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  • Arizona journalists debunk edited video used by conservatives to smear Democratic Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Conservative media used an out-of-context video to falsely claim that Senate candidate Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) called all Arizonans "crazy." As local journalists explained, the full context of her remarks shows that Sinema was clearly referring only to Republican lawmakers in Arizona who were promoting extremist legislation, such as the state’s racially discriminatory SB 1070 "papers please" law.

    This smear originated with an October 11 tweet from the Twitter account “The Reagan Battalion,” described by The Associated Press as “an anonymous conservative group,” which published a 65 second-long video with clear edits at the 23 and 30 second marks, stripping Sinema's remarks of necessary context. According to the tweet, Sinema mocked “Arizonans as 'Crazy' and calls Arizona the 'crazy' state."

    As of 11 a.m. EDT today, that crudely edited video had roughly 240,000 views. The Reagan Battalion later posted a full 5 minute 23 second version on its YouTube account, suggesting it had the full context all along. The original, uncut video had only 3,129 views as of 11 a.m.

    Fox News host Sean Hannity ran with this false framing, citing The Reagan Battalion and saying the video showed Sinema "calling Arizonans, the people she wants to vote for her, crazy."
     

    Conservative outlet Independent Journal Review (IJR) embedded the deceptively edited Reagan Battalion video and tweet in a piece that falsely blared in its headline: “Leaked Video Shows Arizona Dem Senate Candidate Mocking Arizonans as ‘Crazy’ While in Texas.” Talk radio host and MSNBC contributor Hugh Hewitt tweeted: “Wow: ‘Sinema Called Arizonans “Crazy” at Texas Democratic Event in 2011,’” linking to a Washington Free Beacon story with a similarly misleading headline, despite the body of the piece acknowledging that she was referring to Republican lawmakers. Fox & Friends also aired an edited version of Sinema’s remarks which included her reference to Republicans lawmakers, yet the show still falsely claimed in an on-air graphic that “Sinema mocked Arizonans as ‘crazy’ in 2011.”

    But local journalists quickly made clear that conservatives were wrong to claim Sinema was referring to all Arizonans as “crazy.” Arizona Capitol Times editor Luige del Puerto called out The Reagan Battalion in a tweet, pointing out the clear edits and demanding it “show the unedited version so we can hear her whole speech.” He also told IJR that it was wrong to promote the misleadingly edited video. And The Arizona Republic published an article on Sinema’s full remarks with the correct context and a factually correct headline: “Kyrsten Sinema in 2011: 'There’s something wrong with the people in public office in Arizona.’” The lede of the article stated: “Rep. Kyrsten Sinema seven years ago ridiculed as ‘crazy’ the Republican elected officials leading the state at the time, and the anti-illegal immigration legislation that began in Arizona and was being replicated in state Capitols across the nation.”

    And Sinema was absolutely correct about the extremist nature of the Republican legislators in Arizona. The 2010 Arizona anti-immigrant bill SB 1070, known as the “papers please” law because it required police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being in the country without authorization, was so extreme that the Supreme Court struck down three out of four provisions of the law in 2012. The remaining provision that required officers to question people’s immigration status and demand immigration documents was largely rendered moot in 2016 when the state settled a lawsuit brought by immigrants’ rights groups. The Arizona Republic explained that the law “sparked a national outcry” and “led to a torrent of canceled trips to Arizona by would-be tourists and conventioneers, and travel bans by cities and organizations around the country who deemed the legislation discriminatory and in violation of federal law.” The same article pointed out other extreme legislation introduced by Republicans in the state legislature that year:

    In 2011, the year of Sinema’s remarks, Republicans at the Arizona Capitol had introduced other legislation targeting undocumented immigrants.

    One bill would have required hospitals to check a person’s legal status and notify law enforcement if they suspected the person was in the United States illegally. Another would have banned illegal immigrants from going to state universities and community colleges, and from getting federal benefits.

    A third targeted the issue of birthright citizenship.

    All of the bills failed.

    Russell Pearce, who was singled out in Sinema’s remarks and authored the SB 1070 legislation, was forced into a recall election over the bill and lost to another Republican the year after it was signed into law.

  • GOP House candidate Diane Harkey touts endorsement from bigoted group that promotes white nationalist propaganda

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    UPDATE: After the publication of this post, Diane Harkey removed the San Diegans for Secure Borders' endorsement from her website.

    Republican congressional candidate Diane Harkey touts an endorsement on her website from San Diegans for Secure Borders (SDSB), an anti-immigrant group that promotes white nationalist propaganda and attacks Latino and Muslim immigrants as foreign invaders.

    Harkey, who is the chairwoman of the State Board of Equalization in California, is running to replace retiring Republican Rep. Darrell Issa. President Donald Trump endorsed Harkey in August.

    Anti-immigrant writer Jeff Schwilk heads SDSB. He previously led the San Diego Minutemen, which, according to a 2007 Southern Poverty Law Center report, physically intimidated migrants and called them racist slurs. In 2009, a jury ordered Schwilk to pay $135,000 for defaming an Asian-American immigration activist with racist and derogatory remarks; Schwilk reportedly said of the activist, among other comments: "She is Korean. She looks anorexic, and she dresses and looks like a slut."

    San Diegans for Secure Borders also regularly traffics in bigotry. A Media Matters review of its Facebook page found that the Harkey-backing group:

    • posted anti-immigrant propaganda from VDare, a leading white nationalist website, in at least 14 instances. The SDSB-linked pieces include white nationalist propaganda and a piece written by an author who has described himself as a "mild and tolerant" "racist”;
    • attacked undocumented Latino immigrants as foreign invaders and claimed Mexico wants "to control [California] again through mass occupation, and they are. Latinos (mostly Mexicans) are now the dominant 'race' in California”; and
    • claimed that there's a Muslim "invasion" in California and Muslim candidates could bring "Sharia Law in our Congress."

    SDSB heavily promotes VDare, a notorious white nationalist publication

    VDare is a white nationalist site run by Peter Brimelow that’s dedicated to smearing immigrants. It has published numerous prominent racists, including anti-Semite Kevin MacDonald, white nationalist Jared Taylor, and Charlottesville, VA, white nationalist rally leader Jason Kessler.

    White House economics adviser Larry Kudlow recently had to distance himself from Brimelow after The Washington Post reported that the VDare head attended “a birthday bash for Kudlow, one day after a White House speechwriter was dismissed in the wake of revelations that he had spoken alongside Brimelow on a 2016 panel.”

    SDSB’s Facebook page has promoted content from VDare on at least 14 occasions (1/7/13; 2/25/13; 2/26/13; 3/23/13; 6/13/15; 11/21/15; 5/14/16; 5/26/16; 2/14/17; 2/27/17; 5/22/17; 11/20/17; 11/27/17; 8/13/18).

    VDare itself has promoted SDSB’s efforts, writing in March 2013: “There's a new coalition in California, fighting for immigration enforcement and against amnesty. It's called the ‘San Diegans for Secure Borders Coalition.’ … You might check the coalition out, especially if you reside in the San Diego area.” SDSB responded by writing: “Nice little plug from VDARE. And we're just getting started.”

    The SDSB-promoted VDare articles unsurprisingly feature white nationalist tropes. For instance:

    • VDare writer Allan Wall wrote in a November 18, 2017, piece that Democratic Senate candidate and state Sen. Kevin de León is “quite likely an anchor baby. His mother was definitely illegal and probably his father as well. … If Kevin de León goes to the Senate, he will bring his California-style illegal alien Reconquista agenda there.” He added regarding immigration: “There is no compromise on these basic issues. Either we fight to protect American sovereignty -- or we will be replaced.”
    • Wall claimed in an August 12 piece that “Mexicans meddle culturally, politically, diplomatically and demographically. They constantly work to win or maintain the loyalty of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the United States.”
    • John Derbyshire, a self-described “mild and tolerant” “racist” who was fired from National Review after he said that he advised his children to avoid Black people, complained about Haitians living in the United States on temporary protected status (TPS) in a November 25, 2017, piece. He wrote that Haiti, after its 2010 earthquake, is “still a godforsaken slum. That's a consequence of its very low levels of human capital, though; and that's not the fault of Americans, or of anyone other than Mother Nature. Why are we supposed to pay for other countries' godforsakenness?” He added of the prospect of Haitians becoming American citizens: “Note, ominously, that those 60,000 Haitian recipients of TPS have, during their eight years in our country, brought forth around 30,000 children -- all of them, thanks to our insane policy of birthright citizenship, U.S. citizens.”

    SDSB portrays undocumented immigration as a "hostile invasion from Mexico"

    SDSB has repeatedly attacked undocumented immigrants from Mexico as foreign invaders. Here are several examples:

    • SDSB wrote on August 10, 2013, regarding a story headlined, "Judicial Watch Goes to Court Monday to End Los Angeles Illegal Immigration Sanctuary Policy": "Good Americans are still fighting the hostile invasion from Mexico."
    • SDSB wrote on May 14, 2016: “Mexican Government in a full panic over impending Trump presidency! They know Trump is dead serious about stopping the invasion of criminals and unwanted peasants from Mexico!”
    • SDSB wrote on July 25, 2017: “NCLR (La Raza) changes its name, but is still a racist Mexican front group and anti-American, anti-white hate group. Thank God their Reconquista is dying. Send that Mexican hate back to Mexico where it belongs!"
    • SDSB wrote on September 21, 2017: “Illegal immigration is more than just jobs; its (sic) about foreign occupation of our country by millions of Mexican citizens and loyalists. Wake up, America, we are at war!”
    • SDSB wrote on December 19, 2017, about a report that “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will no longer have a desk at the Monterey County Jail”: “Here we go! Mexican Reconquista on steroids in Mexifornia now. Adios Golden State.”

    Schwilk has attacked Democratic politician Kevin de León as a “lawless illegal alien powerful politician” who is a “dangerous foreign agent.” The group also called de León “an anchor baby illegal alien” who “works with and for the Mexican Government to help them make California a Mexican state again (La Reconquista)”:

    De Leon is an anchor baby illegal alien from Los Angeles / Tijuana / Barrio Logan, San Diego (home of Chicano Park) and works with and for the Mexican Government to help them make California a Mexican state again (La Reconquista). Mexico briefly controlled California in the early 1800’s for 27 years. They want to control it again through mass occupation, and they are. Latinos (mostly Mexicans) are now the dominant “race” in California.

    In response to a commenter who said that “for the most part it's true if you vote for a Latino they will protect Illegals before they protect citizens,” the group wrote: “Most but not all. SgtMaj [and California Republican congressional candidate] Juan Hidalgo is a true American patriot.”

    SBSB is virulently anti-Muslim

    SBSB frequently attacks Muslims. The group has claimed that there’s a supposed “muslim and illegal alien invasion in San Diego and California.”

    In 2016, it complained of President Barack Obama’s purported “massive unvetted Muslim refugee dumping in San Diego.” In February, the group shared a post from the Facebook page San Diegans against Islamic Sharia Law that began: “Best news in years! Muslim refugee arrivals down 96% in San Diego County in FY18!” 

    The group has also attacked political candidates because they're Muslim. The group wrote, “In case [Republican congressional candidate] Omar Qudrat or any of the other 3 Muslim candidates running for office in San Diego make it past the Primary on Tuesday. Hold them accountable!” and then linked to an article by anti-Muslim writer Bill Warner stating that people should ask Muslim political candidates “well crafted questions about Sharia.”

    SBSB also posted a link to a HuffPost article reporting that “a handful of candidates running for office in 2018 could soon become the first Muslim woman (or women) to ever serve in U.S. Congress,” commenting: “How do you feel about Sharia Law in our Congress?” 

    In a radio interview, Schwilk falsely claimed that “not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.”

  • The writer with ties to white nationalists who resigned from DHS donated to the RNC, Donald Trump, Kris Kobach, and Dave Brat

    Update: Ian Smith also donated to Corey Stewart's 2017 gubernatorial campaign

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Ian Smith, a writer who recently resigned from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over his ties to white nationalists, donated thousands of dollars combined to the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the Republican campaigns of President Donald Trump, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and Rep. Dave Brat from Virginia..

    The Atlantic’s Rosie Gray reported on August 28 that Smith, who had recently worked at DHS as a policy analyst on immigration issues, “had in the past been in contact with a group that included known white nationalists as they planned various events.” She added that the messages “provide a glimpse into how a group that included hard-core white nationalists was able to operate relatively incognito in the wider world, particularly in conservative circles.”

    The Washington Post’s Nick Miroff reported on August 30 that "Smith, a Department of Homeland Security analyst who resigned this week after he was confronted about his ties to white nationalist groups, attended multiple immigration policy meetings at the White House, according to government officials familiar with his work.”

    Additionally, as Miroff noted, “during the period he was in communication with white-supremacist groups, Smith wrote dozens of articles for publications including National Review, the Hill and the Daily Caller. Many of the pieces call for tighter immigration controls.” Mother Jones’ Noah Lanard reported more on Smith’s media career in an August 30 piece, writing that he has a “long history of radical anti-immigrant writings.”

    Media Matters found that Smith also donated a total of $8,150 to Republicans in recent years. He donated $540 to the Republican National Committee, $2,700 to Trump Make America Great Again Committee (a joint fundraising committee for Trump and the RNC), $2,160 to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., and $250 to Friends of Dave Brat Inc., according to Federal Election Commission data. He also donated $2,000 to Kris Kobach’s gubernatorial campaign, according to Kansas Secretary of State data; and he donated $500 to Corey Stewart's 2017 campaign for Virginia governor, according to Virginia Department of Elections data accessed via the Virginia Public Access Project (Stewart, a neo-Confederate, is now running for U.S. Senate).

  • Media should stop treating Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation as inevitable

    Activists and concerned citizens are fired up and engaged in the fight against Kavanaugh

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN & MILES LE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Ever since President Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to fill retiring Anthony Kennedy’s Supreme Court seat, media outlets have continually downplayed the energy and activism of those working to oppose this far-right nominee’s confirmation, treating it as a fait accompli.

    Trump announced Kavanaugh’s nomination on July 9, 2018, a week and a half after Justice Anthony Kennedy disclosed that he would be retiring from the Supreme Court (he officially retired July 31). Despite Kavanaugh’s record as “an uncommonly partisan judge” with troubling views on the environment, labor, LGBTQ discrimination, abortion rights, gun safety, immigration, and more, many media figures portrayed him as a centrist pick who is “within the broad mainstream” and “not as far right” as other options Trump considered.

    In addition, many outlets have treated his confirmation as inevitable. For example, The Washington Post and The New York Times argued that activists weren’t engaged in the fight to stop Kavanaugh. As the Post wrote, “Democrats have all but acknowledged that they are unable to stop the Senate from confirming Trump nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court this fall,” while the Times blamed everything from upcoming midterm elections to activists’ inability to compete with “an almost daily barrage of other Trump administration actions” for the perceived lack of energy. New York magazine similarly argued that “the resistance to Kavanaugh has remained on a low flame, failing to boil over into the righteous fury that characterized the battle over Obamacare repeal last summer.”

    However, as Rewire.News’ Katelyn Burns reported, “Brett Kavanaugh’s ascension to the U.S. Supreme Court is not inevitable.” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund told Burns, “A veneer of inevitability has been the actual strategy that the people backing Kavanaugh have used,” but activists are “countering that and saying, ‘No way.'” HuffPost guest writer Robert Creamer similarly argued that treating Kavanaugh’s nomination as inevitable “plays right into the hands of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who hopes to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.” Creamer pointed to Kavanaugh’s extremely narrow path to confirmation -- with Republicans having “a tiny effective majority of 50 to 49 in the Senate” -- as well as his incredibly low approval numbers, and the “unprecedented nationwide campaign to resist” his confirmation, as evidence that the fight against Kavanaugh is far from over. As Teen Vogue columnist Lauren Duca wrote: “When you subscribe to the myth of inevitability, you confirm it as reality, and for anyone who gives a sh*t about equality and/or democracy, that is simply not an option.”

    Outlets may not be reporting on the vast amount of activist energy against Kavanaugh, but people are fired up and making their feelings known:

    Kavanaugh's confirmation isn't inevitable -- he's got the lowest approval ratings of any Supreme Court nominee in decades, in addition to an extreme record on a number of consequential topics. The hearings to confirm Kavanaugh start soon. And media shouldn’t erase or ignore the very real opposition to his confirmation that’s on display across the country.