke with her husband who corroborated that Ford had shared her account in couples therapy in 2012. On the advice of her attorney, Ford also took a polygraph test in August; the results showed she was being truthful in relaying her account of the incident.

    The Post exclusive also shed light on Ford’s choice to come forward publicly -- a tremendously difficult decision that wasn’t entirely up to her.

    Ford had first contacted the Post as well as her congresswoman, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), in July, when Kavanaugh was said to be on the short list for the Supreme Court nomination but was not yet the official nominee. By the end of August, after she had shared her account confidentially with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) as well, she decided that she would not come forward. Though Ford says that she believes Feinstein respected her wishes and kept her story confidential -- including referring Ford’s letter about Kavanaugh to the FBI with names redacted -- some details soon became public.

    A series of reports followed -- first from The Intercept, then BuzzFeed News, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and CNN -- all of them working to corroborate details about Ford’s account and trying to get Ford to go on the record. There was also a vague statement from Feinstein about her decision to refer the letter to the FBI, and a broad denial by Kavanaugh. Together these developments fueled the early rumblings of a sinister right-wing smear campaign against a then-unnamed victim of an attempted rape.

    Ford watched “as that bare-bones version of her story became public without her name or her consent,” wrote the Post’s Emma Brown. And then she decided -- if decided is the right word -- to publicly stamp this decades-old pain onto her face and name, to be pushed out into the world for mass exploitation even further beyond her control. Ford felt it was “her duty as a citizen to tell the story” and to sacrifice her autonomy to her alleged assailant another time.

    The smear campaign is already in high gear

    So far for Ford, this responsibility has shamefully translated into not just to publicly reliving her trauma, but also being categorically smeared for it. Even before Ford’s identity or the details of her account were made public, conservatives were questioning her motives. And since Ford has shared her name and account, the right-wing media sphere has shifted to making personal attacks on her character and insinuating she’s working with the Democratic Party.

    In a tellingly vicious and sloppy instance, right-wing sites including The Gateway Pundit and Drudge Report cited “Rate My Professors” reviews of a different Christine Ford in order to smear her as an “unhinged liberal professor who former students describe as dark, mad, scary and troubled.” And in a slightly different display of misogyny, other commentators have said they do in fact believe Ford -- but that they don’t think the reported harm done to her warrants an end to Kavanaugh’s confirmation process.

    There is more to come

    Demonstrating a complete lack of understanding that an individual is capable of harming one person while also not harming every other person he encounters, Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) released a letter hours after the New Yorker report came out signed by 65 women who say they knew Kavanaugh in high school and that he never acted inappropriately to their knowledge. (For what it’s worth, more than 200 of Ford’s classmates have since signed onto a different letter saying, in part, “Dr. Blasey Ford’s experience is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending [Holton-Arms School]. Many of us are survivors ourselves.”)

    The White House, helmed by a known serial sexual harasser, has said so far it will not be withdrawing the nomination. A vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Kavanaugh’s nomination is still planned for Thursday, though more and more senators from both parties, including some who sit on the committee, have now said they’d like to hear from Ford before moving forward with a vote. And Ford’s attorney has now said she is willing to testify before Congress about her account of Kavanaugh’s misconduct.  

    The comparisons to attorney Anita Hill’s 1991 testimony recounting sexual harassment by now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas are stronger than ever. From personal smears and accusations of political motives, to miscategorizing an abuse of power as a “personal” matter, both cases illustrate the myriad personal harms survivors of mistreatment at the hands of the powerful often face when their stories become public.

    Look at the political and right-wing media circus surrounding this very serious allegation so far, or consider the eerily similar and immensely degrading reaction that followed Hill’s disclosure so many years ago, and ask yourself: Why would anyone speak up?

    “Why suffer through the annihilation if it’s not going to matter?” Ford had told the Post.

    Here is the difference: We can still get it right this time. Listen to Ford. The attempted annihilation is already well underway. It is now up to media to make sure it matters.

  • During Kavanaugh debate, conservatives outnumber progressives on the Sunday shows

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Conservative guests outnumbered progressive guests on four of the five major Sunday political news shows since the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh began. On the September 9 and 16 Sunday shows, 46.5 percent of guests leaned conservative while just 31.5 percent of guests leaned liberal. Additionally, 22 percent were neutral.

    Out of the 73 guests who appeared on CBS’ Face the Nation, Fox’s Fox News Sunday, NBC’s Meet the Press, CNN’s State of the Union, and ABC’s This Week, 34 guests were either Republicans or leaned conservative. Only 23 guests were Democrats or liberal-leaning, and 16 guests were ideologically neutral.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Of the guests who discussed Kavanaugh, 13 leaned conservative while nine leaned liberal.

    On four of the five shows -- This Week, Face the Nation, Fox News Sunday, and Meet the Press -- conservative guests outnumbered progressive guests. CNN’s State of the Union featured an equal number of right- and left-leaning guests. Fox News Sunday had the clearest partisan bias; eight guests leaned conservative while only three guests leaned liberal.


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Panels on most shows tended to tilt conservative as well. Panels on both episodes of Meet the Press and Fox News Sunday tilted conservative. On Face the Nation, one panel tilted liberal while the other panel was neutral. Panels on This Week and State of the Union were all neutral.

    Sunday shows have a long history of tilting conservative -- a trend Media Matters has also highlighted in previous studies.

    Steve Morris and Tyler Monroe contributed to this piece.

  • Video: Conservatives dismiss Christine Blasey Ford's report that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR

    When California professor Christine Blasey Ford came forward to say President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when they were high school students, right-wing media smeared her as an “opportunist,” questioned the timing of her allegations, complained this is "an attempted political assassination of a character,” argued Ford needs to be pressed about her "political bias," and more: