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  • How Fox promoted convicted criminal Joe Arpaio, who may be pardoned by Trump

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Over the past two decades, Fox News and Fox Business frequently praised and hosted Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, elevating him to national recognition. Now Arpaio, who was recently convicted of criminal contempt of court in a racial profiling case, has said that he would accept a pardon from President Donald Trump -- and Trump is reportedly considering it. Trump praised Arpaio's birther "investigation" in 2012, was endorsed by Arpaio during the campaign, and has lauded the sheriff's anti-immigrant work.

    On July 31, Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt of court after he defied “a court order to stop detaining suspected undocumented immigrants.” As The New York Times noted, the order originated from a lawsuit filed a decade ago “charging that the sheriff’s office regularly violated the rights of Latinos, stopping people based on racial profiling, detaining them based solely on the suspicion that they were in the country illegally, and turning them over to the immigration authorities.”

    Arpaio has a long record of employing “humiliating and inhumane” treatment of prisoners; he became infamous in 1993, after he was elected sheriff, for opening an outdoor Tent City Jail where inmates were made to live outside in tents in triple-digit Arizona heat. Additionally, Arpaio fed prisoners rotten food, instituted all-female and juvenile chain gangs, and used webcams to broadcast scenes from a jail including a feed “that showed female inmates using a toilet.” The Department of Justice (DOJ) began investigating Arpaio for illegal racial profiling in 2008 and accused him of “unconstitutional policing” in December 2011.

    Yet, over the years, Fox News Network worked to enhance Arpaio’s stature, hosting him no less than 65 times on Fox News and Fox Business from March 1999 through early September 2016, according to a search of Nexis transcripts. In July 2000, Fox host Sean Hannity gushed over Arpaio’s use of webcams in jail, and, in an earlier episode, praised Arpaio’s treatment of inmates by terming it “deterrence.” In 2014, Neil Cavuto criticized the DOJ’s investigation into Arpaio, telling him, “You've been treated more as a criminal than the criminals you're rounding up.” In 2010, Eric Bolling encouraged Arpaio to run for governor of Arizona.

    Fox has also repeatedly ignored Arpaio’s failings as sheriff. Fox News and Fox Business almost completely ignored an Associated Press report from December 2011 that Arpaio mishandled hundreds of sex-crimes cases while also giving him a platform to attack the Obama administration and claim he was a victim of a witch hunt. A year before, in 2010, Fox had hyped a claim from Arpaio’s lawyer that his client’s office was “transparent” in its operation, even though a federal judge had sanctioned Arpaio’s office “for destroying evidence in a racial-profiling case.”

    During his presidential campaign, Trump proudly touted an endorsement from Arpaio at least four times during interviews on Fox, according to Nexis transcripts. He declared Arpaio “the king of the borders” and said, “When [Arpaio] endorses you, that means you have the best border plan.” In March 2016, Trump claimed on Hannity that Arpaio “doesn’t get enough credit for the incredible job he’s doing.” After Trump won the Arizona Republican primary, he thanked Arpaio on Twitter for his help. Trump evidently thought so highly of Arpaio’s racial discrimination and other illegal acts that he reportedly considered appointing Arpaio to head the Department of Homeland Security.

    And Trump’s public admiration for Arpaio extends back to before his campaign began, dating at least to Obama’s re-election. Trump and Arpaio were in lockstep on the racist birther conspiracy theory, which alleged that Obama was not born in America and was thus ineligible to be president. While Trump’s public attacks on Obama’s legitimacy as president began months before Arpaio’s “Cold Case Posse” began scrutinizing Obama’s publicly released birth certificate, Trump repeatedly tweeted support of Arpaio’s “investigation” into Obama’s birth certificate in July 2012:

    It was Fox News that first reported that Trump was "seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio" in "a conversation with Fox News at his club in Bedminster, N.J." If indeed Arpaio is pardoned for his criminal conduct, the credit may just belong to the president's favorite news network.

  • Corey Lewandowski busted for lying about conflict of interest on NBC’s Meet the Press

    After Lewandowski’s denial, another guest explained his involvement in Ohio gubernatorial race

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski got called out by another guest on NBC’s Meet the Press after he denied having a stake in his call for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) head Richard Cordray to be fired amid a rumor he may run for governor in Ohio. In fact, BuzzFeed reported days ago that Lewandowski would be a “special guest” at a fundraiser for a Republican gubernatorial primary candidate in the state.

    Host Chuck Todd was asking Lewandowski, who advises the president outside of the White House, about Trump’s replacement of Reince Priebus as his chief of staff with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly when Lewandowski said, seemingly out of nowhere, “I think the general should relook at firing Richard Cordray, the CFPB, he’s a person who is now all but running for governor in the state of Ohio, and he’s sitting in federal office right now.” Todd noted the “random” nature of Lewandowski bringing up Cordray and asked, “Do you have any business interests here? Do you have a client that wants to see this happen?” Lewandowski denied any personal stake, saying, “No, no. I have no clients whatsoever,” then repeated his complaints that Cordray has “all but announced, Chuck, that he’s running for governor of Ohio.”

    But later in the show, Politico reporter Eliana Johnson noted that Lewandowski “is appearing at a fundraiser August 3 for a Republican Ohio gubernatorial candidate, despite his claim that he has no business interests in this,” prompting Todd to exclaim, “Now we know the motivation there.” BuzzFeed reported on July 25 that Lewandowski has been advertised as a “special guest” at the August 3 fundraiser for Rep. Jim Renacci. BuzzFeed also reported that Renacci helped Lewandowski land a speaking slot to the City Club of Cleveland, which will take place the same day as the fundraiser.

  • Trump’s embattled attorney general once again retreats to his safe space on Tucker Carlson Tonight

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions will appear on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight as President Donald Trump continues to criticize Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 election. Given host Tucker Carlson’s frequent fanboying and staunch defenses of Sessions in the past, the beleaguered attorney general  will most likely enjoy a fawning, sophomoric interview during his appearance on the show.

    Sessions’ planned appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight is not the first time he has used the friendly platform to address controversies surrounding his role in the administration. During Sessions’ confirmation process for his current job, Roll Call’s Jonathan Allen highlighted the former Alabama senator’s racist past, writing in a November 15 column that Sessions was “unfit for the Cabinet” and a “partially reconstructed baiter of minorities.” In response, Carlson went to bat for Sessions; he invited  Allen on to his November 18 broadcast and lambasted his article as “one of the most unfair things I’ve ever read.” Carlson also accused Allen of “smearing” Sessions by "download[ing] some talking points from the DNC” and said Allen had impugned Sessions with “slur[s]” and “pure talking points.”

    On March 2, when numerous Democratic lawmakers were calling for Sessions’ resignation in response to reports that he had met with the Russian ambassador and lied about it under oath, Sessions retreated to his safe space on Carlson’s show in an effort to defuse the firestorm. Carlson’s softball interview with Sessions included questions such as, “Do you see this as a witch hunt?”

    Carlson is once again coming to Sessions’ defense, but this time around, the people aiming for Sessions are doing so from inside the White House. In a July 19 interview with The New York Times, Trump went after his own attorney general, saying, “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.” The attacks haven’t ceased, with the president repeatedly tweeting out criticism of Sessions.

    Carlson, in a somewhat surprising split from agreeing with everything Trump does, leapt to Sessions’ defense and devoted a segment of his July 20 show to vouch for Sessions’ perceived value to the Trump administration. Carlson maintained that Sessions “has been the rare person in the entire executive branch making actual progress implementing the agenda his boss ran on, because he's the rare person who believes in it,” and warned that Trump should “lay off Jeff Sessions.” 

    TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): Sessions was worried about what an unsecured border and mass immigration would do to America, even though the biggest effects from those wouldn't be seen until decades after he was long gone from this earth. So, he jumped in and accepted Trump’s offer to become attorney general. He didn't do it to get rich, and certainly not to become more popular. He instantly became less. You’ll remember that many of his former colleagues in the Senate slandered him as a bigot during his confirmation hearings. As attorney general, Sessions has been the rare person in the entire executive branch making actual progress implementing the agenda his boss ran on, because he's the rare person who believes in it. In an administration brimming with opportunists and ideological saboteurs, people who literally couldn’t be less interested in what voters think, Sessions has never lost sight of the lessons of the last election. He’s gone after sanctuary cities, he’s enforced immigration laws, he’s ended the Obama administration's attacks on local police departments, and a lot more. He’s likely the most effective member of the Trump cabinet.

    In return, the president attacked him in the failing New York Times. That’s not just criticism. It's an insult. It's also a worrisome sign that the president may be forgetting who is on his side. Goldman Sachs did not elect Donald Trump. America’s long-ignored middle class did. Trump voters may find his tweets about the media amusing, and well-deserved because, obviously, they are, but they’re not the point of this exercise. The point is to shine some light on the broad middle of this country, on the millions of normal people who are hurting and who could badly use an ally in power for the first time in a long time. Now the hope is that what happened yesterday was just a stress-related aberration, the political equivalent of yelling at your kids when you had a bad day at the office. If so, it will be not be hard to fix this. Going forward, just pay a little less attention to The New York Times, pay a little more to Matt Drudge. And for God’s sake, lay off Jeff Sessions. He is your friend. One of the very few you have in Washington.

    There are many similarities between Carlson and Sessions. They both regularly villainize immigrants, and like Sessions, Carlson is beloved by neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Tonight’s interview will most likely be nothing more than a public relations stunt for Sessions.

  • Pro-Trump media are pushing a new voter fraud conspiracy theory

    Far-right sources are claiming that thousands of voters “unregistering” in Colorado are evidence of “mass voter fraud”

    ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    Thousands of Coloradans have withdrawn their voter registrations in the wake of the Trump administration's election integrity commission’s request for personal voter data. Far-right media are claiming that the people canceling their registrations are “illegal” voters removing themselves from the rolls. In reality, deregistrations have been attributed to voters’ concerns over the confidentiality of their personal data, as well as their distrust of the Trump administration's commission. 

  • Right-wing media figures claim Trump Jr. was part of a “setup made to give the appearance of Russian collusion”

    ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET & NINA MAST

    Following a series of reports from The New York Times laying out Donald Trump Jr.’s correspondence arranging a meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer, right-wing media figures attempted to absolve Donald Trump. Jr. by claiming he was set up by Democratic operatives and a “Russian honey pot” in an attempt to give the appearance of collusion.

  • Did a GOP politician effectively buy Roger Stone’s endorsement against Sen. Elizabeth Warren?

    Stone posted endorsements of Massachusetts state Rep. Geoff Diehl days after he rented Stone's email list

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Roger Stone posted social media endorsements of Massachusetts state Rep. Geoff Diehl’s bid to challenge Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) just days after Diehl rented his email list.

    Stone, who contributes to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ Infowars network and will soon host his own Infowars show, has a history of pushing racist, sexist, and conspiratorial rhetoric. Stone has been a longtime adviser to Trump and worked as a paid consultant for Trump’s campaign; he is now reportedly under FBI investigation as part of the agency’s probe into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

    Stone announced in May through a marketing company that he’s accepting advertisers for his “online presence,” which includes his email list and "social media posts."

    Diehl’s campaign rented Stone’s list on June 16 for a fundraising email. A message accompanying the email stated: “We are excited to share with you a special message from one of our sponsoring advertisers, Diehl For Senate. It is also sponsors like them that help fund Stone Cold Truth. Please note that the following message reflects the opinions and representations of our sponsor alone, and not necessarily the opinion of Roger Stone.”

    Endorsements for Diehl subsequently appeared on Stone's Facebook and Twitter accounts. Those posts gave no indication whether they were advertisements.

    Stone’s Facebook page posted the following on June 23: “Help Us Fire Elizabeth Warren!!!!! Geoff Diehl: The REAL Deal for Massachusetts Help build our grassroots movement to support the real Diehl for Massachusetts. Stand with Geoff Diehl for U.S. Senate. Your donation will send a loud message that it's time to put Massachusetts first.” Much of that language is taken from Diehl’s website. Diel’s Facebook page subsequently touted the Stone post by writing: “The Stone Cold Truth is that we need a U.S. Senator who will put Massachusetts first. Donate today!” 

    On June 24, Stone tweeted a link to a Diehl fundraising page and asked followers to "help us fire Elizabeth Warren."

    Diehl retweeted Stone and a supporter who celebrated Stone's tweet:

    Stone’s backing of Diehl is at odds with his colleagues at Infowars, which has thrown its support to entrepreneur Shiva Ayyadurai, who is competing against Diehl for the Republican nomination. He appeared on Alex Jones’ program on June 7 and June 25. During the June 7 interview, Jones said it was “really exciting” to have Ayyadurai challenging Warren, gave viewers his campaign website address, and asked the Republican how people can support his candidacy. Ayyadurai responded by asking Jones’ listeners to make donations and to volunteer with his campaign.

    He appeared on Jones’ June 25 show with guest host Owen Shroyer for roughly 20 minutes; the video description stated: “Everyone show your support for Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai running against Democrat Elitist, Elizabeth Warren in 2018. https://shiva4senate.com/ https://twitter.com/va_shiva.” During the appearance, the candidate said that “what Alex does is probably, sort of the last sort of beacon of truth that’s out there.”

    Requests for comment to Diehl were not returned.

    UPDATE (7/5): Roger Stone responded to this post while appearing on Newsmax TV by acknowledging that his “company did rent some lists to Mr. Diehl” and “during that process I examined his campaign and his credentials and frankly I became very impressed.” From a July 3 video posted by Newsmax TV:

    STEVE MALZBERG (HOST): There’s a Media Matters story, which I believe is from today, where they accuse you of being bought off by Geoff Diehl, who is going to run -- one of the candidates who wants to run against Elizabeth Warren -- because, I don’t know, they say that after he rented your email list you supported him, blah blah blah blah blah. And this is Media Matters, your friend.

    ROGER STONE: Yeah, well look, anything -- you can always tell when David Brock is lying: His lips are moving. Nothing at Media Matters for America can be believed. This is the ultimate fake news site. I did -- my company did rent some lists to Mr. Diehl for his campaign. They evidently raised quite a bit of money. During that process I examined his campaign and his credentials and frankly I became very impressed. He’s an excellent candidate, he’s a solid conservative, he is not an establishment Republican. And he’ll be a great replacement for Elizabeth Warren, fauxcahontas, in the U.S. Senate.

    UPDATE (7/21): According to its second quarter Federal Election Commission filing, Diehl for U.S. Senate paid a total of $5,330 on June 5 and June 22 for "online fundraising" to Alliance Strategies Group, which represents Stone for advertising opportunities.