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  • Trump is reportedly considering fulfilling a months-long right-wing media fantasy to fire Robert Mueller

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    President Donald Trump and his legal team “are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest,” according to a Washington Post report. The president’s right-wing media allies have waged a months-long campaign against Mueller and his team, calling for Mueller to be fired or his investigation “to be shut down,” and citing supposed “conflicts of interest” among members of Mueller’s investigative team and even of Mueller himself.

  • Fox News is unusually focused on the nationality of the officer who shot Justine Damond (he's Somali-American)

    The network’s coverage mainstreams xenophobic narratives about immigrant crime

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On July 17, developments emerged in two cases of fatal officer-involved shootings, but Fox News rushed to cover only one of them and focused disproportionately on the officer’s nationality in doing so.

    On the day Balch Springs, Texas, police officer Roy Oliver was indicted for the fatal shooting of Jordan Edwards, a black teenager, news broke of the July 15 shooting of an Australian woman by a Minneapolis, MN, police officer who was later identified as Mohamed Noor. Noor is Somali-American. While Fox News aired several segments about Noor, the network made not a single mention of the indictment of Oliver, who is white, continuing its disinterest in the case since Edwards was killed on April 29 in Dallas, TX.

    In the first three days of coverage following the shooting of Justine Ruszczyk (who went by the surname of her fiancé, Don Damond), Fox News covered the story in 11 segments, six of which mentioned that the officer was “Somali-American,” an "immigrant" from Somalia, the first Somali-American to patrol that precinct, or that Minneapolis boasts a “very significant Somali population.” A Fox News article online began both its headline and body with Noor’s Somali background. In the same period, MSNBC and CNN both dedicated seven and 14 segments, respectively, to the story. CNN reporters did mention his Somali-American identity twice when prompted by hosts for more details about his background. MSNBC did not mention that he is Somali-American.

    Fox News’ Tucker Carlson went so far as to claim the mainstream media is engaged in a deliberate cover-up of the officer’s nationality. On the July 18 edition of his show, Carlson said, "Mohamed Noor was an immigrant from Somalia. Is that a relevant fact? We don't know. But it's being treated as one by many news organizations. How do you know that? Because they're not reporting it."

    Carlson was wrong to claim news organizations didn’t mention that the officer is Somali-American. His rival network CNN mentioned it that same day, and while The Washington Post -- which Carlson referenced -- did publish an early article on the story that did not mention his name or nationality (officials had not yet confirmed the identity of the officer), the paper also published a piece the next morning entirely focused on Noor and reactions in the Somali community of Minneapolis, which is bracing for backlash in the wake of the shooting. Moreover, Minnesota state officials did not publicly release the identities of the two officers involved in the shooting until Tuesday night (July 18), meaning three of Fox’s reports on Noor’s Somali identity were seemingly based on early reporting by the Star Tribune that had not yet been confirmed by police.

    Carlson was also misguided in his implication that other outlets’ omission of Noor’s nationality is evidence that it’s relevant. While many questions about the incident remain, and there are legitimate grievances being voiced by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, Damond’s family, and the Australian government over the police department’s lack of transparency in the case, none of them are focused on Noor’s identity. In fact, Damond’s hometown newspaper in Australia ran a front-page headline reading “AMERICAN NIGHTMARE” in reference to what Australians quoted in the piece see as a country “infested” with guns and a “very risky place in terms of gun violence.” Damond’s family, which just suffered a tragic loss at the hands of police, hasn't focused on Noor’s identity as particularly relevant in reports. Fox News is the exception, not the norm.

    In the cases of police brutality against Jordan Edwards, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and many others, all of whom were black, Fox News assigned no particular relevance to the nationalities of the officers involved. But the network did, in various cases, invite guests to defend the officers’ actions, criticize the victims of the shooting, or use the incident to promote questionable or problematic policing tactics. The disproportionate attention Fox News paid to Noor’s immigrant background and its resistance to defend him elucidates the limits of its pro-police posture.

    And the network’s coverage, while an outlier for mainstream reporting on the story, is essentially a more sanitized version of stories with headlines like “First Somali-Muslim police officer in Minnesota KILLS blonde yoga instructor in cold blood” and “Unarmed White Woman Murdered In Minnesota, Dems SILENT After Shooter's ID Revealed…”. There are many more. Noor’s religion has not been obsessed upon outside of far-right blogs and Twitter.

    Minnesota’s Somali immigrant community has been a strangely popular target for Fox News and other right-wing media outlets. The network has previously fearmongered about Somali immigrants, called the area “ground zero” for ISIS recruitment, and attacked the Minneapolis mayor for giving her State of the City address in a mosque. Fringe media websites and fake news purveyors recently targeted Minneapolis in response to the city’s announcement that it was launching a hate crimes reporting hotline, claiming the move amounted to “fascism.”

    In its hyperfocus on Noor’s nationality, Fox News served to validate the racism, xenophobia, and debunked associations between immigration and crime espoused by pro-Trump fake news purveyors, conspiracy theorists, white nationalists, and notorious Islamophobes alike. Noor's background is only as relevant as it is in any officer-involved shooting, and if it's being touted as more than that, we should be asking why.

    Methodology:

    Media Matters searched SnapStream between 5 a.m. and midnight on both July 17 and 18 and between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m on July 19 for mentions of “Roy” or “Oliver,” “Edward” or “Jordan,” and “Somali,” "Noor," "Minneapolis," “Minnesota,” "Damond," "Ruszcyzk," and “Australia.” Teaser segments were excluded.

  • Fox's Ed Henry falsely claims Comey lied under oath about leak of Trump memos

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox News correspondent Ed Henry misleadingly recounted May 3 testimony provided by then-FBI Director James Comey during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to falsely suggest that Comey had lied under oath. Henry’s flawed version of Comey’s responses to a Republican senator’s line of questioning mirrors a May 12 Breitbart.com article, which made the same misinformed suggestion.

    On the June 11 edition of Fox News’ MediaBuzz, Henry quickly rattled off a series of questions posed to then-FBI Director James Comey by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) during a May 3 hearing. After quoting Grassley’s questions from a transcript, Henry then paraphrased Grassley, claiming the senator asked Comey “whether he had allowed others to leak anything,” to which Comey responded, according to Henry’s erroneous account of the May 3 hearing, “no, no, no.” Henry suggested that this supposedly misleading testimony from Comey stood as evidence that the ousted FBI director was no “white knight” before claiming that Comey seemed “like someone who had been leaking a lot before”:

    ED HENRY: This idea that he's a white knight, this idea that oh he's shocked, shocked by leaks. I went back and looked at the record, and I think a lot of people have missed this. May 3, he was under oath, Senate Judiciary Committee before he was fired, and James Comey was asked by Chuck Grassley, "have you ever been an anonymous source in news reports about matters related to the Trump investigation or Clinton investigations?" "Never." Followed up, "have you ever authorized someone else at the FBI to leak information in either of those?" He says, "No." And then finally he said, "are you aware of any classified information related to the president or his associates leaking out?" "Not to my knowledge." This was before he got fired. "Not to my knowledge” is kind of an odd answer, number one. But number two, the idea that Grassley asked him whether he had allowed others to leak anything, and he said, under oath, "no, no, no."

    Hang on a second. Now, the playbook according to James Comey in this latest hearing is, "I can use somebody over at Columbia." You didn’t really believe that was the first time James Comey did that? It sounded like someone who had been leaking a lot before.

    In fact, according to a transcript from the May 3 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Comey, under oath, did not answer misleadingly to a broad question that Henry claims was posed to him by Grassley about “whether he allowed others to leak anything.” Comey only specifically denied that he: 1) was “an anonymous source in news reports about matters relating to the Trump investigation;” 2) that he “ever authorized someone else at the FBI to be an anonymous source in news reports about the Trump investigation;” and 3) that “any classified information relating to President Trump or his ... associates [had] been declassified and shared with the media”:

    SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: Director Comey, have you ever been an anonymous source in news reports about matters relating to the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation?

    JAMES COMEY: Never.

    GRASSLEY: Question two, relatively related, have you ever authorized someone else at the FBI to be an anonymous source in news reports about the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation?

    COMEY: No.

    GRASSLEY: Has any classified information relating to President Trump or his association — associates been declassified and shared with the media?

    COMEY: Not to my knowledge.

    On June 8, Comey testified to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that he used “a good friend … who’s a professor at Columbia Law School” to provide information to The New York Times. Comey was not the anonymous source, nor was “someone else at the FBI,” and Comey established in his June 8 testimony, during a back and forth with Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), that the information eventually provided to the Times by an intermediary was not classified material. And of course, this New York Times report was published on May 11, a week after Comey’s Senate Judiciary Committee testimony, and two days after Trump fired him as FBI director.

    Suggesting that Comey lied under oath in response to Grassley’s line of questioning is false, and Henry’s misconstrued paraphrasing of Grassley’s question matched earlier attempts to defame Comey from Breitbart.com and other fake news purveyors.

  • NRA's news outlet blatantly lied about Comey hearing to protect Trump

    NRATV gaslights the public with a fake “direct quote” from Comey

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    The National Rifle Association’s news outlet NRATV spun former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to the Senate intelligence committee to President Donald Trump’s advantage by flatly lying about what Comey said.

    Comey testified in an open hearing before the Senate intelligence committee on June 8, almost a month after Trump abruptly fired him. Trump’s public statements on the firing have caused numerous legal experts to warn that Trump may have obstructed justice by improperly interfering with an FBI investigation.

    NRATV was quick to jump to Trump’s defense before and during Comey’s appearance. During the 11 a.m. edition of its program Stinchfield, which provides live news updates at the top of the hour from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST, host Grant Stinchfield said the hearing came down to one question: “Did [Trump] ever try to obstruct justice in any way?" He said Comey answered, "No": 

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): Now as I look and listen to this hearing, what I see is James Comey being questioned. One, being led by the Democrats to try to sink Donald Trump, and two, by the Republicans trying to get to the heart of what this hearing is all about. Did Donald Trump try to obstruct justice when it came to this Russian investigation in any way? A direct quote when he was asked about this by the chairman of the committee, a Republican, “Did Donald Trump ever ask you to stop the Russian investigation?” James Comey’s answer, “No.” “Did he ever try to obstruct justice in any way?” James Comey’s answer, “No.”

    In actuality, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), chairman of the intelligence committee, asked Comey whether the president was trying to find a way for former national security adviser Mike Flynn to “save face” after having been fired, or whether he was trying to “obstruct justice” when he said he hoped Comey could “let [the investigation] go.” At the time, Flynn was under investigation for his ties to Russia. Comey didn’t respond “no,” but instead said, “I don't think it's for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct. I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning, but that's a conclusion I'm sure the special counsel will work towards to try and understand what the intention was there and whether that's an offense”:

    RICHARD BURR: Director, when the president requested that you -- and I quote -- “let Flynn go,” General Flynn had an unreported contact with the Russians, which is an offense and if press accounts are right, there might have been discrepancies between facts and his FBI testimony. In your estimation, was General Flynn at that time in serious legal jeopardy and, in addition to that, do you sense that the president was trying to obstruct justice or just seek for a way for Mike Flynn to save face given he had already been fired?

    JAMES COMEY: General Flynn at that point in time was in legal jeopardy. There was an open FBI criminal investigation of his statements in connection with the Russian contacts and the contacts themselves. And so that was my assessment at the time. I don't think it's for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct. I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning, but that's a conclusion I'm sure the special counsel will work towards to try and understand what the intention was there and whether that's an offense. [CSPAN, James Comey hearing, 6/8/17]

    The special counsel Comey referred to is former FBI director Robert Mueller, who is tasked with investigating “ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.”

    Before the hearing even began, Stinchfield tweeted that the “testimony will be a big ‘Nothing Burger!’”

    During the 9 a.m. update, Stinchfield claimed there was nothing wrong with Trump’s “demand for loyalty” from Comey and that in prepared testimony released before the hearing, the former FBI director “makes it clear in no way did Donald Trump ever obstruct justice.” (The prepared testimony reached no such conclusion. As Comey’s testimony during the hearing demonstrated, his view is that the question of whether Trump’s conduct could constitute obstruction of justice should be left to the special counsel.) During the 10 a.m. update, Stinchfield attempted to undercut Comey’s upcoming statements by claiming Comey was “almost posing for the camera” as he took his seat before the hearing and said, “There is no doubt in my mind that James Comey loves the spotlight. In fact, he relishes it. This is why he writes those memos, throwing Donald Trump under the bus.”

    The NRA was one of Trump’s earliest supporters, spending millions of dollars to help his campaign. NRATV has long since established itself as a pro-Trump propaganda outlet, previously calling any dissent against Trump “anti-patriotic” and an “assault against freedom and the Constitution.” Stinchfield and NRATV commentator Dana Loesch have praised Trump’s “tough straight talk about the dishonesty of the media” and encouraged then President-elect Trump to continue his attacks against the press. In February, Stinchfield blamed Trump’s Russia scandal on a “concerted effort with Obama loyalists ... trying to undermine the president every step of the way.”

    In January, the NRA released a video promising that the group would be “Donald Trump’s strongest, most unflinching ally.” That allegiance apparently extends to fabricating quotes from a public hearing for the benefit of the president.