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  • Fox mostly ignores report Jared Kushner used private email, messaging app for government business

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News has virtually ignored reporting that White House senior adviser Jared Kushner used private email and a messaging app to conduct government business and even communicate with foreign leaders and that other current and former administration officials have also used private email. The conservative network has a years-long history of ignoring, whitewashing, or delaying reporting on stories that could make President Donald Trump look bad.

    CNN reported that on March 21, House oversight committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) sent a letter to the White House requesting more information in an investigation into the use of personal email and private messaging apps by Trump administration officials. In the letter, Cummings “alleged that Jared Kushner, who is also a senior White House adviser, had been using WhatsApp, a popular messaging application, to ‘communicate with foreign leaders’ -- something he said that Kushner's attorney had confirmed in a private meeting. He also contended that Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump, also a senior adviser, may be in violation of the Presidential Records Act by her use of private emails.”

    A search of the SnapStream video database revealed that since the existence of Cummings’ letter was first reported on March 21, only Shepard Smith Reporting and America’s Newsroom have covered the allegation against Kushner on Fox News, for a total of 2 minutes and 26 seconds. The rest of Fox’s supposed news shows did not report on it -- neither Special Report with Bret Baier nor The Story with Martha MacCallum had a segment on the story, despite both of the shows airing hours after Shepard Smith Reporting. Fox’s prime-time lineup completely ignored the story.

    According to Cummings’ letter, this allegation stemmed from a December meeting with Kushner’s personal attorney Abbe Lowell. Cummings also alleged in the letter that Lowell could not answer whether Kushner transmitted classified information through the private messaging app WhatsApp, which Cummings reportedly would consider a “major security breach.” Lowell denied that he had told Cummings that Kushner messaged foreign officials on WhatsApp, saying, “I did not specify who” Kushner was contacting through the private messaging app. CNN reported that the other Trump administration officials accused of using personal email for government business include former chief strategist Steve Bannon and former deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland.

    Despite Fox News’ minimal coverage of the Kushner email story, Fox & Friends found time this morning to talk about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails yet again.

  • Fox plays defense for Rep. Devin Nunes’ lawsuit against Twitter

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On March 19, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) filed a lawsuit against Twitter and three specific users, claiming that the site has censored him and allowed him to be the target of defamation. The Washington Post called the lawsuit's merits "questionable at best," but Fox hosts and contributors covered the lawsuit credulously, suggesting or even outright agreeing that Twitter tries to censor conservative accounts.  

    In the $250 million suit, Nunes argues that Twitter is routinely “shadow-banning conservatives” on its platform by allowing them to post but not letting other users see or interact with the content. Twitter denies that it shadow bans accounts, and CEO Jack Dorsey told Congress last year that the company has not found any evidence of a difference in the reach of tweets from conservative and liberal accounts. Following similar allegations of shadow banning last summer, The New York Times also found no evidence that Twitter engaged in the practice.

    In the suit, Nunes also takes issue with several specific users he claims Twitter allowed to defame him. Among them are @DevinNunesMom and @DevinCow, satirical accounts aimed at mocking Nunes. Some of the remarks that the suit specifically mentions as defamatory include a claim by the @DevinNunesMom account that Nunes was “voted ‘Most Likely to Commit Treason’ in high school,” and the @DevinCow account's tweet that “Devin’s boots are full of manure. He’s udder-ly worthless and its pasture time to move him to prison.”

    Some journalists have suggested that far from being a serious legal dispute, Nunes’ lawsuit is simply aimed at silencing critics. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake wrote:

    The legal merits of the case appear highly questionable at best. The standard for defamation of a public figure such as Nunes is much higher than for an average person. One expert The Washington Post talked to cited the landmark Supreme Court case in which Jerry Falwell sued Hustler magazine for a satirical advertisement in which his likeness was engaged in sexual activity with his mother in an outhouse. The court ruled that public figures aren’t protected from “patently offensive speech” if the statements couldn’t be understood as actual facts.

    So feel free to chuckle about the spectacle of Devin Nunes suing “Devin Nunes’ cow” — especially given Nunes’s past opposition to “frivolous lawsuits” — but know that this most likely isn’t about his purported cow or what it said. Nunes is telegraphing an expansive effort to go after people who hurt Republicans with their public discourse. Its potential impact, not so much legally as from personal behavioral standpoint, shouldn’t be so casually dismissed.

    Fox hosts and contributors took a different approach than others in the media, choosing to take Nunes at his word and cheering on the lawsuit.  

    After news of Nunes’ suit broke, Fox’s Sean Hannity hosted the congressman on his show and allowed him to rant about Twitter’s alleged political bias and supposed censorship.

    During the March 19 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that Twitter is “already suppressing people like Don [Trump] Jr. and conservatives.” Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano also argued that Nunes is “focusing a spotlight on Twitter’s bias.”

    Later in the day, on Fox Business’ Varney & Co., Kilmeade told host Stuart Varney that Nunes is making a “very courageous move.” Varney responded, “I think it’s about time we had it out about censoring conservatives on social media.”

    On Fox’s America’s Newsroom, Fox contributor Ken Starr said the lawsuit is proof that litigation can be “a powerful engine for getting the truth.” He also argued that the suit could be “one of those action-forcing events. It’s calling Twitter, and more broadly these social platforms, into the age of accountability.”

    Fox contributor Bill Bennett argued on America’s Newsroom that Nunes “has a very important point” and contended that “there is bias in a lot of these [tech] companies.”

    Fox contributor and former Arkansas Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee told America’s Newsroom co-host Sandra Smith that he is “so proud of the congressman” because the lawsuit will “hold these social media companies’ feet to the fire.” He claimed the tech companies have been “shadow banning conservatives, they’ve been making it very difficult for conservatives to get the message out,” and “they are in essence a contributing force to the Democratic Party and a contributing force against Republicans.”

  • Trump misquoted Fox host Stuart Varney -- and Varney thanked him for it

    Varney made an inaccurate prediction about the monthly jobs report

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    President Donald Trump tweeted an inaccurate jobs report prediction by Fox’s Stuart Varney, which led Varney to thank the president in the opening of his Fox Business show -- even though the tweet misquoted what Varney actually said. The later release of the actual employment report, which came out shortly before Trump posted his tweet, also showed that Varney’s optimistic prediction was wildly off-base.

    Over two hours before the jobs report came out, Varney predicted on Fox & Friends that it would reflect well on the economy under Trump, especially compared to slower economic growth in Europe and some Asian countries:

    STUART VARNEY (FOX BUSINESS HOST): This is as good a time as I can remember to be an American worker. There are plenty of jobs out there. And the report that we're going to get in a couple of hours' time, I think it will show that America has the strongest economy of all the industrial democracies. Europe, slowing down. Japan, slowing down. China, slowing down. America growing with 7 million unfilled jobs. Now, that's quite a position to be in.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly jobs report at 8:30 a.m. showed that employment growth “changed little in February” with a net gain of only 20,000 -- far below economic analysts’ expectations of at least 180,000 jobs.

    But, minutes later, Trump misquoted what Varney said, turning his rosy prediction of the February employment report into a declaration that America’s economy is the strongest:

    Even though Trump misquoted him, Varney still opened his show by thanking the president for his tweet: