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  • Facebook’s fact-checking operation partnering with division of Tucker Carlson’s toxic Daily Caller website

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Check Your Fact, a division of Tucker Carlson’s far-right and falsehood-laden Daily Caller website, is the newest member of Facebook’s fact-checking consortium.

    Facebook’s fact-checking program has struggled in its efforts to control the spread of misinformation on its platform. And the program’s new inclusion of Check Your Fact, a subsidiary of an odious right-wing platform with dubious funding sources, will do little to boost confidence. (Disclosure: In March 2018, Check Your Fact fact-checked a claim that I made about the National Rifle Association, rating the claim “true.”)

    The news about Check Your Fact possibly becoming a part of Facebook’s fact-checking project started circulating last year. In order to participate in Facebook’s program, fact-checking groups must become members of journalism school Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), and Check Your Fact was accredited by IFCN in 2017. According to The Wall Street Journal, in the summer of 2018, Facebook executive and former George W. Bush administration official Joel Kaplan started pushing for it to be included in Facebook’s fact-checking project. But other executives at Facebook were opposed to its inclusion because of falsehoods promoted by The Daily Caller, and debate over the matter ended after Check Your Fact lost its IFCN accreditation in November 2018:

    This summer, Mr. Kaplan pushed to partner with right-wing news site The Daily Caller’s fact-checking division after conservatives accused Facebook of working only with mainstream publishers, people familiar with the discussions said. Conservative critics argued those publications had a built-in liberal bias.

    Mr. Kaplan argued that The Daily Caller was accredited by the Poynter Institute, a St. Petersburg, Fla.-based journalism nonprofit that oversees a network of fact-checkers. Other executives, including some in the Washington, D.C. office, argued that the publication printed misinformation. The contentious discussion involved Mr. Zuckerberg, who appeared to side with Mr. Kaplan, and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. The debate ended in November when The Daily Caller’s fact-checking operation lost its accreditation.

    Indeed, according to public assessments of Check Your Fact published by IFCN, the operation has not always been in full compliance with requirements about public disclosure of funding. In Check Your Fact’s most recent application, which led to its new accreditation, the operation discloses that it is funded via Daily Caller's general operating budget, the website's ad revenue, and a $100,000 grant from The Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF) that was provided by the Searle Freedom Trust.

    Searle Freedom Trust is a right-wing foundation that has funded a plethora of conservative groups -- including the American Legislative Exchange Council, Americans for Prosperity, and the American Enterprise Institute -- and has backed efforts to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act. The foundation has also given money to DonorsTrust, a pass-through organization affiliated with the Koch brothers that is used to anonymously fund right-wing causes.

    The DCNF, which was also founded by Tucker Carlson, presents itself as a charity, but questions have been raised about whether its purpose is actually to increase profits at the Daily Caller. As an investigation published by the Center for Media and Democracy explained, DCNF’s primary purpose appears to be to generate content that is then used by the for-profit Daily Caller website:

    The Daily Caller claimed in its 501(c)(3) application to the IRS and on its website that the foundation deserves its charity status because it “is a consumer research educational organization” whose goal is to provide “consumer news and research” to “mainstream consumers,” and because it licenses its content to other news outlets free of charge and has a mission “to train up-and-coming reporters and editors.”

    But CMD’s analysis indicates that one of the Daily Caller News Foundation’s primary activities is to provide The Daily Caller Inc. with a steady stream of content for its for-profit news website.

    The Daily Caller Inc. acknowledges this activity in its promotional materials for advertisers. In its 2016 advertising deck, The Daily Caller Inc. touts the nonprofit’s influence, stating, “The Daily Caller News Foundation has an advantage that most new media outlets do not: access to millions of views. Reporting created by The Foundation is automatically sent for consideration to the for-profit Daily Caller.”

    While Check Your Fact claims to have editorial independence from the Daily Caller, both entities are divisions of Daily Caller Inc. The Daily Caller is a fount of right-wing misinformation. According to an analysis conducted by data journalism professor Jonathan Albright, the Daily Caller is one of the leading online traffic drivers of misinformation alongside Breitbart News and YouTube.

    In particular, the Daily Caller has published false information about climate change for years. In a 2011 incident that reportedly embarrassed some employees of the outlet, the Daily Caller published a false report claiming the Environmental Protection Agency wanted taxpayers to fund the hiring of 230,000 new workers to implement climate regulations at a cost of $21 billion. The claim was made on a misreading of legal documents, but the Daily Caller refused to issue a correction to its clearly incorrect report. More recently, the Daily Caller has distorted academic research on climate change, falsely claimed that an increase in population of two penguin species disproves global warming, and pushed false information about the connection between climate change and extreme weather events.

    The Daily Caller is also home to right-wing extremism. Among some recent lowlights, the website has repeatedly published white nationalists and anti-Semites, hired a writer who pushed the Pizzagate child trafficking conspiracy theory and conspiracy theories about murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, promoted a Holocaust denier, and published and then deleted an anti-Semitic video that targeted a New York Times reporter.

    Alex Kaplan contributed research to this post.

  • Eric Bolling's new show for Sinclair Broadcast Group brings the worst of right-wing media to local news

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL



    Sinclair Broadcast Group’s newest program signals the conservative media giant’s shift toward more openly embracing right-wing propaganda and hiring Fox News castoffs.

    On April 2, Mediaite reported that Sinclair was set to debut America This Week, a new weekly program hosted by Eric Bolling. The first episode would include appearances by several members of the Trump inner circle: former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and 2020 campaign adviser and the president’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump. Bolling is a newly official Sinclair personality who has been making appearances on its national programming for months, and he also hosts a streaming show with right-wing outlet BlazeTV. He was previously a host and co-host at Fox News -- where he regularly trafficked in conspiracy theories, misogyny, and race-baiting -- but he left in 2017 amid reports that he sent multiple colleagues unsolicited images of genitalia.

    The first two episodes of Eric Bolling’s America This Week program are straight out of Fox News

    In a sign of Sinclair’s increasing willingness to adopt the Fox News model of poisoning viewers against any other news sources, much of the first hour-long program was devoted to decrying so-called media bias against President Donald Trump:

    • The program began with a brief introductory monologue from Bolling in which he told viewers, “This show is all about holding the mainstream media and the powerful accountable.” Bolling then decried “today’s media, where truth and facts give way to biased opinions and a dangerous disregard for fact.”
    • Bolling then led a discussion with former Trump adviser and Sinclair contributor Sebastian Gorka and Democratic strategist and frequent Fox News guest Jonathan Harris, and another with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Both Gorka and Lewandowski addressed supposed mainstream media bias against the president.
    • Later in the episode, Bolling featured a report about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from James Rosen, another former Fox News employee.
    • He also played a pre-taped interview with presidential daughter-in-law and current Trump campaign adviser Lara Trump, which touched on the idea of media bias against the president.
    • The show also aired an interview at the “Breitbart Embassy” with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon discussing, again, media bias against Trump, the concept of a “deep state,” and Bannon’s thoughts about various public figures including former FBI Director James Comey, progressive philanthropist George Soros, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), the pope, Trump, and himself.

    The second episode had similarly Fox-y elements:

    • Bolling’s monologue was focused on a “crisis at the border.”
    • It was followed by a discussion with Gorka, again, along with Democratic strategist Joel Payne, about immigration and special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
    • Bolling then introduced his interview with Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) about “the Russian collusion illusion.” Nunes spent the last portion of the interview discussing the false talking point that conservatives are being “shadow banned” or otherwise discriminated against by social media platforms and his lawsuit against Twitter.
    • Bolling conducted a long interview with former President Barack Obama adviser Austan Goolsbee (also a frequent Fox News guest), in part to discuss whether a good economy ought to be credited to Obama or Trump.
    • There was another report from Rosen, this time focused on Attorney General Bill Barr’s misleading statements before Congress about “spying” on the Trump presidential campaign in 2016.
    • And there was a discussion about Hitler apologist and far-right personality Candace Owens and “nationalism” between Sinclair chief political commentator Boris Epshteyn and Sinclair commentator Ameshia Cross.

    The episodes attempt to show some balance by including short segments from Sinclair local reporters in different states, and bringing in reporters at national outlets for a segment called “Balls and Strikes” in which Bolling goes over stories of the week (so far, Politico’s Gabby Orr, Time’s Brian Bennett, and The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay have appeared).

    Next week, Bolling said, will feature an interview with the president.

    America This Week premiered mostly online

    The first two full episodes of America This Week were posted on local Sinclair station websites on April 3 and April 10. While initial reporting suggested the show would air on Sinclair news stations across the country weekly, thus far it appears to have been distributed primarily online, with short excerpts aired on TV.

    According to the iQ media database, on April 3 and 4, local stations typically aired one (or both) of two short clips from Bolling’s interview with Bannon and then told audiences to head to the station website to see the entire program. The teasers and interview snippets aired on at least 61 Sinclair stations in 29 states and the District of Columbia. A handful of stations told viewers the full program would be broadcast on Sunday nights at a certain time, but iQ media video showed those stations airing different national programming such as Entertainment Tonight or wrestling matches at those times instead.

    The America This Week snippets that some local news viewers saw on air last week were these two clips:

    Steve Bannon railing against media bias at The New York Times and CNN (as seen here on KEYE in Austin, TX):

    Or Steve Bannon discussing a “deep state” and doing word association about himself (as seen here on KTVL in Medford, OR):

    The following week, the second episode of the program again was featured on Sinclair station websites and promoted on the air with clips from Bolling’s interview with Nunes. As seen on KBAK in Bakersfield, CA:

    The first episode of Bolling's show does not appear to have aired in full on any local news stations -- at least not on any the larger news affiliates that are included in the iQ media database. It is possible the show aired on smaller stations, like CW or MyNetwork affiliates, or on digital-only subchannels, both of which cater to smaller audiences. On April 10, Bolling promoted the show on Twitter, telling users to “check your local listings.” The replies are largely from accounts saying that they couldn’t find the program. The local Washington, D.C., Sinclair station, WJLA, aired Wheel of Fortune during the 7 p.m. hour that night.

    Eric Bolling represents the essence of Fox News

    For months before the premiere of America This Week, Bolling had been hosting ongoing town hall programming for Sinclair focused on opioids, including one in which he interviewed first lady Melania Trump. He was also beginning to make appearances on other Sinclair national programming as a “political anchor,” and he interviewed both President Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on behalf of Sinclair in recent months.

    At Fox, Bolling regularly trafficked in the casual misogyny, race-baiting, anti-Muslim rhetoric, and right-wing conspiracy theories that continue to define the network. In his time at Fox:

    • Bolling was a major voice pushing the racist birther conspiracy theory about Obama. He even examined Obama’s birth certificate on the air, speculating that the certificate’s border showed it may have been photoshopped.
    • He also speculated about the death of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, saying, “There wasn’t a robbery. … This was a hit.”
    • Bolling had to apologize for asking if the first female pilot for the United Arab Emirates, who participated in bombing against Islamic State terrorists, “would … be considered boobs on the ground.”
    • He whined that allowing young girls to play football was part of “the wussification of American men” and criticized a story of a 9-year-old girl playing football, saying, “Let the boys be boys, let the girls be girls.”
    • Bolling told Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) that she should “step away from the crack pipe.”
    • He lectured “rappers,” saying that they should be happy because white people are “financing their lifestyles” by buying their music.
    • Bolling criticized Obama's leadership by claiming the first Black president was "chugging a few 40s" instead of doing his job.
    • When Gabonese President Ali Bongo visited the White House during the Obama administration, Bolling characterized it as "a hoodlum in the hizzouse."
    • He has also argued that “there’s no racial aspect of [police] profiling” and said that racism doesn’t exist anymore.
    • Bolling argued that “every terrorist on American soil has been a Muslim.”
    • Bolling also opposed the proposal to build a Muslim community center near ground zero in New York City, suggesting it could be “a meeting place for some of the scariest minds,” even “some of the biggest terrorist minds.”

    Bolling joins other former Fox News personalities who’ve moved to Sinclair

    Bolling is one of three former Fox News employees to have landed at Sinclair after leaving the network, all of whom appeared in both episodes so far of America This Week.

    Former Fox contributor Sebastian Gorka, an anti-Muslim extremist and Washington, D.C., swamp creature, recently officially became a Sinclair contributor as well. Like Bolling, Gorka had appeared multiple times in Sinclair national news programming beforehand, and he also hosted at least two special programs that aired on Sinclair local news stations. One of these specials, called The Rise of Terrorism: A Clash of Cultures, featured footage labeled as "ISIS propaganda" and shots of terror attacks followed by Gorka asking viewers, "Can the teachings of Islam and western values ever be reconciled? Is it possible for the waves of refugees arriving in the west to assimilate and coexist peacefully?"

    Sinclair investigative reporter James Rosen also joined Sinclair this year; he previously worked as Fox News’ chief Washington correspondent before leaving the network in early 2018 amid reports that he sexually harassed colleagues.

    Sinclair’s future

    Sinclair’s recent decisions to formally hire multiple ex-Fox News figures and to give one of them a weekly online program signal the media giant’s shift to more openly embracing its reputation as a right-wing outlet. For years, Sinclair flew under the radar and was quietly injecting conservative spin into local news programming -- but now that it’s become more of a household name, it seems to be pivoting even further right.

    Before the broadcasting giant began airing Trumpian “must-run” segments warning of media bias last spring, Sinclair stations were already running multiple commentary segments featuring what were clearly right-wing perspectives, producing fearmongering “Terrorism Alert Desk” segments, and broadcasting weekly shows from conservative conspiracy theorist Sharyl Attkisson and right-wing grifter Armstrong Williams. In recent months, Sinclair finally brought a liberal commentator on board to produce “must-runs” from a different point of view, but the company simultaneously invested in Rosen, Gorka, and Bolling.

  • Paul Bedard’s Wash. Examiner column is a PR front for the National Rifle Association

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    An opinion column billed by the conservative Washington Examiner as an insider look at Washington, D.C.’s “secrets” is actually a lazy and credulous public relations front for the gun lobby.

    In his Examiner Washington Secrets column, “longtime D.C. reporter” Paul Bedard has written dozens of pieces advancing the agenda of the National Rifle Association, most often by amplifying the NRA’s attacks on others or by serving as a conduit for the NRA to put forward unsubstantiated talking points to defend itself from criticism.

    The latter was the case in an April 1 column run under the headline “NRA is back, ‘highest ever’ membership.” In the column, Bedard claims that the NRA’s membership has increased to 5.5 million members -- the “highest levels ever in its history” -- and quotes an anonymous NRA official who told him, “Keeping our numbers so steady is a great sign for us in an off election year,” and “What’s important is that we have great potential for growth in the coming months.” Of course, Bedard does not mention reporting over the years showing that the NRA puffs itself up by overstating its active membership figures.

    The column then gets to the PR point Bedard wants to push for the NRA: “The positive news for the NRA comes amid lingering concerns about a costly New York fight,” he wrote, a reference to litigation the NRA is involved in over fines given to insurance policies the group underwrote. The policies allowed policyholders to attempt to recoup legal fees and other expenses such as “clean-up costs” in the event that they shot someone while claiming to act in self-defense.

    Overall, Bedard’s column paints a rosy picture of the NRA’s future -- “What’s more, there are expectations that membership in the NRA will continue to grow going into the 2020 elections” -- that is at serious odds with actual reporting on financial troubles at the NRA and its media operation NRATV.

    The column is not a one-off shilling exercise by Bedard. In fact, he has written dozens of columns over the past six years that serve as free PR for the NRA, sometimes publishing more than one pro-NRA column per day. The columns typically do some sort of legwork for NRA PR, and they often feature one or more of the following approaches: heavy credulous quoting of NRA officials; write-ups of NRA ads with video and full transcript; and promotions of NRA fundraising, membership levels, events, petitions, election messaging, executive branch confirmation messaging, polling, legislative efforts, and disputes with other organizations, businesses, and people:

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  • Media outlets somehow make Trump the savior of Special Olympics funding that his budget aimed to cut in the first place

    Sloppy headlines and tweets that simply quote the president without context are just good PR for Trump

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    The Trump administration last week made a particularly cruel show of defunding the Special Olympics program in its annual proposed budget -- a largely symbolic gesture that was nonetheless indicative of the administration’s wholesale disregard for people with disabilities. After Secretary of Education Betsy Devos made a series of inept attempts to defend or address the proposed cut amid mounting public pressure, President Donald Trump finally walked back his administration’s line, saying he would change the proposal. In reporting Trump’s remarks, sloppy headlines, tweets, and cable news chyrons that simply quoted the president inherently gave him credit where absolutely none was due. It's part of a larger pattern in which context-free framing can undermine the substance of otherwise good reporting, reducing complex stories to overly simplistic headlines or lead sentences that ultimately mislead the public. 

    What happened? 

    Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos appeared twice before Congress last week to discuss her department’s proposed budget for the 2020 fiscal year, and she faced tough questions about a proposed $17.6 million cut that would eliminate federal funding for the Special Olympics.

    Presidential administrations typically release a proposed annual budget every year as a recommendation and a way to indicate policy priorities -- the federal budget is ultimately under the purview of Congress alone, which can take the presidential proposal under advisement. Indeed, Politico noted that the administration had proposed defunding the Special Olympics in its last two budgets as well. As s.e. smith wrote for Vox, the proposed cut illustrated the underlying threat to people with disabilities that the administration poses -- and distracts from other proposed budget cuts and previous administration activities that could harm students with disabilities and limit their access to quality public education.

    DeVos faced strong pressure to reconsider the budget line, both in the hearings and from media, and was asked clarifying questions about the reasons for the defunding proposal. She struggled to defend the decision, completely and awkwardly ignoring questions from at least one CNN reporter and engaging in the Trump administration’s signature deflection tactic of attacking the media instead. Meanwhile, a Trump campaign spokesperson pivoted to bizarrely attacking Democrats’ support for abortion.

    Eventually, after multiple days of negative public attention, Trump reversed his administration’s long-held position on cutting the funding. The president told reporters last Thursday that he had “overridden” his own administration and had “authorized a funding of the Special Olympics,” saying that he had “heard about it this morning.” At best, this means Trump had no idea what his own administration was up to until reporters and members of Congress pointed it out. At worst, Trump was well aware of the cut and didn’t care about it until he looked bad publicly -- and was willing to throw DeVos under the bus to fix things.

    This episode showcased, once again, not just the Trump inner circle’s signature moral repugnancy but also its overwhelming ineptitude.

    How was it framed by some in media? 

    After Trump abruptly announced the proposed budget change, some blue-checkmarked reporters and media figures immediately started tweeting his breaking news quotes for impact and virality -- a common industry-wide practice. The unintentional effect was a series of tweets that together reframed the news story positively for Trump.

    Rather than making clear that Trump was reversing his own proposed budget, which does not determine actual funding levels regardless, the tweets portrayed Trump as the savior of the program -- a hero willing to fight his own bureaucracy to protect what he cared about. It amounted to passively spreading misinformation.

    And news organizations also piled on.

    Some headlines and cable news chyrons followed the same pattern: they either quoted the president with no context on the shameless pivot or actively framed him as heroically bucking bureaucracy.

    [The Hill, 3/28/19]

    [USA Today, 3/28/19]

    [CNN, 3/28/19]

    [Time, 3/28/19]

    [CNN, The Lead, 3/28/19]

    [MSNBC, Deadline: White House, 3/28/19]

    Surely not all context about the issue can fit in a headline or a tweet. But a few extra words can go a long way in better serving news audiences; some news organizations were able to do it just fine.

    Every tweet, headline, push notification, and chyron counts. Even if context is provided in subsequent reporting, or in different chyrons or an accompanying discussion, that is not enough. The essential framing has to be right.

    Media have a responsibility to serve an audience that we know is trying to catch up on the news by glancing at the TV screens (maybe in public, with the sound off, even) and scrolling quickly through tweets, push notifications, or headlines. Reporters covering this should distill what’s most relevant and accurate to a busy, distracted public that’s relying on them. Otherwise, they’re doing the work of the president’s communications shop.

  • Instagram is helping promote Alex Jones’ conspiracy theories about the death of a Sandy Hook father

    The father, Jeremy Richman, was suing Jones for defamation over Jones' false Sandy Hook claims 

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    An Instagram account associated with Alex Jones’ Infowars outlet is using the platform to promote Jones’ conspiracy theories about the death of Jeremy Richman, whose daughter Avielle was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT.

    Richman died of an apparent suicide on March 25. He was part of a group of Sandy Hook families who are suing Jones for defamation, arguing that false claims Jones made about the 2012 shooting -- including that the tragedy was a “giant hoax” -- spurred harassment and threats against them.

    Instagram account @thenewswars, a reference to Infowars website News Wars, is followed by the outlet’s primary Instagram account and exclusively posts Infowars content. On March 25, the account posted a video about Jones’ comments on Richman.
     

    The video was posted with the description “MSM Uses Tragic Suicide Of Sandy Hook Dad To Smear Alex Jones.” The post included the hashtag #SandyHook and urged people to read a linked Infowars article to view the full video. In that full video, Jones complained that Richman’s reported suicide meant that Jones won’t get a “fair trial” in the defamation lawsuits he is facing. He also questioned the known facts of Richman’s death, saying, “I mean, is there going to be a police investigation? Are they going to look at the surveillance cameras? I mean, what happened to this guy? This whole Sandy Hook thing is, like, really getting even crazier.” He also speculated that Richman was murdered and that his death was timed to distract from the release of the summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on possible Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    As Media Matters’ Natalie Martinez reported, Jones’ primary Instagram account, @real_alexjones, routinely posts content that includes hate speech and conspiracy theories and features appearances from other extremist figures banned by the platform. While Facebook, Instagram's parent company, banned Jones and his outlet, he is increasingly making the social media giant's subsidiary his home. 

    Natalie Martinez contributed research to this report.

  • Despite ban, Alex Jones’ Infowars appears to be operating yet another YouTube channel

    The channel has numerous Infowars videos attacking survivors of the Parkland school shooting, including comparing David Hogg to Hitler

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Update (3/25/19): Following the publication of this post, the The Free Speech Channel channel was removed from YouTube, with a message telling visitors to its page the “account has been terminated for a violation of YouTube's Terms of Service.”

    Although YouTube has banned several channels associated with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, his Infowars outlet still appears to be able to spread its message on the video platform on a channel called The Free Speech Channel.

    On March 19, YouTube banned a channel that exclusively shared Infowars content under the name Resistance News following reporting by Media Matters. The Free Speech Channel, previously dormant for the last seven months, has now come back to life to share Infowars content.

    The channel was created on March 3, 2018, and exclusively posts videos from Infowars broadcasts. Notably, a March 3, 2018, Infowars.com article tells readers to “support these two new channels in the fight for free speech” before listing The Free Speech Channel and Infowars Censored. The Infowars Censored channel’s account was previously terminated by YouTube.

    As was the case with the Resistance News channel, Infowars websites embed videos posted to The Free Speech Channel in articles. Videos posted to the channel that are more than seven months old include the description, “Help us spread the word about the liberty movement, we're reaching millions help us reach millions more,” and feature links to Infowars-operated websites and Alex Jones’ social media accounts.

    The videos posted to The Free Speech Channel reflect the toxic conspiracy theories found at Infowars.com. For example, the channel is currently hosting numerous videos attacking David Hogg and other student survivors of the 2018 Parkland, FL, school shooting.

    The channel also hosts a video of Jones interviewing NRA board member Ted Nugent. In the interview, Nugent advocates for Democrats to be shot on sight like “rabid coyotes.”

    Channels that violate YouTube’s rules by exclusively sharing Infowars content are easily found on YouTube, but the video platform doesn’t appear to be devoting many resources to enforcing its own rules.

  • Alex Jones reacts to Mueller report summary by expressing his willingness to execute "traitors"

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones reacted to Attorney General William Barr sharing with Congress his summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report by talking about his willingness to execute supposed "traitors." While Jones was talking about how he would “pull those levers all day” to hang traitors, video footage of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow was shown on screen.

    On March 24, Barr delivered a summary to Congress of Mueller’s investigation into whether President Donald Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election. According to Barr, Mueller found no evidence of collusion, but also did not exonerate Trump of engaging in obstruction of justice by interfering with the investigation. Democrats in Congress are now calling for Mueller’s full report to be released to the public.

    Jones, a top media ally of Trump, focused his March 25 Infowars.com broadcast on the report summary and used it to make disturbing comments involving MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, who extensively covered Mueller’s investigation on her show. Jones complained about “scum” claiming that he and Trump are “on foreign payrolls” before saying, “If you’re found guilty of treason, and they want me to kick the switch to open that trapdoor and drop your neck down and snap that son of a bitch, I swear to God I’ll pull those levers all day,” as video footage of Maddow was shown on screen.

    While Jones is banned from major social media platforms -- with the exception of Instagram -- he continues to broadcast to a large terrestrial radio audience and still purports to receive inside information from Trump’s inner circle.

  • Alex Jones has a secondary YouTube channel where he claims the New Zealand mosque shootings were a false flag

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Alex jones
    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Update (3/19/19): Following the publication of this post, the Resistance News channel was removed from YouTube, with a message now telling visitors to its page the “account has been terminated for a violation of YouTube's Terms of Service.”

    Although YouTube has banned several channels associated with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ Infowars site, the outlet still maintains a secondary channel and is using it to claim that the the mass shootings at two New Zealand mosques were “false flag” attacks.

    While YouTube banned Jones’ primary account in August 2018 and banned some related Infowars channels in the following months, Infowars appears to still be operating a channel called Resistance News. The channel was first created in May 2015 and has amassed nearly 12 million views and more than 64,000 subscribers. Resistance News exclusively posts Infowars content, and Infowars.com articles embed videos hosted by the channel.

    The channel has posted several videos promoting conspiracy theories about the mass shootings carried out by a white supremacist at two New Zealand mosques on March 15. In a video posted on March 18, Jones suggested the shooting was a “false flag” and played distressing footage from the gunman’s livestreamed video of the moments leading up to his attack.

    Jones said that the gunman “has an intelligence agent cutout and he says he wants to cause a global civil war. Well, that’s the definition of a false flag is when you stage something to blame someone else or to get a desired political outcome.” He then played a clip of conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh pushing the false flag conspiracy theory.

    Soon after, Jones pivoted to attacking Muslims, asking, “Where are the Muslim groups decrying Islamic terror attacks on Christians and others? You could hear a pin drop.” The video’s description echoes this point, claiming that “the bought and paid for media is pushing an anti white American narrative while ignoring the decimation of Christians globally at a record pace.” The video concluded with advertisements for Infowars products, indicating that Infowars still hopes to profit from its videos that appear on YouTube.

    Another Resistance News video, published on March 15, carries the title “NZ Shooter Is A Leftist Communist Sympathizer” and also contains footage of the moments leading up to the attack on the first mosque.

    Additionally, the channel posted a video on March 17, titled “Podesta Labels NZ A Big Juicy Target For Weaponized Propaganda,” suggesting that former Hillary Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta -- a main target of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory -- was somehow connected to the mosque shootings. This new conspiracy theory had been heavily promoted by followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory and other far-right trolls on social media.

    Despite YouTube’s attempt to enforce its ban against Jones and Infowars, the conspiracy theorist remains a large presence on the video-sharing platform. A February 27 appearance by Jones on Joe Rogan’s podcast has amassed over 11 million views -- and the video is monetized, meaning that YouTube is profiting from Jones’ appearance via an ad revenue-sharing agreement with Rogan. Infowars personality Kaitlin Bennett also made a recent appearance to push Infowars talking points on the podcast of Logan Paul, one of the most popular YouTubers. And longtime Infowars figure Paul Joseph Watson recently announced that he will launch an Infowars-affiliated project to "generate the next generation of YouTubers.”

    Alex Kaplan contributed research.