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"The Society Of Professional Journalists Stands By Those News Organizations That Chose Not To Participate In The Briefing"
Media are criticizing as "unacceptable" the Trump administration’s blacklisting of outlets from a White House briefing and some are considering joining the boycott of AP, Time Magazine, and USA Today immediately. Unlike those outlets, ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox News accepted the invitation to join the briefing and attended.
A piece on the notorious conspiracy theory website Infowars.com blatantly lied about the site’s promotion of the so-called “pizzagate” conspiracy theory, after the site’s creator Alex Jones deleted evidence he promoted the conspiracy.
In a February 24 article for Infowars.com, editor Kit Daniels falsely claimed that “the discussion around Pizzagate largely occurred on Reddit, 4chan and Twitter -- but not Infowars,” in an attempt to rebut claims made by former Clinton campaign chair John Podesta during a discussion with John Heilemann.
In fact, Alex Jones promoted the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory on his radio show, urging his listeners “to go investigate it for yourself.” Jones urged his audience to “go to the report, Pizzagate Is Real,” and stated “Something’s going on. Something’s being covered up. It needs to be investigated”:
ALEX JONES: Now I want to be clear. Not everybody in the WikiLeaks is involved in this. Clearly. You have to go investigate it for yourself. But I will warn you, this story that’s been the biggest thing on the internet for several weeks, pizzagate as it’s called, is a rabbit hole that is horrifying to go down.
Let’s go ahead and go to the report, Pizzagate Is Real. The question is: How real is it? What is it? Something’s going on. Something’s being covered up. It needs to be investigated. To just call it fake news -- these are real WikiLeaks. This is real stuff going on.
During that broadcast, Infowars producer Jon Bowne said Clinton allies were “using a code to communicate child sex trafficking as casually as ordering a pizza,” and Alex Jones suggested he would be “getting on a plane” to visit Comet Ping Pong” because “it’s just like Bohemian Grove and stuff, I can’t just say something and not see it for myself. They go to these pizza places, there’s like satanic art everywhere.” Infowars has additionally published articles headlined “Pizzagate: The Mysterious Death Of A Human Trafficking Investigator,” and “Pizzagate Is Global.”
One week after Jones’ promoted the “pizzagate” conspiracy, gunman Edgar Welch told The New York Times that he listens to Alex Jones, and reportedly went to Comet Ping Pong with an assault rifle to investigate the conspiracy. Days later, Alex Jones attempted to scrub pizzagate content from his website, and downplayed his role in promoting the conspiracy theory, while stating Welch was an “admitted actor,” claiming “the whole thing is classic scripting. I’m not saying it’s scripted -- it has all the telltale signs, they’ve been caught doing it before.”
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While President Donald Trump is off to a rocky, even chaotic, start by many accounts -- with the "highest disapproval for a new elected president since polls began tracking those results," according to CNN -- at the Conservative Political Action Conference this week, he was cheered as a success.
Trump has waged a war on the press, regularly seeking to undermine critical media outlets while elevating propagandists who applaud his every move. CPAC attendees have heard the message loud and clear, saying they favor outlets like Fox News and Breitbart for their information over the supposedly dishonest mainstream media.
Trump again played to that anti-media fervor when he spoke at the conference Friday, accusing certain media outlets of being "an enemy of the people."
A year after many CPAC attendees said they didn't want Trump to attend the annual D.C.-area event, prompting him to stay away, the majority of the conferencegoers who spoke to Media Matters this week rated his first month in office positively. Many said he's living up to his promises, including on issues like immigration, foreign affairs, and business relations. And both conservative media voices and regular attendees were unified in their support.
“I think it’s been fantastic,” said Lars Larson, a syndicated conservative radio talk host. “He’s moving at the speed of business, and everybody else is having to adjust. The media is having to adjust to the idea that they have a president who will push back when appropriate. The media has to adjust to the fact that he moves fast and the rest of the government moves slow.”
As for chaos, Larson added, “I think the chaos is almost entirely created -- the impression of chaos. I don’t know how in the world someone could take over any operation, chief executive, bring in 4,000 new employees in the span of 30 days -- how do you do that without some missteps?”
Larry O’Connor, a local D.C. talk radio host and online editor at The Weekly Standard, added that Trump is “doing what he promised and you can’t ask for more than that.”
As for media coverage of Trump, he joined others in saying, “The media has fallen into a bit of a trap of propping themselves up as the last bastion of truth when they criticize the White House for playing fast and loose with the facts, but they didn’t seem to care about it for the past eight years.”
Rick Tyler, an MSNBC and Sirius Radio commentator and former Newt Gingrich aide and Ted Cruz spokesperson, said, “On balance, I think he is doing very well. Stylistically, he’s been terrible.”
Asked why many at CPAC who didn't want him around last year are welcoming him with open arms today, Tyler said one reason is that he won the election.
“There are a lot of reasons why," he said. “One is that he beat Hillary Clinton. He got two pipelines back in, he won major coal rights. … He is trying to create a rational immigration system.”
John Fredericks, a Virginia-based radio talk show host, called Trump’s first month “phenomenal, unbelievable. If you are a Trump supporter, this has been the most phenomenal first month because he is in the face of his detractors.”
Like many at the conference, he says Trump owes no apologies: “He's turning the whole Washington elite media on its head. It's the great disruption of his time. You’ve got to start by breaking the system to pieces, then you can get things done.”
The conference's non-media attendees -- many of them students -- were even stronger in their praise of Trump’s first few weeks. And they, too, attacked the press.
“I like him a lot. He's doing what he said he could do,” said Jennifer Perrautt, a University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, student who spoke as she waited in line to see Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday. “On immigration and on wanting to overturn Obamacare.”
Like most at the conference, Perrautt is a Fox News viewer. Asked about other mainstream outlets, she said: “I don’t really like it. They always try to paint him in a bad light. They nitpick everything he says.”
Isabella Olson of Fond du Lac, WI, a Fox News viewer and a member of the University of Wisconsin College Republicans, agreed.
“I’m happy with what he's doing. He's doing what he said he would. I’m happy for the immigration moves,” she said, later adding about the media, “They've mistreated him. They say he's evil.”
Kathy Frey, an attendee from Edina, MN, said she and her friend drove to D.C. to see Trump and help support him this week.
“I love him. Every day is Christmas,” she said. “He’s fulfilling his promises. We need a thriving economy, and I trust he will do what is needed.”
As for media coverage of Trump, she called it “horrendous, negative and not to be trusted. They should be objective. We don’t have objective media.” Frey said her news sources are Fox News and The Wall Street Journal.
Her friend Barb Sutter, also a Fox News fan, added that she was “impressed at the [Trump] work ethic. He never made a secret of what he would do.”
NBC Nightly News’ White House correspondent Hallie Jackson whitewashed CPAC’s promotion of “alt-right” nationalism by uncritically reporting that CPAC attempted to distance itself from white nationalist Richard Spencer, ignoring CPACs speaking invitations to “alt-right” provocateurs Steve Bannon and Milo Yiannopoulos.
In a February 23 report, Jackson described Stephen Bannon as “the power behind the populist brand” promoted by President Trump and argued that CPAC was filled with “talk of economic nationalism” by Bannon and other CPAC speakers. Jackson claimed that CPAC had “no tolerance for a different kind of nationalism … the white nationalism popularized by Richard Spencer, who was kicked out today”:
LESTER HOLT (HOST): Just outside the nation's capitol, members of the Trump administration dominated the stage at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, ahead of the president's appearance tomorrow. On stage today, a rare public appearance by Steve Bannon, the architect of the Trump campaign, who has quietly worked behind the scenes as the president’s chief strategist. Today, however, he spoke out. NBC News White House correspondent Hallie Jackson has details.
HALLIE JACKSON: Today, a Trump team take over at a conservative conference, and stepping out of shadows of the West Wing, one of the president's most trusted advisors in a rare public appearance.
STEPHEN BANNON: I want to thank you for finally inviting me to CPAC. JACKSON: That's controversial chief strategist Steve Bannon, the power behind the populist brand that propelled Donald Trump to victory.
JACKSON: For all the talk of economic nationalism on stage, no tolerance for a different kind of nationalism off it, the white nationalism popularized by Richard Spencer, who was kicked out today. CPAC organizers explicitly denouncing the fringe movement he helps lead.
DAN SCHNEIDER: They are anti-semites, they are racists, they are sexists. They are not an extension of the conservatism.
But CPAC was filled with far right zealots who have promoted “alt-right” ideology. Steve Bannon, the former executive chair for Breitbart.com, had a prominent speech at the conference despite Breitbart’s history of promoting white-nationalists. Bannon even said during his time as executive chair that Breitbart.com had become “the platform for the alt-right” under his leadership.
CPAC also invited former Breitbart.com editor Milo Yiannopoulos as a keynote speaker at the conference, before disinviting Yiannopoulos when videos emerged showing Yiannopoulos justifying the sexual abuse of a minor by an adult. Yiannopoulos himself described Richard Spencer and other white nationalists as “dangerously bright,” and ACU's Matt Schlapp promoted Yiannopoulos’ keynote speech by tweeting “We think free speech includes hearing Milo’s important perspective.”
Self-described “guerilla journalist” James O’Keefe has spent months hyping his plans to take on mainstream media. Today, his launch of a laughably underwhelming “CNN Leaks” project shows that O’Keefe was so eager to validate President Donald Trump’s war on the mainstream media that he hyped a blockbuster revelation before he actually discovered one.
O’Keefe, a partisan activist who styles himself as a “citizen journalist,” purports to “investigate and expose corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct in both public and private institutions” through his nonprofit, Project Veritas. Under the guise of this mission, O’Keefe has spent years hyping and releasing secretly recorded and heavily edited videos aimed to discredit and attack almost exclusively progressive organizers, leaders, and government officials.
O’Keefe’s videos often fall flat and rarely match their billings. He has had to issue public apologies, been arrested for trespassing, and foiled his own plots, yet his videos have been promoted by the president. O’Keefe also regularly incites his loyal internet followers to practice their own brand of “investigative journalism.”
Since the election, O’Keefe has expanded his sights beyond progressive targets to “main stream media” and issued categorical threats of surveillance aimed at CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, among other figures. “The media is a huge target of mine right now,” O’Keefe told CNN’s Brian Stelter as he previewed his new “CNN Leaks” project earlier this week. O’Keefe also hyped “CNN Leaks” in a radio appearance with Fox’s Sean Hannity and in social media posts. The Associated Press also wrote about the anticipated release -- not to mention the numerous conservative blogs that breathlessly follow O’Keefe’s so-called investigations. Politico’s Hadas Gold wrote, “Some staffers at CNN were legitimately alarmed that O'Keefe would be releasing tapes that could be embarrassing for the network.”
And then the release happened.
On Thursday morning, Project Veritas released 119 hours of raw audio recordings from inside CNN’s headquarters (with “more than 100 hours” yet to be released). The recordings were taken in 2009, and given to Project Veritas by an anonymous source. O’Keefe said his group has not had the time to review and transcribe all of the recordings, instead telling his supporters to listen, transcribe, and send tips about the hours of footage to him. These full audio recordings were not available until the late afternoon due to issues with Project Veritas’ website.
O’Keefe did post a nearly eight-minute video on YouTube explaining the project and highlighting a few excerpts from the tapes that he claims show “profound liberal bias” and “CNN's misrepresentation of polling data.” As Politico explained, these assertions “fall flat.”
O’Keefe’s press release led with two segments from the recordings that he suggests “show CNN's misrepresentation of polling data.” As Gold points out, the first section actually depicts “two producers talking about the use of certain polls and why then-CNN polling director (now NH1 News political director and anchor) Paul Steinhauser declined to use a poll by Rasmussen, a group whose polling methods are still not widely accepted.” The recordings did not, by any stretch, confirm Trump’s claim that CNN polls are “fake news,” as O’Keefe suggested.
That issue, climate change, I mean science is pretty much on board and there are a few dissenters. There's no debate. It's like you know, born-agains saying there's a debate over, you know creationism, and all that stuff. There is no debate.
Speaking of bias, while this CNN editor was correctly describing the consensus on human-caused climate change in 2009, a Fox News executive was instructing staff to undermine that consensus on air.
Among the supposedly incriminating statements O’Keefe singled out for the “CNN Leaks” press release was this from CNN’s Richard Griffiths, now a vice president and senior editorial director at the network (from Project Veritas transcript):
If we are journalists, what is our role as a journalist? What is the fundamental role as a journalist, for us to do? Tell a story. Tell what's going on. There's a secondary corollary to that, right? Aid the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. To a degree, right? Is that not part of the traditional role of a journalist. It's actually one of the things I can be most proud of as a journalist. You know we try to show the ugly side of humanity so we can do something about it. It's hard, very hard.
As Gold points out, it’s certainly possible something embarrassing from the network will be uncovered in the hours of footage. But right now, there’s no there there. The real story of the “CNN Leaks” -- at least in terms of what O’Keefe deemed newsworthy in his press release -- is how explicitly the "overrated" release seems aimed to confirm Trump’s anti-CNN assertions.
On the campaign trail, Trump specifically cited distortions from O’Keefe’s videos, and his charitable foundation gave thousands to Project Veritas in 2015. Trump also personally validated and encouraged “new media” (as O’Keefe likely imagines himself to be) to combat “the total dishonesty of the press” during a Reddit discussion. The similarities between Trump’s attacks on the media (and CNN, specifically) and O’Keefe’s distortions of the concept of journalism are striking, and seemingly create an anti-fact echo chamber among the internet masses, O’Keefe, and the White House. The purposeful twisting of the term “fake news” is the latest iteration.
O’Keefe’s video release for the “CNN Leaks” began with a clip of his announcement, made at the Deploraball Inauguration event, that he would “investigate and expose the media -- particularly the mainstream media." Before O’Keefe showed any excerpts from the 2009 audio recordings, he rehashed clips of Trump calling CNN and mainstream media “fake news.” After playing Griffiths’ quote about journalists’ duty to “aid the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” O’Keefe questioned whether the statement “now applies to President Trump.”
The potentially ongoing anti-media mindmeld between Trump, O’Keefe, and other self-styled citizen journalists who follow them now includes O’Keefe’s newest offering (or, as the Drudge Report gleefully calls it, a "bounty"): a “citizen journalist” award of $10,000 to “anyone who comes forward with legally obtained materials exposing media malfeasance.” There are hours of years-old CNN recordings that have yet to be reviewed by his followers, but based on the highlights, Trump is sure to love whatever they decide is there.
In fact, O’Keefe says the president already thinks the project is “so cool.”
Gateway Pundit, Which Recently Got White House Press Credentials, Is Known For Inaccuracy
On February 22, Jim Hoft posted an article on his website The Gateway Pundit alleging that a “Wikileaks Document Shows John McCain Requested Donations From Russians!” Fox News’ Sean Hannity retweeted a tweet that both linked to the Gateway Pundit post and called McCain a “globalist war criminal,” adding, “Wow if true”:
[Screencap via Mediaite]
But Hoft’s article is wildly misleading. His source for the claim was “Reddit users,” and his blog failed to note that the incident had already been reported -- and dismissed -- as a mere clerical error. In 2008, McCain’s presidential campaign stated that the Russian Embassy in the United States had mistakenly received a standard campaign solicitation in the mail, with campaign spokesperson Brian Rogers calling it “just an error.” The Russians agreed with Rogers’ explanation, dismissing the fundraising request as “a computer failure,” according to a 2008 Associated Press report.
When McCain’s Senate office shot down Hoft’s slapdash reporting with a statement condemning Hannity for “attacking Senator McCain over a fake news story,” Hannity deleted the tweet and extended his “apologies” to McCain (and got defensive over people criticizing him for spreading false information).
Unfortunately for Hannity, this is not his first experience being burned by Hoft’s amateur reporting. On November 2, Hannity was forced to “humbly apologize” for spreading a totally false Gateway Pundit story that claimed “Barack and Elizabeth Warren had wiped references to Hillary Clinton in their Twitter feeds.”
Jim Hoft’s Gateway Pundit is a known source of lies and misinformation. True to form, Hoft has not deleted the erroneous McCain article from February 22, nor has he deleted the now months-old lie about top Democrats scrubbing Hillary Clinton from their Twitter accounts. Such behavior is hardly surprising coming from Hoft, who he has been absurdly wrong about everything from his suggestion that the Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA championship parade was the crowd at a rally for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump to his claim that a Confederate flag lapel pin was allegedly made by Barack Obama’s campaign. Despite Gateway Pundit’s bipartisan reputation for being wrong, Trump’s administration saw fit to give the site White House press credentials.
But Hannity can’t blame Hoft alone for his habit of spreading misleading and fake news stories. Back in 1989, Hannity was fired from a local radio show for peddling the homophobic lie that gay people are prone to disease because they eat each other’s feces during sex. More recently, Hannity has also embraced the world of supermarket tabloids, lending credence to the National Enquirer’s absurd lie that Rafael Cruz, Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) father, was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and hosting the former publisher of Weekly World News -- the supermarket tabloid responsible for “Bat Boy” -- to describe his alleged time as a Clinton “fixer.”
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The Daily Beast reports that Facebook donated more than $120,000 to the American Conservative Union’s annual event the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Mark Zuckerberg’s donation comes after he held a meeting with conservative media personalities such as Glenn Beck and Fox’s Dana Perino following allegations that the website had been suppressing conservative views.
During the meeting, Zuckerberg lauded President Donald Trump for having “more fans on Facebook than any other presidential candidate” and Fox News for driving “more interactions on its Facebook page than any other news outlet in the world.” Following the accusations of bias, Facebook laid off its entire editorial team and replaced it with an algorithm, a move which The Washington Post reported led to the rise and prominence of “fake news” trending on the website.
According to The Daily Beast, Facebook continues to court conservatives with its “six-figure contribution to CPAC,” which includes a cash donation and “in-kind support.” From The Daily Beast:
Sources with direct knowledge of the matter tell The Daily Beast that Facebook made a six-figure contribution to CPAC, the yearly conference for conservative activists which will feature President Donald Trump, White House advisor Steve Bannon, NRA president Wayne LaPierre, and other right-wing favorites.
Facebook’s contribution is worth more than $120,000, according to our sources. Half of that is cash, and the other half is in-kind support for CPAC’s operations. Facebook will have a space at the conference for attendees to film Facebook Live videos, and will also train people on best practices for using the social network and Instagram.
The Wall Street Journal reported in October that Trump’s own Facebook posts fueled intense debate within the company about what kind of content was acceptable——particularly his calls for a ban on Muslims from entering the U.S. Mark Zuckerberg himself had to determine that Trump’s posts were okay, according to the paper’s report. And The New York Times reported that after Trump won the election, some company employees worried the spread of racist memes and fake news on the site may have boosted his candidacy.
“A fake story claiming Pope Francis—actually a refugee advocate—endorsed Mr. Trump was shared almost a million times, likely visible to tens of millions,” Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina who studies the social impact of technology, told the Times. “Its correction was barely heard. Of course Facebook had significant influence in this last election’s outcome.”
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