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  • Right-wing media attack Rep. Ilhan Omar for something she never said

    Omar criticized Sen. Lindsey Graham, and right-wing media accused her of homophobia

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On January 15, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) shared a video of a 2015 CNN interview in which Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called then-candidate Donald Trump “a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot,” commenting that Graham had since been “compromised.” (Her tweet was a retweet of another that linked to the video, noting, “I can’t even imagine what they have on Graham.”) Two days later, Omar clarified her comments on CNN, arguing that Graham’s shift in rhetoric on Trump over the past three years is evidence that he is “compromised to no longer stand up for the truth.” Some right-wing media figures twisted Omar’s tweet and claimed that the congresswoman was suggesting Graham was being blackmailed over his sexuality.

    Omar did not come close to making this argument. In fact, during her interview with CNN she suggested three things that could be held over Graham’s head in order to change his behavior: “his funding when it comes to running for office,” polling information from his district, and leadership positions in the Senate. But that didn’t stop Breitbart and right-wing media figures from putting words in her mouth. Tom Elliott, founder of the TV monitoring platform Grabien, tweeted Omar’s interview in which she explained her original tweet, but still suggested that she had claimed Trump was blackmailing Graham over “his homosexuality.” (Graham has previously said that he is not gay.)

    Many right-wing figures picked up Elliott’s tweet and ran with it:

    • Radio host Buck Sexton claimed Omar insinuated “Graham is gay to undermine him, which is grossly homophobic.”

    • Conservative host Steve Deace shared Elliott’s tweet and added: “Just imagine if this were an evangelical Republican saying this on television about a Democrat’s sexual proclivities…”

    • Commentary magazine’s Noah Rothman also shared Elliott’s tweet and commented: “The best part about this clip is that it begins with Omar offering some unobjectionable bromide about ‘inclusive societies.’”

    • Conservative CNN host S.E. Cupp also retweeted Elliott, writing, “This is ignorant, homophobic and unacceptable, @IlhanMN. Democrats, this is becoming a very bad look.”

    • Mediaite’s Pardes Seleh: “A sitting member of congress publicly theorizing, with ZERO basis, that senator lindsay graham is secretly gay and trump is blackmailing him for being gay. watch this video and tell me she doesn't sound like a kook.”

    • The Daily Wire’s Amanda Prestigiacomo: “Homegirl is batshit crazy pushing homophobic conspiracy theories abt Graham.”

    • Other right-wing media figures, including right-wing troll Jack Posobiec, Newsmax’s Joe Walsh, and National Review’s Rich Lowry re-tweeted Elliott and wrote disapproving comments without noting that the original tweet was fallacious. Fox’s Lisa Booth replied to Elliott’s tweet, writing, “WTH is wrong with this woman. This is reprehensible.”

    Many journalists and media figures pushed back on the lie.

    Omar herself responded to the bad-faith criticism:

    Intercept columnist Mehdi Hasan added:

    The Atlantic's Adam Serwer pointed to another reason right-wing voices were eager to run with a lie about Omar:

    Serwer also added that Graham is just "acting like a Republican" and is not being coerced.

  • Some Democrats went to Puerto Rico to spotlight the island's recovery, and Fox News is furious

    Democrats went to Puerto Rico to discuss, fundraise for, and spread awareness about hurricane recovery, but Fox News says they were "partying in Puerto Rico" instead of "doing something in Washington"

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On the morning of January 14, Fox News focused heavily on a group of over 30 Democrats, most of them members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who spent the weekend in Puerto Rico as part of an annual retreat. Fox spun this trip as the Democrats partying "on the beaches" instead of working to end the government shutdown.

    Democrats were actually in Puerto Rico for a retreat organized by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ Bold PAC. According to The Hill, Bold PAC chair Tony Cárdenas said “he chose Puerto Rico for this year's convention to showcase the island's needs as it slowly recovers from 2017's Hurricane Maria.” NBC News reported that members of Congress sought to aid the island’s recovery from Hurricane Maria by bringing medical supplies and discussing the neglected recovery with Puerto Rican political leaders, including Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, and several top legislators. 

    Democrats also attended a performance of Hamilton, part of a special limited-time run in which creator and original star Lin-Manuel Miranda reprised his role to help raise funds for hurricane recovery. According to The Hill, Miranda said, “We brought Hamilton here to bring a spotlight to Puerto Rico” and its recovery. All Democrats who attended bought their tickets with their own money. 

    NBC News also reported that “The Bold PAC conference was scheduled for Puerto Rico months before the shutdown” and that the group would be monitoring the shutdown and its developments. The report also noted that the congressional members would “be able to get a bird's-eye view of how the shutdown is affecting the island that is trying to pull itself out of a financial crisis while recovering with the devastation of Category 4 Hurricane Maria."

    While Fox News did mention that it was “a work-play trip,” most of its 19 mentions or segments about the story between 6 a.m. and noon on January 14 were intended to create an image of Democrats ducking their responsibility to help end the government shutdown (which Fox News helped start) and instead vacationing in paradise while real Americans suffer. 

    Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt said that “the optics are not good” for the Democrats when “there are 800,000 [federal] workers that aren’t getting paid,” but members of Congress who are “supposed to be doing something in Washington” are instead “on the beaches with their families.” Fellow co-host Brian Kilmeade also falsely claimed that CBS and NBC didn’t cover the story, when both networks covered the story online before Monday.

    Fox & Friends opened its 8 a.m. hour with the line “President Trump says it’s time for Democrats to get off the beach and come back to work while the shutdown enters day 24.” 

    Kilmeade said that the Democrats were “even enjoying a Broadway show" in Puerto Rico. Fox & Friends First co-host Rob Schmitt, who is covering the story in Puerto Rico, reported, “There have been some meetings and there has been some work done. But there’s also been plenty of leisure time.” He also complimented Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) “great Instagram photo,” saying he’s “got the nice tan going.” 

    Kilmeade also asked counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway about the White House’s reaction to “the Democrats partying in Puerto Rico rather than staying” in Washington, D.C.

    Fox correspondent Doug McKelway compared the Democrats’ Puerto Rico trip to Trump’s normally frequent golfing excursions, commenting that Trump “has been picking his travels very, very carefully” with the government shutdown, and during these times “playing golf, not such a good thing, visits to Puerto Rico, not such a good thing.” 

    Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer criticized the “30 Democratic members” for going “down on some PAC event where they’re soliciting money from lobbyists in Puerto Rico and hanging out on the beach.”

    Fox re-aired Trump’s highly misleading comment that “the Democrats were in Puerto Rico celebrating” the government shutdown.

    Miranda addressed the controversy at the summit in Puerto Rico as he thanked the Democrats and other officials assembled for being “here to work, despite what anyone might claim.” 

  • Fox & Friends botches concept of marginal rates, claims Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants to take 70 percent of people’s paychecks

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    During the January 14 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-host Ainsley Earhardt incorrectly said in an interview with conservative writer Michael Goodwin that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) “will tax 70 percent of your paycheck if [she] gets her way.” In reality, Ocasio-Cortez floated the idea of a 70 percent marginal tax rate on incomes over $10 million -- the key word being marginal.

    As Ocasio-Cortez  explained to Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes, a marginal tax “doesn’t mean all $10 million are taxed at an extremely high rate,” but rather that some of top-earners’ income would be taxed at a higher rate after it passed a certain threshold. As Vox pointed out, “The United States used to have many more tax brackets, and the top marginal tax rates were extremely high.” Ocasio-Cortez’s suggested rate is actually lower than the 91 percent marginal rate top earners paid under President Dwight Eisenhower and right on par with the 70 percent marginal rate in effect under Presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

    Fox & Friends’ distortion of Ocasio-Cortez’s words isn’t surprising given Fox’s obsession with the freshman congresswoman and the network’s abject bias toward tax plans that benefit the rich.

    From the January 14 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Why are the Democrats -- what’s the appeal to race even farther to the left?

    MICHAEL GOODWIN (NY POST): Look, I mean, we're seeing it in the states like Gavin Newsom as we just saw in California --

    EARHARDT: Taxing water.

    GOODWIN: Yeah, Bill de Blasio here in New York City wants free Medicaid, paid vacations for every private employee. You see it certainly, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, on the border -- “There’s no problem, no big issue there, let's move along.” And of course Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who wants the New Green Deal and Medicaid for all. I mean, Medicare for All.

    EARHARDT: 70 percent tax.

    GOODWIN: Yeah, this is now what I call sort of the race to crazy land. Everybody on the left is acting as if there’s no history here. That we can, government can take all private property and redistribute it. It’s the great redistribution race that they're in and we're seeing it up and down the Democratic Party. And I think what it says is, it’s two things. Why? First is that, I think, Bernie Sanders was pretty successful in 2016 with this kind of socialist approach to free college tuition, Medicare for All. I think a lot of people saw that as the new wave of the party. And then secondly, I think, it is this rage against Donald Trump.

    EARHARDT: And some Democrats saying they're even open to illegals getting a chance to vote, to go to the polls and vote.

    GOODWIN: Oh sure. Look this is happening --

    EARHARDT: How do they have so much support though? Because when you hear they are going to tax 70 percent of your paycheck if Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gets her way, how do they have so much support? That’s a lot money for people to give back to the government.

    GOODWIN: I think a lot of it is ignorance. I frankly think American young people today are not being educated properly in schools. They don't know the history of our country. They don't know the history of other countries. They don't understand economics. Ocasio-Cortez, she is charming and delightful in many ways. She got an economics degree from Boston University and she clearly doesn't understand how the unemployment rate works. She said that it’s low because so many people have two jobs. Now, how do you get an economics degree from a major college and not understand that that’s not how the unemployment rate works? How is that possible? I think that is what we're seeing. Civics isn't being taught. So people don't understand government, they don't understand the economy.

  • These conservative media figures are pushing Trump to declare a national emergency over a border wall

    ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE

    As President Donald Trump’s government shutdown continues with no clear end in sight, some in right-wing media have been clamoring for the president to use the powers under the National Emergencies Act of 1976 “to move funds around to build this border wall” and “release the shutdown.”  Conservative media figures have argued that if Trump were to do so, “nobody can second-guess him” and that he has “unfettered authority” to declare a national emergency.

  • Protesters speak out on the government shutdown and why media should talk about its human impact

    Blog ››› ››› MILES LE & AUDREY BOWLER

    With 800,000 federal workers furloughed or working without pay and no end to the government shutdown in sight, furloughed workers and allies rallied in Washington, D.C., today to speak out about how the shutdown is hurting their communities and why news outlets need to be telling their stories.

    Here’s what they had to say: