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  • Cable news has hardly mentioned the murder of Nia Wilson

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On July 22, an 18-year-old Black woman named Nia Wilson was stabbed to death at an Oakland, CA, train station while traveling home with her older sisters. She was the third person killed on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system in five days, and a 27-year-old white man has been charged with her murder. Despite an outpouring of sympathy and outrage on social media and a huge response from activists, Wilson’s death received little coverage on cable news.

    Wilson’s murder, in which her sister Lahtifa was also stabbed and injured, inspired a massive response on social media, as well as substantial protests and demonstrations in Oakland. Both #NiaWilson and #SayHerName trended on Twitter following her death, and many people shared Wilson’s picture, details about her life, and artwork inspired by her. Writers and activists also drew attention to Wilson’s death, explaining why the story holds such significance in modern-day America.

    Despite the powerful public response to Wilson’s death, and significant coverage by newspapers including The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, cable news networks spent less than eight minutes covering her murder. Fox News devoted just over two minutes of coverage to her death; in one of their two segments on Wilson, the network initially misstated the name of the suspect and displayed his picture through most of the segment, but didn’t show Wilson’s photo or say her name. CNN mentioned Wilson’s murder four times, but only in short reports totaling about 2 and a half minutes. MSNBC ran only one segment that discussed Wilson. That segment, which ran on PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton, was a lengthy discussion about the reality of violence against black people in America that lasted more than 9 minutes, but specific discussion of Wilson took only about 3 minutes.  

    The MSNBC segment touched on many of the topics that activists and other social media users had been discussing. Some people on Twitter suggested that Wilson had been murdered because she was Black, while others pointed out the disproportionate violence Black women face in in America, or noted the fear that people of color are forced to live with in the United States. Writers like The New Yorker’s Doreen St. Félix further explained the particular poignancy of Wilson’s murder, writing that it “brings into brutal focus multiple American crises,” including the disproportionately high homicide rate for Black women as compared to white women, and society’s preference for a particular kind of victim, namely one who is “white, upper middle class, and beautiful.” As she explained:

    The mourning of Wilson on Instagram and Twitter is a shrewd and agonizing kind of revisionism: the ubiquity of her smiling face reframes our cultural devotion to the innocent and beautiful dead girl, who has not previously been imagined as having brown skin.

    Authorities are investigating whether the attack on the Wilson sisters was racially motivated and whether the killer can be charged with a hate crime, but they say they currently have no evidence to support that assertion. Members of Wilson’s family, however, believe that race did in fact play a role in her death. Her sister Malika Harris told The New York Times that the murder was “an act of racism.” Lahtifa recounted the attack to ABC7 News and told the station that “as young black women, we shouldn't have to look behind our back. ... We should be living freely like everybody else.”

    Methodology: Media Matters searched Snapstream for mentions of “Nia Wilson,” “BART,” “Oakland,” and any iteration of the word “stab” on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC on July 22 through the time of publication.

  • Alex Jones: "If it wasn't for Julian Assange, you can say, clearly, that the president wouldn't have been elected"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Jones, while launching a petition for Trump to pardon Assange, said that Trump would not have won without Assange's election activities.

    From the July 31 edition of Genesis Communications Network's The Alex Jones Show:

    ALEX JONES (HOST): He engaged in regular journalistic activity and did a wonderful job, being advised by top journalism professors around the world, and that he was very, very fair about what he did, and that you need to send a message that he's a hero. Now, I know they claim that he's a Russian agent with no evidence, and all the rest of that garbage, even though they release stuff on Russia and Israel as well. And China. But it doesn't matter, it's the right thing to do. 

    ...

    We need the president to pardon Julian Assange. We've got another Change.org petition that's got a lot of signatures, dealing with shadow banning. And all of this just draws attention, all of this just chips away at what they're doing. 

    But, if it wasn't for Julian Assange, you can say, clearly, that the president wouldn't have been elected. And you said in a speech, I don't care who got her illegal server, it's illegal, it's about what she did that's wrong, don't change the subject. Go back to that instinct, sir. But you told Assange release it, you said release more stuff, and he's in the crosshairs, and he needs to be pardoned if he's brought back to the United States. 

    If you signal you're going to pardon him -- there's no real charges in England, there's only this bail jumping thing -- he will be released. The fake sex charges that two women connected to the CIA he picked up at a bar who went back to his hotel room and had sex with Assange, and then later they decided maybe that one of them didn't give them permission? Oldest trick in the book, folks. That's all been dropped. He wouldn't be the first man let his you-know-what get him in trouble.

    I'm in the same boat as Assange and Trump and others that are willing to tell the truth,  so we need the president to do this, but I need you first to go sign the petition at Infowars.com.

    Previously:

    Joe Arpaio thanks conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for getting his story to Donald Trump, who is reportedly poised to pardon the former sheriff

    ​Alex Jones: "I personally pushed [Roger] Stone" to bring up a pardon for Dinesh D'Souza to President Trump

    The staggering corruption of Dinesh D’Souza’s pardon

  • Trump’s favorite Fox News propagandists are avoiding reports about Paul Manafort’s legal troubles

    Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine have steered clear of reporting on Paul Manafort’s legal exposure, but they spent significant time on a judge’s strong words for the special counsel's team

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Update:

    On June 14, a federal judge revoked Manafort's bail for allegedly tampering with witnesses, landing him in federal prison until his trial.


    President Donald Trump’s favorite Fox News shows are all but ignoring the cascade of damning reports regarding former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his legal troubles. Since May 2017, special counsel Robert Mueller has been scrutinizing various relationships between the Trump campaign and Russian nationals closely tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin, appearing to focus closely on Manafort’s business history and associates. As the legal pressure ramps up against Manafort, the president’s propagandists at Fox News have sought to distance Manafort from Trump and, through selective reporting on Manafort’s legal troubles, discredit the probe against Trump’s former campaign manager.

    Since the beginning of 2018, Manafort’s legal exposure has grabbed mainstream media attention, but the topic has not managed to break through on Trump’s favorite Fox News programs. Media Matters reviewed transcripts and video of the first editions of Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine after significant reports surfaced about new developments regarding the investigations into Manafort this year. We found little to no coverage of notable turns in the multiple high-profile legal cases against Trump’s former campaign manager. But we did find extensive coverage of the strong words a judge had for the special counsel’s team.

    Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine all but ignored major turns in legal cases against Manafort

    Manafort sues Department of Justice, alleging special counsel exceeded mandate

    On January 3, NPR reported that Manafort was suing the Department of Justice, alleging that “Mueller's team has ‘diverged’ from its stated focus on potential collusion with the Russians who attacked the 2016 election and instead zeroed in on Manafort for ‘unrelated, decade-old business dealings’ in Ukraine.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the development.

    Company tied to former Manafort business associate and Russian oligarch sues Manafort and business partner

    On January 10, according to NBC News, “a company controlled and funded by” Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, a crony of Russian President Vladimir Putin and one-time business associate of Manafort’s, sued Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates for allegedly “bilk[ing] his company by taking $1.1 million in capital and paying it to themselves.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the lawsuit.

    Special counsel tells judge investigation has revealed “additional criminal conduct” by Manafort

    On February 16, according to Politico, the special counsel’s office submitted a court filing informing a federal judge of “additional criminal conduct that [the office has] learned since the Court’s initial bail determination” on Manafort’s federal case that “includes a series of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the court filing specifically. Though a guest on Fox & Friends, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, briefly mentioned general “charges” against Paul Manafort, he downplayed them as “unrelated to the campaign.”

    Former Trump aide Richard Gates will “plead guilty” and has agreed to “testify against Manafort”

    On February 18, the Los Angeles Times reported that Gates, who is also a former Trump campaign aide, would “plead guilty to fraud-related charges within days” and that he “made clear to prosecutors that he would testify against Paul Manafort.” While the Times report was unverified by other media outlets at the time, according to a Media Matters review, Hannity and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the report. Fox & Friends briefly mentioned it but added that Catherine Herridge, Fox News’ chief intelligence correspondent, “says, as of now, no deal, and Gates is not cooperating.” Five days later, The New York Times confirmed that Gates would plead guilty “to financial fraud and lying to investigators” and “has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel inquiry.” According to a Media Matters review, Hannity and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the development. Fox & Friends all but ignored the report other than airing a 15-second teaser from co-host Brian Kilmeade (who did not identify how Gates is tied to the Trump campaign) and a softball question from co-host Steve Doocy during an interview with former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. Priebus also attempted to downplay the significance of the report, claiming Gates’ and Manafort’s conduct was “independent of the Trump campaign.”

    Dutch lawyer tied to Manafort business partner sentenced to 30 days in federal prison for pleading guilty to lying to federal investigators

    On April 3, according to CNN, Alex van der Zwaan, a “Dutch lawyer tied to former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates,” was “sentenced … to spend 30 days in prison and pay a $20,000 fine after he admitted to lying to” the special counsel regarding his “communications with Gates and a person with Russian intelligence ties.” According to a Media Matters review, Hannity briefly mentioned the sentencing, downplaying it as having “nothing to do with Russia collusion,” and saying, “In reality, it looks like a giant waste of your money.” Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the sentencing, which was the first in the special counsel’s investigation. Fox & Friends twice mentioned the development in passing while attempting to downplay its significance, once saying the sentencing is “unrelated” to Trump and Russia.

    Special counsel obtains seven new search warrants against Manafort

    On April 5, CBS News reported that prosecutors on the special counsel’s team “revealed in court filings ... that they had obtained on March 9 seven new search warrants against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort” for “various properties” including “a storage unit, bank accounts, email addresses and devices.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the report.

    Federal judge rejects attempt to get Manafort case dismissed

    On May 15, according to Politico, a federal judge “rejected an attempt by Paul Manafort … to get an indictment against him dismissed by claiming that special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment was flawed.” The judge wrote that “given the combination of his prominence within the campaign and his ties to Ukrainian officials supported by and operating out of Russia, as well as to Russian oligarchs, Manafort was an obvious person of interest” for U.S. law enforcement. According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the judge’s decision.

    Manafort’s former son-in-law cuts plea deal, will testify against Manafort

    On May 17, Reuters reported that Manafort’s former son-in-law and “business partner” Jeffrey Yohai “cut a plea deal with the Justice Department” requiring him “to cooperate” with the special counsel’s prosecutors. According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the report.

    Special counsel accuses Manafort of attempting to tamper with witnesses

    On June 4, according to The New York Times, “federal prosecutors ... accused President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, of attempting to tamper with witnesses in his federal tax and money laundering case,” with one witness telling the FBI “that Mr. Manafort was trying to ‘suborn perjury.’” Yet again, according to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the court filing, even though the charges leveled against Trump’s former campaign manager can mean up to 20 years in federal prison if he is found guilty.

    Special counsel unseals additional charges against Manafort, Russian business associate

    On June 8, according to NPR, the special counsel’s office “unsealed more charges” against Manafort, alleging “that a Russian partner of Manafort's, Konstantin Kilimnik, helped him try to persuade witnesses to lie to the jury when Manafort's case comes to trial in Washington, D.C., this autumn.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine did not cover the additional round of charges against the president’s former campaign manager.

    But Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine all covered a judge’s sharp questioning of the special counsel’s motivations extensively

    On May 4, according to The Washington Post, “a federal judge in Virginia ... sharply questioned the motivations of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s fraud prosecution of President Trump’s former campaign manager.” According to the report, Judge T.S. Ellis III told prosecutors on Mueller’s team, “You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud. … You really care about getting information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment.” According to a Media Matters review, Fox & Friends, Hannity, and Justice with Judge Jeanine all covered the judge’s rebuke of the Mueller team extensively.

    On the May 4 edition of Hannity, host Sean Hannity spent a total of 14 minutes and 46 seconds discussing Judge Ellis’ comments, calling his remarks the “single biggest beatdown I have ever seen in my life by a judge.” The nearly 15 minutes Hannity devoted to Ellis’ comments were significantly more than the time he spent covering any development in the various cases against Manafort in 2018 combined, which totaled about 1 minute and 57 seconds.

    On the May 5 edition of Justice with Judge Jeanine, host Jeanine Pirro spent a total of 15 minutes and 27 seconds discussing Judge Ellis’ remarks. In contrast, Pirro did not mention any of the other stories regarding Manafort's legal troubles in 2018.

    On the May 7 edition of Fox & Friends, the hosts devoted 11 minutes and 5 seconds to Judge Ellis’ comments over three hours of airtime. Fox & Friends spent a total of 2 minutes and 43 seconds on the other turns in the various cases against Manafort, and during those reports the hosts usually downplayed the events as “unrelated” to Russia or “independent from the Trump campaign.”

    As Fox buries reports on Manafort, majority of Americans are unaware of numerous special counsel indictments

    Given Manafort’s past and the people he has been willing to associate with professionally, it is no wonder Fox News’ chief Trump propagandists have attempted to distance the president from him. According to The Atlantic’s Franklin Foer, Manafort’s career was built on lobbying on behalf of “dictatorial governments in Nigeria, Kenya, Zaire, Equatorial Guinea, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia, among others.” Manafort’s experience representing repressive regimes eventually landed him a job in Ukraine, assisting the “former gangsters,” as Foer wrote, in the Party of Regions in improving their image domestically, eventually guiding pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych to presidential victory in 2010.

    Fox News’ efforts to bury Manafort’s legal exposure seem to be having an impact. According to a recent survey conducted by Navigator Research, 59 percent of Americans are not aware that the special counsel’s investigation has uncovered any crimes, even though Mueller has amassed five guilty pleas and numerous indictments. Should the special counsel’s investigation turn up evidence that supports allegations of a criminal conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign and foreign actors, Manafort would surely be implicated as a key player.

    Suppressing reports regarding (arguably) the most corrupt member of Trump’s campaign team -- and following Fox’s usual playbook of downplaying and ignoring other consequential reporting on the special counsel’s investigation -- appears to be part of the network’s larger strategy to pre-emptively downplay any possible findings that could implicate the president and his campaign.

  • Fox News suggested Trump could take on prison reform, but his administration’s policies are worsening mass incarceration

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After President Donald Trump commuted the excessive sentence for a nonviolent, first-time drug offender, Fox News speculated that he could lead an initiative for bipartisan prison reform. In reality, the drug policies enacted by the Trump administration are more likely to worsen mass incarceration.

    After Trump met with celebrity Kim Kardashian West on June 6, he commuted the life sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, who had spent 21 years in prison for two drug charges. The Johnson commutation, part of Trump’s arbitrary clemency spree, led Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer to suggest that the government could do “prison reform under this president.” Fox headlines anchor Carley Shimkus responded, saying that according to the ACLU, “there’s 3,000 nonviolent, first-time offenders in prison right now” and that there could be “some common ground” across the political spectrum on this issue because “this is something that the anthem-kneelers are always preaching about.”

    In reality, Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has adopted several policies that will actually worsen mass incarceration, especially for the nonviolent, first-time offenders Shimkus was talking about. 

    Even before he was in office, analysts predicted that Trump would grow the federal prison population. Although that population has been decreasing since 2013, the rate of decrease has slowed significantly under the Trump administration. According to Bureau of Prisons statistics, the total number of federal inmates dropped by only around 6,500 in 2017, as opposed to more than 13,500 the year before. Since the current number of federal inmates is already only around 1,500 lower than last year’s total, Trump seems likely to preside over the first growth in federal prison populations in half a decade.

    Contributing to Trump’s reversal of declining prison populations is his punitive immigration and drug policies. Trump’s Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has made a very high-profile habit of imprisoning immigrants (or people who simply appear to be immigrants) and trying to deport them, including by falsely accusing them of being affiliated with gangs. 

    On drugs, the Trump administration’s extremely regressive policies have flown under the radar and allowed Trump to grab occasional credit for entertaining “prison reform,” even as he and Sessions shovel more people into the maw of mass incarceration. Sessions’ tenure as attorney general makes a mockery of the concept of criminal justice reform; he threatened to prosecute marijuana businesses operating legally under state law and reversed an Obama-era guideline to avoid pursuing charges for first-time nonviolent drug offenders that would trigger mandatory minimum sentences, instructing prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges possible.

    In addition, Sessions ended an Obama-era program investigating abusive police forces, and his Department of Justice made a months-long attempt to federally prosecute a woman for laughing at him. On Trump’s part, his administration has been an unprecedented boon for the scourge that is private prisons, he has reauthorized police departments to use military surplus gear and weapons, and Trump himself has repeatedly expressed a desire to execute drug dealers.

  • Fox & Friends host claims it is “case law” that “a sitting president cannot be indicted”

    The Supreme Court has never directly weighed in on the matter, and according to legal scholars, whether a sitting president can be indicted is still very much an open question

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Following the publication of a confidential letter sent to special counsel Robert Mueller from President Trump’s legal team arguing, according to The New York Times, “that the president cannot illegally obstruct any aspect of the investigation into Russia’s election meddling,” Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy asserted that it is “case law” that “a sitting president cannot be indicted.”

    In fact, as The Washington Post fact-checker explained, Supreme Court “justices have never said whether the president can be indicted, nor whether the president can be subpoenaed for testimony.” The Justice Department has issued memos arguing that the president cannot be indicted, but that is not settled case law. Even Jonathan Turley, a legal scholar the president himself has repeatedly cited on Twitter, has argued that “the president can be indicted while in office” and that there is no “strong constitutional argument that people have put forward that the president is somehow immune” to prosecution. Moreover, according to The Atlantic, two “presidents had claimed immunity from legal process while in office; in both cases, the Supreme Court denied the claim.”

    From the June 4 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    ABBY HUNTSMAN (CO-HOST): It sounds more and more like, Steve, that the Trump lawyers are on the offense. They, more than anything, don't want this sit down to happen, and they also don't want a subpoena. So they're doing everything they can.

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): And a sitting president cannot be indicted, I mean, that's just case law. You cannot do it. And so, if he's going to come up with a subpoena, there's going to be a big fight.