National Security & Foreign Policy

Issues ››› National Security & Foreign Policy
  • London mayor was target of right-wing media long before Trump’s critical tweets

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    President Donald Trump attacked London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan on Twitter, taking his words out of context to falsely accuse him of saying there is “no reason to be alarmed” about the June 4 terror attack on the London Bridge. Khan’s full quote referred to the “increased police presence” in the area following the attack, not to the attack itself, and Trump’s tweet follows a year’s worth of right-wing media criticism of London’s first Muslim mayor.

    On June 4, Trump tweeted that Khan said that “there is ‘no reason to be alarmed,’” adding the following day that Khan “had to think fast” to come up with his “pathetic excuse” for the statement. He also accused the media of “working hard to sell it!” As explained by CNBC, Khan’s full quote was, “Londoners will see an increased police presence today and over the course of the next few days. There’s no reason to be alarmed.” In addition, a spokesperson for Khan said he “has more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump's ill-informed tweet that deliberately takes out of context his remarks urging Londoners not to be alarmed when they saw more police — including armed officers — on the streets.”

    Trump’s latest attacks on Khan did not occur in a vacuum. Right-wing media figures have attacked the London mayor since his election in 2016, and Trump made a series of disparaging comments about Khan during the 2016 U.S. election, including challenging him to an “I.Q. test,” after Khan criticized Trump’s rhetoric on Islam as “ignorant.” Khan also declined Trump’s proffered exemption from his proposed ban on Muslims entering the U.S.

    After Khan’s historic victory as the first Muslim mayor of a major Western capital and during a rift with Trump, Fox’s Dana Perino praised Khan by saying he’s “not like ISIS.” In June 2016, former Fox host Bill O’Reilly said there is a “huge Muslim component in England,” including London’s “Muslim mayor,” that contributed to the country’s decision to leave the European Union, saying “I think that the British people have had it, and they fear terrorism.” After four people died in an attack at the British Houses of Parliament in March, Fox prime-time host Tucker Carlson took comments Khan made in September out of context, saying that Khan said that “terror attacks are, quote, ‘part and parcel of living in a big city.’ In other words, it’s just part of the deal.” At that same time, Donald Trump Jr. faced backlash for criticizing Khan using the same quote. In reality, Khan was referring to major cities needing to be prepared for terror attacks.

    In May 2016, Breitbart attacked the Pope for applauding Khan’s election and saying that the election reflected Europe’s need “to rediscover its capacity to integrate.” Breitbart has posted multiple pieces of content disparaging Khan. Anti-Muslim extremist Pamela Geller called Khan “London’s new jihad mayor” in a May 2016 tweet, and current Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka, who wrote for Breitbart at the time, appeared on Fox after Khan’s election and call him “an apologist for the bad guys. Not good.”

  • Fox contributor and Fox guest float internment after London attack, network later apologizes

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Fox & Friends Sunday hosts apologized after two of the show’s guests -- one of whom works for the channel -- floated the possibility of using internment camps to detain terror suspects in the U.K. following the June 3 attack in London.

    The day after the attack in London, which killed seven and injured dozens, Fox News’ Fox & Friends Sunday hosted Fox contributor and former U.K. Independent Party leader Nigel Farage and Daily Mail columnist Katie Hopkins. Both guests invoked the idea of internment camps for terror suspects in the U.K. to respond to the attack. Later in the show, the hosts apologized for their guests’ radical suggestions. From the June 4 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends Sunday:

    CLAYTON MORRIS (CO-HOST): Earlier on the show, we had a couple of guests mention the word internment, the idea of internment camps, as a possible solution to this. I think I made it well-known my feeling on that, which I find reprehensible, but on behalf of the network, I think all of us here find that idea reprehensible here at Fox News Channel. Just to be clear.

    PETE HEGSETH (CO-HOST): No suggestions of that.

    MORRIS: Absolutely.

    Farage first brought up the notion of internment camps, saying that “unless we see the government getting tough, you will see public calls for those 3,000 [terror watch list suspects] to be arrested.” Farage added, “if there is not action, then the calls for internment will grow”:

    ABBY HUNTSMAN (CO-HOST): Nigel, you have the pulse of the people. You were behind the Brexit movement before anyone really knew that that was actually going to happen. We've got these big elections in the U.K. this week. What is the mood?  What is the sense where you are of the people in the U.K. about this threat of terror? [Do] they feel like where they are they have a handle on it?

    NIGEL FARAGE: We are as a people very slow to anger. We are remarkably tolerant of things. But I do think, bear in mind this is now the third terrorist incident that has happened in my country in the spate of as many months. And the mood that I get now is we want some real action. We don't just want speeches given outside number 10 Downing Street. We want genuine action. And if there is not action, then the calls for internment will grow. We have over 3,000 people on a sort of known terrorist list, and we’re watching and monitoring their activities, but a further 20,000 people who are persons of interest, mainly they’re linked in some way to extremist organizations. Unless we see the government getting tough, you will see public calls for those 3,000 to be arrested. And I’m not sure, I’m not sure that that is the right approach, because the big danger with that is we might alienate decent, fair-minded Muslims in Britain.

    HEGSETH: Of course. Calls for internment --

    FARAGE: But whatever happens, we do need action.

    HEGSETH: -- would be strong talk.

    Later, Hopkins reiterated Farage’s remarks about internment, and even went further, saying that the U.K. “need[s] start incarcerating, deporting, repeating until we clean this country up” and that “we do need internment camps”:

    CLAYTON MORRIS (CO-HOST): How do you think her speech resonated? Do you think it hit the mark, or did it miss?

    KATIE HOPKINS: It missed the mark. I mean, we were relieved, I think, I was relieved that she didn’t come out and say the stuff that our London Mayor Sadiq Khan has been saying.

    [...]

    HOPKINS: At least Theresa May came out and said “enough is enough.” What she hasn’t done, what she didn’t do, is tell us what we need to hear. And that is that things are going to change completely. That tomorrow, 3,000 people on the watchlist are going to be rounded up. We need to hear that 650 jihadis that returned to the U.K. are going to be incarcerated and deported. And we need to hear that Saudi-backed mosques and extreme hate preachers and imams within those mosques are also going to be shut down and deported. That’s what regular British people want to hear, what I want to hear. And it is not enough to say we will win against terror, because if this is terror losing, then victory is meaningless because this is horrible.

    [...]

    MORRIS: Talk about the nuts and bolts of this. Nigel Farage on the show a short time ago bringing up the word “internment,” bringing up the specter here in the United States of internment camps -- Japanese internment camps. You’re mentioning deportation and rounding up and mass incarceration. What would that look like? Do you think that Theresa May, do you think that the British government would actually do that?

    HOPKINS: I don't think they've got the stomach to do that. I don’t think they’ve got the political will to do that. I also see how they pander still relentlessly to these preachers who are on the wrong side of this argument. People who are against the prevent strategy for counterterrorism. People like Cage to speak out always in defense of Islam and how great it is. Islamic preachers who speak out about the fact that what we need to be worried about is Islamophobia. We’re not worried about that. We do need internment camps. Before, I would’ve bought the idea that, no, this gets more people radicalized. You know, that’s not the solution. But we’ve gone beyond the tipping point. I tell you this country cannot take another attack.

    Farage and Hopkins are both notorious Islamophobes on whom Fox News regularly relies for its post-terror attack fear-mongering about Muslims and immigrants. Farage is a staunch Trump ally, former Breitbart contributor, and anti-Muslim agitator who has accused British Muslims of having a "split of loyalties" and falsely claimed Sweden is the "rape capital of Europe” because of Muslim immigration. Farage frequently appears on Fox to push anti-immigrant rhetoric. Hopkins frequently uses her Daily Mail column to push xenophobic misinformation. Hopkins, who is currently being sued for libel, has called migrants “cockroaches” and falsely accused a Muslim family of being terrorists. In a recent report from Sweden, she claimed without evidence that the country’s news is filled with reports of rape and assault of young women, discussed an unsourced alleged rape of a 12-year-old by an unaccompanied minor immigrant, and told the impossible-to-substantiate story of a girl “terrified of going out alone” because she lives “near a busy shopping centre which draws migrants from no-go zones,” which do not exist in Sweden. Her vitriolic xenophobia has made her a favorite of the "alt-right."

    Fox has a pattern of hosting anti-Muslim guests to fear-monger about refugees and immigration, and, since the election of President Donald Trump, attempting to justify his anti-Muslim policy proposals in the wake of terror attacks, even when it doesn't make sense. Most recently, after the terror attack in Manchester, Fox hosted the architect of the post-9/11 torture program to blame civil rights and invited Farage to use the attack (which was committed by a U.K. native) to justify Trump's Muslim ban. One Fox & Friends host has even admitted that the show only covers terror attacks when they appear to implicate Muslims.

    This is not the first time the idea of internment camps to deal with Islamist terrorism has been floated on a Fox show. In 2016, Fox guest Carl Higbie cited Japanese internment camps as a precedent for Trump’s calls for a Muslim registry. And in 2010, then-Fox contributor Liz Trotta seemed to defend the use of Japanese internment camps when discussing outrage over a blog post by Martin Peretz about Muslims.

  • Right-wing media cheer Trump withdrawing United States from the Paris climate agreement

    Business leaders and experts agree decision to pull out of agreement “would harm every American” and "devastate [America’s] international credibility"

    ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET & NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media figures cheered President Donald Trump’s decision to remove the United States from the Paris climate agreement, which sought to reduce international greenhouse gas emissions. But experts and business leaders condemned the decision, calling the move a “historic mistake” and “a gratuitous thumb in everyone’s eye.”

  • “Mind control,” “shadow government,” and Seth Rich: Sean Hannity’s history of pushing conspiracy theories

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News host Sean Hannity attracted widespread condemnation for pushing conspiracy theories about a murdered Democratic National Committee staffer, but it wasn’t his first time promoting or entertaining such wild claims on air. From claiming that the NFL’s Colin Kaepernick protested the national anthem because he “may have converted to Islam” to implying that former President Barack Obama is a terrorist sympathizer, here are some examples of Hannity embracing conspiracy theories.

  • How a 2014 story about Russia went from a fringe blog to Fox News in just a few days

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A 2014 article about then-President Barack Obama’s behind-the-scenes efforts to work with Russia has been widely disseminated among right-wing media in the past 48 hours in an attempt to defend President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, who allegedly asked for back-channel communications with Russia during Trump’s transition. The article seems to have initially re-emerged on fringe blogs and two Twitter accounts that could be bots.

    Trump and his administration have come under scrutiny after The Washington Post on May 26 reported that in December 2016, Kushner had discussed setting up a secret communications channel between Trump’s presidential transition team and the Kremlin. Former intelligence and national security officials have called the move naive, “bizarre,” “very concerning,” “indicative of espionage activity,” and “possibly even illegal.”

    In the early morning hours of May 27, the day after the Post ran the story, Twitter account TheTruthIsOutThere posted, “#BROMANCE Inside Obama’s secret outreach to Russia, including a Kissinger offensive.” The tweet linked to a 2014 article from Josh Rogin, then of Bloomberg, reporting that Obama was “working behind the scenes for months to forge a new working relationship with Russia.” Seemingly hours later, fake news purveyor Before It’s News published a link to a fringe blog highlighting the Bloomberg article. The following evening, slightly before 9:30 p.m., a second Twitter account linked to the article. About two hours later, at around 11:46 p.m., the Drudge Report highlighted the article at the top of its page. About an hour later, many Twitter accounts started to highlight the Bloomberg article without adding much accompanying text. Rogin, the author of the 2014 Bloomberg piece, noted the Twitter activity, writing, “This article of mine from 2014 has been tweeted hundreds of times today, all exactly the same way. #bots.”

    Meanwhile, likely thanks to Drudge, the article exploded into fringe right-wing media, eventually making its way to Fox News on May 29 and on Trump’s favorite morning show, Fox & Friends, on May 30, which cited the article to suggest hypocrisy by the “fake, left-leaning, mainstream” media for focusing on Kushner. This despite the fact that Obama’s effort came during his presidency, not during his presidential transition.

    If a fake news purveyor and bots did play a role in disseminating this claim into more traditional right-wing and mainstream media, it would not be the first time. Former FBI official Clint Watts testified before the Senate in March that Russian bots spread fake news during the 2016 election and beyond, and the FBI is investigating Russian bots pushing pro-Trump articles from conservative websites. The fake news outlet involved in this recent incident, Before It’s News, has also repeatedly pushed claims that support the Kremlin's agenda, such as spreading the dubious charge that the Syrian chemical attack in April was a “false flag” operation and pushing a fake news story from Russian state media. The site is part of the “alt-right”/fake news ecosystem that has disseminated misinformation to the public before.

  • The newest target for pro-Trump media is Heineken beer

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Outlets that have served as propaganda mouthpieces for President Donald Trump are attacking beer company Heineken for a new ad campaign that appears to include a call for common ground among people “without borders or barriers.”

    In April, Heineken released an ad as part of its “Open Your World” campaign, which showed, according to a spokesperson who spoke with NBC’s Today, that “finding common ground with each other does bring down the preconceived barriers we put up and make us more open." As part of that campaign, the company’s British beer bottles appear to have wording calling for “a world without borders or barriers” and “the belief that there’s more that unites us than divides us,” along with a link to the ad.

    In response, fake news purveyors and “alt-right”-affiliated outlets, including Infowars and The Daily Stormer, lashed out at Heineken, with some writing that the company “thinks they know exactly how to prevent jihadists from blowing people up and cutting their heads off,” arguing that the message is “insane” and “disgusting,” claiming the message was created by an “idiot,” and writing that a company selling beer that “sucks” is pushing “liberal” politics. They also demanded that the company “stop trying to be social justice warriors” and attacked the company for pushing “to erode national sovereignty and open all international borders.” Some of the outlets are additionally calling for a boycott of the company, as are some message boards on 4chan and Reddit that have previously pushed misinformation on Trump’s behalf.

    The attacks on Heineken come soon after pro-Trump media attacked singer Katy Perry for urging people to “unite” with “no barriers, no borders, … to just coexist” after the May 22 terror attack in Manchester, England. They also accused her of having a “globalist dream of a world government and a border-less society.”