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Justice & Civil Liberties

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  • News outlets shouldn’t sugarcoat Trump’s calls for violence and hate

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH, MILES LE, SARAH WASKO & JOHN KERR

    The president of the United States regularly incites violence. No news outlet should ever pretend that’s normal.

    Not only did he fail twice to clearly denounce white supremacy and violence incited by neo-Nazis, but he also claimed that “many sides” -- including the counterprotestors -- were to blame for the violence (which is a false equivalence) and that some of those who marched in the so-called “Unite The Right” rally were “fine people.” (White supremacists even praised Trump for his response.)

    We shouldn’t be surprised that he can’t condemn violence when he regularly encourages and incites it:

    Like that time he endorsed police brutality.

    Or when he tweeted this video someone made of him beating up CNN.

    Or the the time he implied that “Second Amendment people” could shoot Hillary Clinton.

    Or how about when he complained that people were “too politically correct” to hurt one another.

    Or when he told a white supporter who punched a black protester at his campaign rally that’d he look into paying his legal fees.

    Or at another rally when he told his supporters to “knock the crap out of” any protesters they saw.

    News commentators tend to suggest these comments shouldn’t be taken seriously or that he was just joking or that he was just trying to appeal to his base -- or they interview his shills, who downplay the seriousness of endorsing violence.

    This type of coverage misses the point. Using threats of violence to gain supporters is just wrong, and not something that news outlets should ever treat as a normal part of politics. We should be debating ideas -- not talking about how we’re going to clobber people we don’t like.

    Trump is telling his followers to hurt people -- those who are different from them, those who have different beliefs, and those who are just deemed to deserve it. When Trump incites violence, it makes America a more dangerous and more toxic place for all of us.

    News outlets shouldn’t sugarcoat what’s going on here.

  • NRA’s double standard on terror is on display following vehicle attacks in the US and Spain

    NRA’s live news show used Barcelona terror attacks to suggest “political correctness” could cause an attack in the U.S., but has had nothing to say about last week’s Charlottesville attack

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Rifle Association’s live news show Stinchfield issued a “terror alert” following terrorist van attacks in Spain, in which ISIS supporters drove vans into crowds at two locations, killing 14 and injuring more than 100 people. But the show has yet to mention the events of August 12 in Charlottesville, VA, where a neo-Nazi plowed his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing activist Heather Heyer and wounding 19 others.

    Since the terror in Charlottesville, Stinchfield -- which consists of five daily updates at the top of the hour on weekdays starting at 9 a.m. EST -- has run 21 segments totalling approximately 210 minutes of airtime without mentioning the attack in Virginia.

    During its 9 a.m. update on August 18, Stinchfield used the tragedy in Spain to push right-wing talking points. During the broadcast, a “terror alert” appeared on the screen, which the NRA show has displayed after other attacks.

    Recounting the details of the attack, host Grant Stinchfield said to NRATV correspondent Chuck Holton, “All of this, though, reminds me, Chuck, of the lessons we can learn here in America, which is open borders are very dangerous, the terrorists will certainly exploit it. We have that situation going on in Europe with the open borders. And the other is political correctness.”

    He continued, “In Europe, they are so afraid to offend anyone when it comes to keeping people safe. And so you combine those two things together, and this is what’s going to happen in places like Europe, and I’m afraid, Chuck, in America as well.”

    During the segment, Holton criticized Spain’s gun laws (falsely claiming that “people are not allowed to have guns here”) and Stinchfield called on “patriotic Muslims” to “infiltrate” terror cells in the United States and in Europe.

    Stinchfield routinely uses terror attacks in Europe to push right-wing talking points and promote gun ownership. Following the bombing at Manchester Arena in May, Holton claimed that the U.K. “has had this coming for a long time” in part because of the country’s gun laws, and also blamed the attack on “gender-bending,” “multiculturalism,” and open borders for refugees. Following the March vehicle and knife attack at London Bridge, Stinchfield said, “This attack should serve as a reminder of how important our gun rights are here in America.”

    Beyond the double standard about what types of terror warrant mention on Stinchfield, the lack of coverage of Charlottesville stands out more within the context of the NRA being widely criticized earlier this year for releasing an ad that critics said encouraged violence against left-wing protesters.

    Both of these tragedies call for widespread media coverage, but Stinchfield is making a very conspicuous choice to only commentate on one.

  • Thanks to Fox's Tucker Carlson, pro-Trump Reddit is discovering anti-abortion extremism

    Fox News' Carlson has been hosting more anti-abortion extremists -- and members of a pro-Trump Reddit forum are taking notice 

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News’ Tucker Carlson had a night off on August 7, but that didn’t stop him from airing yet another interview with anti-choice extremist and spreading misinformation about Planned Parenthood. And Reddit’s “r/The_Donald” forum, where “alt-right” members supporting President Donald Trump congregate, is starting to take notice.

    During the August 7 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, guest host Laura Ingraham -- who has her own history of spreading misinformation about abortion -- aired a pre-taped interview in which Carlson hosted anti-choice activist Abby Johnson. Although posts about abortion don’t usually gain much traction in “r/The_Donald”, the August 7 segment sparked an unusual amount of interest from users.

    Since moving into a coveted primetime spot in the Fox News lineup, Carlson has seemingly made a habit of hosting anti-abortion activists and packaging their misinformation around the theme of “censorship.” Within the anti-abortion movement, alleging censorship has become a popular tactic, in which an anti-abortion group or outlet alleges it has been persecuted in order to rally followers and raise funds. Although Carlson positions his program to appeal to right-wing and “alt-right” extremists, as Media Matters noted in July, he has taken particular pains to manufacture outrage on behalf of anti-abortion guests by alleging that their misinformation has been censored by another outlet.

    In the pre-taped August 7 interview, Johnson expanded beyond the typical right-wing media attacks on Planned Parenthood that often allege the organization is not an essential health care provider. Johnson additionally argued that Planned Parenthood not only had so-called “abortion quotas” -- a claim that has been soundly debunked -- but also attempted to provide patients with birth control “with a high human error rate” so they would later schedule abortions, another falsehood that is most often repeated by only the most extreme anti-abortion activists.

    Pro-Trump Reddit users don’t often engage with topics related to abortion. For example, during Republicans’ unsuccessful attempt to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a post on “r/The_Donald” about a provision of the repeal bill that would have defunded Planned Parenthood generated only two comments. Similarly, a new smear video from the discredited anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) that was posted to “r/The_Donald” yielded only one comment; and a post promoting a Facebook Live event of another anti-abortion group (Students for Life of America) received zero comments. On other occasions, however, threads about Planned Parenthood on “r/The_Donald” did generate a greater number of comments, but even these topped out at around 200 replies.   

    In contrast, a post concerning the August 7 segment of Carlson’s show generated upwards of 700 comments from pro-Trump Reddit users on “r/The_Donald.” Most notably, a number of users described the segment as a “red pill” moment for them -- a pop culture term referring to an experience that supposedly shows reality to an individual -- or as evidence of so-called “censorship” and responded by making threats against Planned Parenthood employees.

    One poster wrote that “this may be the biggest redpill any of us have ever swallowed,” while another said that it was good because “we need a kick in the ass like this.” A third poster argued, “I've always said that abortion is the biggest red pill you can take. Glad to see [“r/The_Donald”] is taking it.”

    In another example, a user described the segment as “my final red pill on abortion.”

    Beyond expressing general outrage about what are, in reality, inaccurate allegations against Planned Parenthood, some users went a step further and posted threatening statements against the organization’s staff and board members. One poster wrote, “DEFUND THEN (sic) BURN THE BUILDINGS DOWN,” garnering a response from another user that someone should “salt the earth once the flames have died down.”

    Others argued that Planned Parenthood staff should “be imprisoned for life for first degree murder,” that “these demons are not of this earth” and that “every single person on the board of [Planned Parenthood] needs to be strung by the neck.”

    In instances where individuals didn’t call for attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics or staff, they seemingly endorsed acts of anti-choice violence committed by others. As one user wrote, “I used to think the people that attacked these clinics were nuts, but WOW.” Another wrote that they would “be okay if vigilantes started burning these places down in the night.”

    After white supremacists and neo-Nazis rallied in Charlottesville, VA -- leaving one person dead and many injured -- the threat posed by radicalized online communities cannot be understated. Although Carlson may not be the originator of the anti-choice misinformation he spreads, he is specially packaging it for an audience rife with misogyny and primed for violence. And if pro-Trump Reddit’s reaction to Carlson’s segment with Johnson is any indication, these online communities are starting to take notice.

  • Kentucky broadcast media favor anti-choice voices in covering Operation Save America protests

    ››› ››› REBECCA DAMANTE & JULIE TULBERT

    During the final week of July, the extreme anti-abortion group Operation Save America (OSA) protested in front of Kentucky’s last remaining abortion clinic with the goal of shutting it down. From July 1 through 31, Kentucky broadcast media aired 209 segments on the topic and overall featured a greater number of anti-abortion protesters than pro-choice advocates. Kentucky media also failed to provide context about the violent history and rhetoric of OSA, including group members’ violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE Act) during a protest in May.

  • White nationalists cheer Trump for assigning blame to “both sides” for Charlottesville violence

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    White nationalists applauded President Donald Trump for giving a press conference where he cast “blame on both sides” for an August 12 white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, VA, that culminated in a neo-Nazi plowing his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing activist Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

    During his August 15 remarks from Trump Tower, Trump also blamed the “alt left” for violence and defended an earlier protest held the evening of August 11 where white nationalists carried torches while shouting racist and anti-Semitic chants.

    David Duke -- a white nationalist radio host, noted anti-Semite, and former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard -- wrote on Twitter, “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa”:

    Duke was an early Trump backer and has been a strong supporter of the president and his administration. In February 2016, Trump declined to denounce Duke after being pressed several times by CNN’s Jake Tapper during an appearance on State of the Union. In other instances, Trump has denounced Duke under pressure.

    White nationalist website VDare used the presser to call Trump a “God-Emperor,” a common compliment for Trump among racists:

    James Edwards, the host of white nationalist radio show The Political Cesspool, wrote, “Progress! @realDonaldTrump now puts #Charlottesville blame at the feet of 'Alt-Left' who came in 'without a permit'":

  • With Charlottesville attack, NRATV confronted with terrorism it doesn’t want to hype

    NRATV produced the infamous “clenched fist of truth” ad critics recently said called for violence against protesters

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Every weekday morning starting at 9 a.m., the National Rifle Association’s news outlet NRATV begins its broadcast with a show -- Stinchfield, hosted by Texas radio personality Grant Stinchfield -- that “brings you live news updates and interviews” and “tackles the issues the mainstream media won't.”

    On Monday it quickly became apparent that there are some topics the mainstream media will cover, but NRATV still won’t. Throughout the morning, the show completely ignored a story that had shaken the nation. On Saturday a neo-Nazi rammed his car into a crowd demonstrating against white nationalists in Charlottesville, VA, killing activist Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

    The first hourly update of Monday’s show, the first to air since Saturday’s attack, covered gun violence in Baltimore. The 10 a.m. update covered the NRA’s upcoming “concealed carry” fashion show, the 11 a.m. hour featured discussion of the Czech Republic’s gun laws, and the noon update was about a police officer mistakenly asked not to bring his firearm into his doctor’s office. The last update of the day, at 1 p.m., talked about a case where a bureaucratic error caused a New York man to have his guns temporarily confiscated.

    (Later in the day NRATV’s talk radio-style program Cam & Company touched on Charlottesville in commentary that criticized right-wing and left-wing extremists.)

    The lack of coverage of Charlottesville on Stinchfield was conspicuous given that terrorism is typically a bread-and-butter topic for the NRA program.

    Consider Stinchfield’s coverage choices on June 5, two days after terrorists affiliated with ISIS used a car to run over pedestrians on London Bridge before attacking others with knives. All five segments that day were devoted to the attack, which was hyped during each update with a “terror alert” chyron:

    Programming that day used the attack to push the NRA’s conservative agenda, including calling for the surveillance of mosques and for more British citizens to be armed. Similarly, all five updates on May 23, following the Manchester Arena bombing, were devoted to pushing NRA talking points in light of the attack.

    Stinchfield also covered the June 19 terror attack in north London where a man drove a van into a crowd of civilians outside of a mosque. But in that case Stinchfield would only call it a “maybe attack” and said that “something just seems odd” about the incident that law enforcement said targeted Muslims.

    After a gunman in Fresno, CA, killed three people in April, updates on Stinchfield repeatedly labeled the shooting terrorism despite law enforcement’s insistence that the attack wasn’t terrorism, but instead a hate crime based on anti-white sentiment.

    Beyond the clear double standard NRATV employs when making coverage decisions about terrorism, Stinchfield’s silence on Charlottesville is even more significant given that NRATV released an enormously controversial ad earlier this year that critics recently called an incitement to violence against liberal protesters.

    The ad conflated isolated incidents of property damage during anti-Trump protests with the resistance movement at large, giving viewers the false impression that protests against Trump are often violent. The spot was narrated by NRATV commentator and NRA national spokesperson Dana Loesch, a daily guest on Stinchfield, who said “the only way we save our country and our freedom is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.”

    Instead of talking about Charlottesville, renewed criticism of the ad, or what the NRA thinks about anti-racist protesters, Loesch devoted her Monday appearance to a week-old local interest story of little import.

  • After praising Trump's statement on Charlottesville, a neo-Nazi website celebrates murder of counterprotester Heather Heyer

    Hate website The Daily Stormer says victim was "the definition of uselessness" and that "most people are glad she is dead"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    White nationalist and neo-Nazi hate website The Daily Stormer openly celebrated the murder of counterprotester Heather Heyer during the violent August 12 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, calling her a “slob” and a “burden on society” with “no value.” The website previously praised Trump’s response to the rally.

    Heyer, a 32-year-old who, according to her mother, was “determined to stand up to injustice,” was murdered when a car plowed through counterprotesters at the rally. At least 19 others were injured. According to The New York Times, the driver of the car was “charged with second-degree murder” and stood alongside white nationalist groups during the rally. One of the driver's former teachers has said that he was a Nazi sympathizer with "white supremacist views" and "a big idolatry of Adolf Hitler."

    President Donald Trump received widespread criticism for condemning “violence on many sides” in the wake of the incident rather than immediately denouncing white supremacy. An unnamed spokesperson has since issued a statement to reporters condemning “white supremacists,” though The New York Times reported that “it was not attributed directly to Mr. Trump.” The Daily Stormer, however, lauded President Trump’s comments, saying that “he didn’t attack us” and gave “no condemnation at all.” The Daily Stormer, designated a neo-Nazi hate site by the Southern Poverty Law Center, has long been a fan of President Trump, having said that a vote for him would be a vote “for the one man who actually represents our interests” and having praised his hiring of Steve Bannon.

    In his August 13 article, Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin asserted that “most people are glad [Heyer] is dead, as she is the definition of uselessness.” He also called the victim an “overweight slob with no children” and praised the driver of the car as a “hardcore player” with a “cool demeanor” who “didn’t give a fuck.”

  • How anti-abortion groups are using Wash. Post to legitimize their attacks on Planned Parenthood 

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN & JULIE TULBERT

    On August 2, The Washington Post’s health care newsletter, The Health 202, featured an exclusive preview of an anti-Planned Parenthood report from the anti-abortion Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) -- the research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List. After the full report’s publication, anti-abortion groups and outlets pointed to the Post’s exclusive to legitimize the misinformation the report included or promoted the report themselves. 

  • Anti-abortion media use new smear video to lobby lawmakers before health care vote

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    In the early hours of July 28, Republican senators failed to pass a bill to dismantle key parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and defund Planned Parenthood on a 51-49 vote. Prior to the vote, the discredited anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) had released yet another of its deceptive smear videos alleging wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood, and anti-abortion and right-wing media circulated the clip as a reason to vote for the Republican bill.