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  • Business lobbying coalition recruits right-wing hosts to deliver virtually identical town hall ads

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Conservative radio listeners have been hearing some of their favorite hosts implore them to visit local town halls hosted by members of Congress to make their “voices” heard. But far from being a “grassroots” campaign, the coordinated ads are part of an effort by a business lobbying coalition that’s paying those hosts to deliver virtually identical “live read” ads to their audiences.

    The Job Creators Network (JCN), which claims to be the “voice of small business people,” wants to repeal Obamacare, block minimum wage laws, lower business taxes, and stop environmental protection regulations. It conducts its operations through the 501(c)(3) Job Creators Network Foundation and the 501(c)(4) advocacy group Job Creators Network Inc. JCN was originally founded as the Job Creators Alliance but changed its name in October 2013.

    JCN has lobbied Congress through the firm Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas on “policies to promote small business, especially tax relief and deregulation” and other tax issues, according to federal lobbying records. It also recently retained the Bockorny Group to lobby on its behalf on taxes. For publicity efforts, JCN has contracted with Berman and Company, the notorious firm headed by conservative pundit Rick Berman.

    JCN groups' raised roughly $4.6 million in 2015, the most recent year in which their financials are available. Founders to the group in recent years include the Mercer Family Foundation, run by Republican megadonor and Breitbart News investor Rebekah Mercer; the Marcus Foundation, led by Home Depot co-founder and JCN co-founder Bernie Marcus; and the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

    A major part of JCN’s current media efforts is the website StopIgnoringMyVoice.com, which has a list of upcoming town halls by legislators and encourages conservatives “to show up at town halls and to have your voice heard.” The website states that it is “a project of the Job Creators Network” and is partnered with conservative groups such as FreedomWorks, National Taxpayers Union, and Let Freedom Ring.

    Leading conservative radio hosts such as Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham have been doing “live reads” for JCN in the past several weeks, according to a Media Matters review of conservative radio programs. Live reads are a common advertising practice in which radio hosts integrate sponsors into their program by delivering, and often personalizing, advertising copy themselves (“live reads” can be delivered live during radio segments or aired prerecorded during designated commercial breaks).

    Ingraham did the following prerecorded one-minute read for JCN, which has aired during her program this month:

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): You sent a message to the media and the political elites last fall loud and clear. You wanted new leadership that focused on the middle class, not the political class. On your lives, not theirs. Well, the media elites didn’t get the message. They’ve been working nonstop since Election Day to undo your vote. Their goal is clear -- to delegitimize your candidates and the issues you care about and set up Democratic victories in 2018 and beyond. Well this summer, Democratic activists, with the media’s help, plan to overwhelm the town halls of our congressmen and senators. But that can’t happen. And you can stop it by showing up and being heard. That’s why I’m urging all of you to go to StopIgnoringMyVoice.com now and find out what you can do. Again, it’s StopIgnoringMyVoice.com. Don’t let the mainstream media and the Democrats steal your voice or our town halls. Go to StopIgnoringMyVoice.com now and find out how you can be heard. That’s StopIgnoringMyVoice.com.

    Mark LevinLarry ElderSean Hannity, Dana Loesch, Mike Gallagher, and Hugh Hewitt have delivered similar reads for JCN, though some hosts varied their script.

    Hewitt included his other employer, MSNBC, in his read, stating on his August 9 program that StopIgnoringMyVoice.com is a project of JCN, a “great sponsor of his program,” and adding: “You sent a message to the media and political elites last fall -- I talked about it on [the MSNBC program] Hardball last night -- it was loud, it was clear. It was like the dragon in Game of Thrones: it shows up, you can not miss it.” Gallagher added during his advertising read that the effort was truly “grassroots.”

    Such advertisements have been very lucrative for conservative radio hosts for years.

    Politico reported in 2011 that “prominent conservative groups are paying hefty sponsorship fees” to conservative hosts to buy “a variety of promotional tie-ins, as well as regular on-air plugs – praising or sometimes defending the groups, while urging listeners to donate – often woven seamlessly into programming in ways that do not seem like paid advertising.” The publication added in 2014 that “conservative groups spent nearly $22 million to broker and pay for involved advertising relationships known as sponsorships with a handful of influential talkers including [Glenn] Beck, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh between the first talk radio deals in 2008 and the end of 2012.” Levin defended the practice in 2011 by writing: “This is how the market of ideas and commerce work. There is no secret about it. It is all done in open, in front of tens of millions of listeners. It is ethical, legitimate, and legal in every respect.”

    JCN did not respond to a request for comment.

  • Some journalists can see through Trump's economic ruse. Time for everyone else to catch up.

    Trump wants credit for economic progress, but the continued recovery has little to do with him

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    President Donald Trump has been promoting record high valuations on the Dow Jones industrial average as proof of his supposed economic accomplishments and has attacked news outlets for not covering the stock market gains and steady job creation during the first six months of his presidency. In response to both his boasts and his frequent criticism, journalists have been quick to point out that Trump deserves little credit for positive economic trends that predate his administration given his lack of substantive policy accomplishments while in office.

  • The White House is relying on hate groups and their junk research to defend the RAISE Act

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & DINA RADTKE

    The White House has endorsed the RAISE Act, a staunchly anti-immigrant piece of legislation that would drastically cut legal immigration to the U.S. on the false premise that immigrants have a negative impact on the economy. To defend its support for the bill, the White House relied on widely-criticized studies by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and cited the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and NumbersUSA for their praise of the bill. CIS, FAIR, and NumbersUSA are anti-immigrant nativist groups that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has labeled “hate groups.” After years of right-wing media promoting their policies and mainstream media legitimizing them in their reports, the Trump administration is finally manifesting their nativist wish list.

  • MSNBC host ridiculously claims Medicaid recipients only have “paper insurance”

    Hugh Hewitt: “Medicaid is paper insurance that isn’t actually health care”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    MSNBC’s Hugh Hewitt, a right-wing radio host and Trump apologist who was bizarrely rewarded by the network last month with his own weekend show, used an appearance on the July 24 edition of MSNBC Live to push the absurd claim that Medicaid is just “paper insurance” for many recipients and “isn't actually health care.” Hewitt’s disparagement of the Medicaid program came just moments after President Donald Trump concluded an anti-Obamacare tirade at the White House, in which Trump pressured undecided Republican senators to support the GOP’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Right-wing media figures routinely criticise the Medicaid program and its recipients while promoting Republican plans to gut the program. Hewitt’s critique of the supposedly low quality of Medicaid coverage has become more prevalent among Trump-aligned pundits in recent weeks despite it having been discredited years ago. From the July 24 segment:

    ALI VELSHI (HOST): Frankly, the stuff that Donald Trump said, you and I have discussed this many times, he does say a lot of things that just aren’t true about Obamacare. He is focused on the Obamacare exchanges and the difficulties that they have had, which we have outlined on this show. They are absolutely very real, many Americans have seen their premiums go up. But carrying on about how it’s broken, and it’s all a mess, and it’s-- everything is a lie, and it’s all a failure, and the whole thing is destroyed. It’s disingenuous, and it’s not going to work for [Sen. Shelley Moore] Capito [(R-WV)], and [Sen. Lisa] Murkowski [(R-AK)], and [Sen. Susan] Collins [(R-ME)], and [Sen. Dean] Heller [(R-NV)].

    [...]

    VELSHI: More Americans benefitted from the Medicaid expansion than the Obamacare markets, that’s the part that the president never talks about.

    HUGH HEWITT: It depends on what you define as “benefitted” from Medicaid. There are a lot of people -- and I was a local health administration for a number of years -- who believe that Medicaid is paper insurance that isn’t actually health care. It does work for a lot of people, it doesn’t do anything for many people.

  • Fox pushes absurd claim that Trump’s election boosted economy by $4 trillion

    Stuart Varney: Ignore Trump’s political failures, praise “MAGAnomics”

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    Fox Business host Stuart Varney celebrated the first six months of the Trump administration by ridiculously claiming that the election and inauguration of President Donald Trump are responsible for adding trillions of dollars to the economy and lifting wages for low-income workers around the country. Varney’s claims are the latest in a long-running right-wing media fantasy that the Republican Party’s economic agenda will unleash the American economy, which conveniently ignores more than six years of steady economic progress under the Obama administration.

    On July 20, Trump celebrated the six-month anniversary of his inauguration as president of the United States. By any objective measure, Trump’s presidency has already been one of the strangest and most chaotic in living memory. The Trump administration is consumed by scandals of its own making, and, according to a Washington Post report published on Trump’s six-month anniversary, the president is beginning to ask his political and legal advisers “about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself.”

    Despite these facts, the team at Fox News and Fox Business attempted to find a silver lining for the Trump presidency by falsely crediting his administration for the continued overall health of the American economy. In a July 20 op-ed published by FoxNews.com and a corresponding segment on Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney credited Trump with “add[ing] $4.1 trillion to the nation’s wealth” thanks to a post-election stock market rally. Varney also preposterously claimed that “during [Trump’s] presidency,” long-established American tech giants “Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft and Facebook” have “emerged as global technology leaders.” Varney’s ridiculous claims were promoted by the network’s social media accounts and parroted again from the Trump-friendly confines of Fox & Friends during a segment in which Varney also credited Trump for wage growth witnessed by low-income workers. From the July 21 segment:

    Fox’s claim that Trump is responsible for low-income wage increases stems from a July 20 Wall Street Journal article, which said that “full-time earners at the lowest 10th percentile of the wage scale” witnessed a 3.4 percent year-to-year wage increase in the second quarter of 2017, according to data from the Department of Labor. Contrary to Fox’s argument that Trump deserves credit for the increase, the Journal pointed to consistently low unemployment rates and minimum wage increases enacted by states and municipalities across the country as primary drivers of the uptick, which continued an accelerating wage trend for low-wage workers dating back to 2015. Minimum wage increases have been found to correlate with significant gains to low-income earnings, as the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget) reported on September 5, and 19 states increased their minimum wages at the beginning of the year:

    In addition to falsely crediting Trump for years-long wage growth trends, the team at Fox News also claimed that Trump is responsible for a $4.1 trillion increase in stock market capitalization since Election Day, citing the Wilshire 5000 composite index. It is true that American stock markets have gained value since November, but as CNN business correspondent Christine Romans pointed out last month, stocks had been gaining value for years before Trump’s election. Indeed, the Wilshire 5000 index, like other major stock indices, has been consistently climbing since bottoming out in March 2009 in the midst of the Great Recession and financial crisis.

    Fox’s promotion of Trump’s supposed economic success was not lost on the network’s number one fan, as the president posted a video of Varney’s celebratory July 20 segment on Twitter just this morning:

    Fox has repeatedly pushed misleading economic data to hype Trump since the start of his administration, and the network has even fought against increased minimum wages, which are partly responsible for the wage growth its hosts now celebrate. Fox’s sycophantic devotion to Trump runs so deep that Varney even once admitted his unwillingness to criticize the president, a complete reversal from the tone of his coverage during the Obama administration.