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  • Right-wing media praise, justify Trump's decision to pardon Dinesh D'Souza

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Right-wing media figures were quick to defend and rejoice over President Donald Trump’s decision to pardon conservative author and pundit Dinesh D’Souza for his felony conviction for violating campaign finance law.

    On the morning of May 31, Trump tweeted:

    D’Souza was indicted in 2014 for violating campaign finance laws, and right-wing media figures also jumped to defend him then, portraying him as a victim of political persecution by the Obama administration, which D’Souza had criticized in a lie-filled book attempting to trace Obama’s liberal policy motivations and later in a lie-filled movie. But D’Souza pleaded guilty to the charges against him five years ago. His more recent missives have included tweets mocking students who survived the February school shooting in Parkland, FL and likening Democrats to Nazis.

    Following Trump’s announcement that he will give a full pardon to D’Souza, right-wing media figures celebrated the decision and claimed that D’Souza was indeed treated unfairly:

    Fox News host Jeanine Pirro: “Fantastic news @DineshDSouza to be pardoned by @POTUS. Obama’s political prosecution null and void.”

    Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano: Trump’s pardon of D’Souza is “a marvelous act of justice. Not mercy, justice.”

    Fox News host Laura Ingraham: “It’s about time”; pardon “was long overdue.”

    Right-wing troll Mike Flynn Jr.: “WOW! Incredible! @DineshDSouza totally deserves this! CONGRATS!”

    Pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Alex Jones: “Good to see Trump using that power” to correct “a lot of these travesties of justice that are taking place.”

    Wash. Examiner’s Byron York and Ingraham agree D’Souza sentencing was a “travesty” and “outrage.”

    Radio host Rush Limbaugh: D’Souza was sentenced “so that Obama could flex his muscles and show what a tough guy he was.”

    Fox & Friends co-host Pete Hegseth: “I thought that was great.”

    Right-wing blogger Jim Hoft: D’Souza’s prosecution was an “Obama political hit job and “an obvious witch hunt.”

  • Alleged Toronto attacker has confirmed links to misogynistic online communities

    While misogynistic online groups praised the attack and called for an uprising, right-wing conspiracy theorists and prominent far-right trolls blamed Islam and the alleged perpetrator’s ethnicity

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On April 23, Alek Minassian allegedly drove a van into a crowd of pedestrians in Toronto, Canada, killing 10 and injuring 15. In posts on Facebook that the social media company has confirmed as his, Minassian alluded to online message board 4chan’s women-hating “involuntary celibate” community (whose members call themselves “incels”). The "incel" community, part of the broader "men's rights" community, has cheered the attack, while right-wing conspiracy theorists and far-right trolls have blamed it on Islam.

    In his social media posts, Minassian also used the terms “Chads” and “Stacys,” which are often used by online “incel” communities to mean “attractive popular men who are sexually successful with women” and their female partners.

    In the same post, Minassian praised Elliot Rodger, who went on a killing rampage in Isla Vista, CA, in 2014 that Rodger described in a note as a “Day of Retribution” for his virginity, which he attributed to “the cruelness of women.” The incel community often celebrates and discusses Rodger, and in his post, Minassian wrote, “All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”

    The “incel” community celebrated Minassian online

    Sites linked to the “incel” community responded to Minassian’s attacks with violent memes, celebratory postings, and called for “More Trucks of Peace,” in apparent reference to the use of heavy vehicles to attack pedestrians. The most popular post had memes calling for a “Beta uprising” saying, “It’s now or never.” In the message thread, one poster complained about not having a “good enough weapon,” to which another member replied, “Get a car you cuck.”

    Far-right figures immediately connected the attack to Islam

    In the aftermath of the attack, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones scrambled to connect the attack to Islam during his live show. In a later video titled “Reporters Face Ten Years In Prison For Covering Islamic Truck Attack In Toronto,” Jones claimed that such truck attacks were “part of radical Islam” and said that the accent of the killer “sounds Islamic, sounds Middle Eastern.”

    Even after learning of the alleged killer’s ties to women-hating groups, Jones continued to link the attack to Islam during his April 24 broadcast, claiming that “he has an Islamic-sounding last name” and that “he’s a foreigner” and attributing the misogynistic aspects of the “incel” movement to Islam.

    Like Jones, prominent far-right internet trolls used the attack to smear Muslims and Islam on Twitter, mirroring conversations taking place on internet message boards Reddit and 4chan.

    Gavin McInnes, founder of the male chauvinist fraternal organization Proud Boys:

    Conspiracy theorist and online troll Laura Loomer:

    Infowars host Paul Joseph Watson:

    Leading anti-Muslim voice Pamela Geller:

    Troll account "Alba_Rising:"

    In a since-deleted Facebook post, the Canadian chapter of McInnes’ Proud Boys chimed in with anti-immigrant sentiments, stating, “The blood may be directly on the hands of the Trudeau regime for this latest terror attack.”

    Anti-Muslim and racist messaging quickly spread

    Fox News’ line of questioning suggested the attack had connections to ISIS. Immediately following a press conference in which authorities explained that the identity and motives of the attacker were still unknown, guest Howard Safir and host Maria Bartiromo discussed strategies to combat ISIS, suggesting to audiences a motive and connection that had not been confirmed by authorities.

    A Reddit thread connected the attack to Islam: “It's such a sad thing that civilized western nations are allowing this to happen. There's a reason why Islamic nations are in a constant state of tyranny or chaos”:

    A 4chan thread linked the tragedy to the QAnon conspiracy theory: A thread in the “politically incorrect” 4chan message board connected the attack to the Alex Jones-endorsed far-right conspiracy theory known as “The Storm” or QAnon. The conspiracy theory posits that President Donald Trump has a master plan to kneecap members of the “deep state” and that an intelligence officer with the highest clearance level is keeping people informed by posting anonymous messages and signing them as “Q.”

    4chan users called the attack “a government orchestrated false flag.”

    On YouTube, the channel ThePureVeritas claimed that the attacker was a “MUSLIM man.” The video is still up and has over 9,000 views.

    Hyperpartisan website Conservative Daily Post  also blamed Muslim immigrants for the attack:

    “While police have yet to reveal the motive behind the attack, the timing of the incident coupled with the cultural shift in Canada raises serious questions. … It also comes as Canada has become a hotbed for radical Islamic terrorism. Canada has not only allowed tens of thousands of Muslim migrants to assimilate to the nation, there has also been a dramatic uptick in crime against civilians. … [Trudeau’s] allowing Sharia Law to overtake Canada, and now innocent civilians aren’t even safe to walk down the street any longer.”

    Natalie Martinez and Alex Kaplan contributed research to this piece.

  • Fox & Friends weekend shows ignored stories about Trump associate Michael Cohen

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Donald Trump’s favorite Fox News program Fox & Friends’ weekend editions completely ignored a series of major damaging stories about Trump associate Michael Cohen. This continues the show’s pattern of playing defense for the president and ignoring damaging stories.

    On April 9, FBI agents raided Cohen’s hotel room, home, and office “seizing business records, emails and documents related to several topics, including a payment to a pornographic film actress.” Federal prosecutors in Manhattan revealed on Friday, April 13, that Cohen has been under investigation for months and that a grand jury has been convened that is separate from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Prosecutors emphasized that while Cohen has been called Donald Trump’s lawyer, he is being investigated over his business dealings and that Cohen “is in fact performing little to no legal work.” CNN also reported that during the raid, the FBI seized recordings between Cohen and Stormy Daniels’ former attorney.  

    Also on Friday, McClatchy reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has uncovered evidence that Cohen “secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign” after he “vehemently denied for months that he ever has been in Prague or colluded with Russia during the campaign.” If true, the evidence would corroborate parts of the Christopher Steele dossier “purporting to detail the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia.”

    Yet another Cohen-related story broke on April 13, when CNN reported that Cohen “facilitated a payment plan totaling $1.6 million last year to a former Playboy model who says she became pregnant by Elliott Broidy, a leading GOP fundraiser.” Broidy resigned as a result of the revelations.

    While Fox & Friends has been silent on Cohen, Trump has reportedly called Cohen. Trump also tweeted about the matter.

    The obsequious relationship between Fox & Friends and Trump has been well documented, with Trump’s tweets frequently lining up with segments and talking points from the right-wing morning show. Media Matters has repeatedly highlighted the feedback loop between the show and Trump, including how Trump has made policy announcements responding to its segments. Fox & Friends has also repeatedly ignored damaging stories about Trump and the Russia investigation.

    Methodology:

    Media Matters searched Snapstream transcripts of Fox & Friends Saturday and Sunday for mentions of the word “Michael” or “Cohen.”

  • Fox News has spent years claiming that Scooter Libby's conviction was unjust. Trump just pardoned him.

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    President Donald Trump on April 13 pardoned Scooter Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, saying, “I don’t know Mr. Libby, but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly.” In the past year, Fox hosts, contributors, and guests have repeatedly compared special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion of the Trump campaign with Russia with Libby’s case and subsequent conviction. Libby was convicted of four felonies including for obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI during an investigation into who leaked the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame to journalists.

    Various figures on Fox primetime have made repeated claims in the last year that Scooter Libby was unfairly prosecuted. On February 1, conservative radio host and author Mark Steyn said on Tucker Carlson Tonight that the Scooter Libby investigation was “disgraceful.” On January 29, Libby’s lawyer Victoria Toensing (who almost joined Trump’s legal team in March along with her husband Joe diGenova) bemoaned Libby’s fate on Fox News At Night, saying he “didn’t lie” to investigators and was indicted “without one other minutia of evidence.” Fox host Sean Hannity said on January 25 that Libby was given “a raw deal” and said the next day that he was “innocent.”

    Nexis transcripts show various mentions of Libby in 2017 when Fox personalities talked about the supposed unfairness of the Mueller investigation. On November 8, Fox host Laura Ingraham said on her show that officials like Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor who led the investigation of Libby, are “out of control.” On August 7, Hannity also made a reference to Libby, saying that Libby was caught in a “perjury trap” (a claim he repeated on June 13 and 19) because he “wouldn’t give up the vice president.” During his August 1 show, Hannity cited Libby as a victim of “investigative creep,” which is “a real problem with all special counsels” -- a point he also made on July 21 when he said he’s “been warning about this investigative creep.” Former Fox contributor Monica Crowley, who was slated to join the Trump administration but chose not to amid allegations she heavily plagiarized a 2012 book and parts of her PhD dissertation, said on the June 8 edition of Fox News’ Hannity that prosecutors went after Scooter Libby “as a way to go after Dick Cheney,” Fox contributor Newt Gingrich appeared on Hannity on May 30 and said, “I have said over and over again that the conviction of Scooter Libby in the Bush administration is one of the greatest scandals in modern America.”

    Plame’s covert status as a CIA operative was blown in July 2003 after The Washington Post published a column by Robert Novak that outed her as “an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction.” The outing happened after Plame’s husband Joe Wilson revealed evidence casting doubt on the George W. Bush administration's claims Iraq was seeking to obtain uranium. Fitzgerald, who was appointed to investigate this leak, explained to the media that Libby “was the first official known to have told a reporter” about Plame’s CIA employment. Libby was convicted “in 2007 of lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice.” President George W. Bush commuted his sentence, but did not pardon him.

    Trump may have also heard personal appeals from Toensing and Fox regular Alan Dershowitz. Toensing, who is also one of Libby’s lawyers, met with the president in March along with her husband when he was considering adding both of them to his personal legal team. Dershowitz, who worked on Libby’s appeal of his conviction, reportedly had dinner with Trump just days ago. According to CNN, “Trump did not follow his predecessors' practice of consulting with lawyers at the Justice Department before announcing his decision.”

  • Xenophobic German campaign #120dB says domestic abuse by Europeans is less harmful than sexual violence by migrants

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Despite claiming to advocate for victims of sexual misconduct, anti-immigrant campaign 120 decibel (#120dB) will do anything to scapegoat migrant men for sexual violence -- even downplay domestic abuse.

    In an April 2 interview with far-right activist and YouTuber Brittany Pettibone, a “German identitarian” activist named Annika argued that domestic abuse by German-born men is different from sexual violence against women by migrant men because “most women” who are victims of domestic abuse “don’t really defend themselves” and “are quiet” while abuse against women in public places by refugees is “really torturous.”

    Annika (who is often referred to by her other name, Franziska) is a spokesperson for #120dB. As documented previously by Media Matters, #120dB is a digital movement attempting to spread a xenophobic, anti-feminist message by riding the coattails of the #MeToo movement. #120dB, which has been heavily promoted by white supremacist “identitarian” group Generation Identity and its European leaders, claims sexual violence by refugee and migrant men is being ignored for fear of offending these communities and calls itself the “true #MeToo.”  

    In the interview, Annika conceded that incidents of sexual violence allegedly committed by migrants are overreported in comparison to domestic abuse because law enforcement “can't just go to a private place and do something in there, but the state can go to a public place and work against the rape there.” In doing so, she unwittingly undermined her movement’s reliance on the assumption that elites are covering up what they characterize as a wave of sexual assaults that they allege are disproportionately committed by refugees and migrants.

    The reality is that migrants and refugees are disproportionately accused of violent crime, both in reports to law enforcement and in online news. In Germany, "foreign-looking suspects" are twice as likely to be reported for violent crime. In Sweden, that rate is 2.5 times. A January 2018 analysis by Germany newspaper Der Spiegel found that of 450 online news reports about 291 “purported sex crimes alleged to have been committed by asylum-seekers and immigrants,” the perpetrator was actually a refugee in only 95 cases, many of which occurred in refugee camps.

    In their effort to scapegoat black and brown men for violence against women, Annika and her colleague Ariane dismissed Germany’s significant issue of domestic abuse, the vast majority of which targets women. That's not a great look for a movement that advertises itself as the “voice of forgotten women.”

    Annika, who considers herself a “right-wing woman” and “anti-feminist,” has appeared in several interviews with Pettibone and her boyfriend, Austrian “identitarian” Martin Sellner. At least two of Pettibone’s videos on the subject appear to be monetized on YouTube. Pettibone and Sellner were both detained at the U.K. border and denied entry in March based on their plans to meet far-right activist Tommy Robinson and the likelihood that their extremism would “incite tensions” in the country.

    From the April 2 YouTube video:

    ANNIKA: It's different because the most rape in Europe from German people or from Swedish people, they take place at home, so in a private place. And there's no violence. The most women don’t really defend themselves. They are quiet and most times they know the rapist, so it's the husband or the father, or someone else related to them. So, they don’t really -- you just can't tell the truth afterwards because you don't have any evidence of it because you don't have blue arms [bruises] or someone heard you scream or something. But the other rapes --  from refugees -- these are really torturous. So you can see those girls are stabbed and they have blue arms and they screamed, and it's in a public place, so you have to go after them but in another way because the state can’t just go into a private place and do something in there, but the state can go to a public place and work against the rape there. So, it's both rape, but it's not the same, because there’s a huge difference [in] how the rapists are doing this.

    ARIANE: And again, there is an enormous difference between engaging into sex with someone to have a higher position into your career, you can -- you still can say no. You can say no and then don't take this path, but if you're forced on the street like we already know about those things that happened. They are so just, just, just totally new. We didn't have that before that things like this went public.

    [...]

    Like domestic violence, which is also often done by women, just to mention that.

    BRITTANY PETTIBONE (HOST): Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

    ARIANE: And so many of those cases are not reported. And yeah, they happen in quiet and the state can't do much about it.

    PETTIBONE: It’s very obvious, and it’s just a case of them underreporting. A lot of people don’t know that it’s even happening, and they’d be shocked to hear of the amount of girls and the ways in which they are being raped and murdered and abused.