Race & Ethnicity

Issues ››› Race & Ethnicity
  • Two Black Women Sue Fox News Over “Top-Down Racial Harassment”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Two female African-American Fox News employees filed a lawsuit against the network and its parent company, according to a report from The New York Times, alleging they suffered “‘top-down racial harassment’” that was “‘reminiscent of the Jim Crow era.’”

    In addition to Fox News’ well-documented history of racism and bigotry, the network has recently come under fire for discrimination. The network was forced to fire longtime comptroller Judy Slater after she made racist comments to co-workers. The new lawsuit also comes following widespread criticism of Fox host Bill O’Reilly for mocking Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), claiming he could not pay attention to what she said because of her “James Brown wig.” Media Matters has called on Fox to fire O’Reilly for the remark. Additionally, in the past year numerous female Fox employees filed lawsuits alleging sexual harassment at Fox, with many specifically citing harassment by former Fox CEO Roger Ailes. Ailes resigned in July amid the allegations, which Fox executives reportedly tried to cover up.

    According to the Times, the lawsuit from a Fox payroll manager and payroll coordinator alleges they were racially harassed with “racially charged comments” from Slater, “including suggestions that black men were ‘women beaters’ and that black people wanted to physically harm white people.” The lawsuit against Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, alleged, “Slater’s superiors did little to address her behavior, which created a hostile work environment that resulted in ‘severe and pervasive discrimination and harassment.’” In a statement to the Times, the lawyers for the plaintiffs called the conduct “‘reminiscent of the Jim Crow era.’” The lawsuit also mentioned “four other black employees who it said left or were forced out and cited similar accusations of discrimination.” From the March 28 article:

    In a lawsuit filed Tuesday night in State Supreme Court in the Bronx, two black women said they were subjected to “top-down racial harassment” in the Fox News payroll department by Judith Slater, the company’s longtime comptroller.

    The women — Tichaona Brown, a payroll manager, and Tabrese Wright, a payroll coordinator — accused Ms. Slater of making numerous racially charged comments, including suggestions that black men were “women beaters” and that black people wanted to physically harm white people.

    They also said that Ms. Slater claimed that black employees mispronounced words, such as “mother,” “father,” “month” and “ask,” and that she urged Ms. Brown to say those words aloud in a meeting. Ms. Wright said Ms. Slater once asked if her three children were all “fathered by the same man.”

    “We are confident that the good men and women of the Bronx will hold Fox accountable for what we believe to be its abhorrent racist conduct, reminiscent of the Jim Crow era,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers, Douglas H. Wigdor and Jeanne Christensen of the Wigdor law firm, said in a statement.

    [...]

    Ms. Brown and Ms. Wright are suing Ms. Slater, Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, claiming that Ms. Slater’s superiors did little to address her behavior, which created a hostile work environment that resulted in “severe and pervasive discrimination and harassment.”

    Ms. Wright, who joined Fox in mid-2014 and had spoken up about Ms. Slater’s behavior, was transferred out of the payroll department on Monday, a move the lawsuit described as a demotion. The company described it as a lateral move. While the suit contends that Ms. Brown, who joined Fox in late 2008, was fired on Monday, the company said on Tuesday night that she remained employed. Both women declined a Fox settlement offer, according to the suit.

    [...]

    The suit also includes allegations that Ms. Slater made disparaging comments about Ms. Wright’s hair and credit score. She and Ms. Brown said Ms. Slater had mocked the Black Lives Matter movement and referred to their majority-black department as the “urban” or “Southern” payroll department.

    The lawsuit included the names of four other black employees who it said left or were forced out and cited similar accusations of discrimination.

  • Media Matters President Angelo Carusone: Bill O’Reilly’s “Apology” Is Meaningless And He Should Be Fired

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Media Matters President Angelo Carusone released the following statement after Fox News host Bill O’Reilly issued a statement apologizing to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) for comparing her hair to a “James Brown wig”:

    Bill O’Reilly’s apology ain’t shit. He should be fired.

    Don’t be fooled. O’Reilly’s apology is hollow. Immediately after O’Reilly’s spokesperson released the statement, he personally took to Twitter. Not to tweet an apology himself. But instead to decry ‘political correctness’ - a position that O’Reilly and his ilk usually retreat to when they are criticized for bigotry (or worse). You don’t need to be familiar with his long history of racially inflammatory attacks to know what he was trying to convey with this tweet.

    And yes, Bill O’Reilly should be fired. Not by my standards. I don’t think it would be fair to expect O’Reilly or Fox News to adhere to those. But instead, by Fox News’ own standard. Just four days ago, Fox News fired its longtime comptroller due to an extensive history of racially inflammatory attacks. Explaining the termination, Fox’s spokesperson said that there was ‘no place for abhorrent behavior’ like that at Fox News.

    O’Reilly didn’t get the message - and he of all people at Fox needed to hear it. Racism is just as much a fixture of O’Reilly's program as bluster is.

    Fox News set the standard for acting here. They said racism doesn’t have a place at Fox News. Now, four days later, the network has to decide: will they abandon their standard of not supporting racism in favor of their standard bearer, or will they hold O’Reilly accountable? They can’t have both.

    O’Reilly’s remarks drew a firestorm of criticism from commentators who called them racist and sexist. He will reportedly address his comments on tonight’s broadcast of The O’Reilly Factor. However, it is unlikely that any apology tonight will be sincere -- on Twitter, he has promised a "big political correctness" segment on the show.

    Media Matters has documented Bill O’Reilly’s extremely long history of not just making such comments but also of enabling and rewarding people like Jesse Watters who do the same.

    UPDATE:

    Media Matters President Angelo Carusone reiterated his call for Bill O’Reilly to be fired after The O’Reilly Factor host was forced to address comments he made on Fox & Friends about Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA):

    “It was clear that the statement issued on Bill O’Reilly’s behalf earlier today apologizing for his remark about Rep. Waters’ hair was hollow. Its emptiness was confirmed when O’Reilly opened his show accusing the Congresswoman of being unpatriotic and attacking her over what O’Reilly characterized as a “love” of welfare (a textbook dog whistle).

    I’ll reiterate what I said earlier today: Bill O’Reilly’s apology ain’t shit. He should be fired.

    One other thing: What we witnessed from O’Reilly today is media manipulation 101. First, the host issued a generic hollow apology when he came under fire. Next, the media wrote up his apology -- largely treating it as sincere. But at the end of the day, O’Reilly came home to his audience, assailed his target and deployed a different racial attack.

    In this scenario, O’Reilly gets the benefits as if he apologized without any consequences or even needing to change his tune. I strongly encourage any reporter that uncritically wrote up his statement from earlier today to go back and update your story accordingly to expose its hollowness. Don’t let O’Reilly and his press flack play you for a fool.”

  • Bill O’Reilly’s History Of Racism

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Fox News host Bill O’Reilly was widely criticized for his racist remarks in which he mocked the hair of an African-American congresswoman, saying it looked like she was wearing a “James Brown wig.” This isn’t the first time O’Reilly has made such comments; in fact, he has a history of saying racist things.

  • O’Reilly Apologizes For Saying Rep. Maxine Waters’ Hair Looks Like A “James Brown Wig”

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Fox News host Bill O’Reilly issued a statement apologizing to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) for comparing her hair to a “James Brown wig.”

    During an appearance on Fox & Friends this morning, O’Reilly responded to a clip of Waters criticizing President Donald Trump’s supporters by saying, “I didn't hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig. If we have a picture of James, it's the same wig.”

    Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy replied, “It’s the same one,” and Brian Kilmeade added, “And he's not using it anymore. They just -- they finally buried him.” Co-host Ainsley Earhardt took issue with O’Reilly’s comments, saying, “I've got to defend her on that. I have to defend her on that. She's a -- you can't go after a woman's looks. I think she's very attractive.” O’Reilly responded, “I didn’t say she wasn’t attractive. I love James Brown, but it's the same hair.”

    O’Reilly’s remarks drew a firestorm of criticism from commentators who called them racist and sexist. O’Reilly has a long history of making such comments.

    In a statement to Business Insider, he said: “As I have said many times, I respect Congresswoman Maxine Waters for being sincere in her beliefs. I said that again today on Fox & Friends calling her ‘old school.’ Unfortunately I also made a jest about her hair which was dumb. I apologize.”

    He will reportedly address his comments on tonight’s broadcast of The O’Reilly Factor. It is unlikely that any apology tonight will be sincere -- on Twitter, he has promised a "big political correctness" segment on the show.  

  • The Viral Story About Missing Black And Brown Girls In D.C. Reveals A Huge Media Blindspot

    Women's Outlets Explain How These Stories Are Significantly And Routinely Undercovered

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    A social media post about missing black and brown girls in the Washington, D.C., area went viral, but the numbers it cited were incorrect. Women’s outlets -- primarily those geared toward young, black and brown audiences -- took the lead in explaining the underlying reality about media coverage of missing children that made the post so believable.

  • What 60 Minutes Didn't Mention About "Alt-Right" Men's Rights Activist Mike Cernovich

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN & BRENDAN KARET

    CBS’ 60 Minutes featured an interview with self-professed “alt-right” figure and noted men’s rights activist Mike Cernovich on its March 26 edition, highlighting how he pushes false stories. Cernovich also has a history of racist and misogynistic rhetoric, has encouraged and promoted harassment, and has promoted numerous conspiracy theories, in addition to "Pizzagate."

  • Activists Call On iHeartRadio To Break Its Silence On Racist Radio Host

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    A coalition of 21 civil rights and gun violence prevention groups signed a letter expressing concern that iHeartRadio has not confirmed whether it gave a “talk personality of the year” award to a conservative radio host who regularly featured a racially charged segment dedicated to mocking victims of Chicago gun violence.

    For several years, conservative syndicated radio host Michael Berry hosted a “Butcher Bill” segment in which he ridiculed Chicago’s gun violence victims and smeared the Black Lives Matter movement. Berry also played “bingo” with the victims’ injuries and mockingly suggested that if “you don’t want to hear shots and feel pain” in Chicago -- referring to the common police blotter description of what happened to victims -- you should wear “earmuffs.” In a February 27 press release, Talkers magazine announced that Berry would receive an award for “best news/talk” personality of the year at the March 5 iHeartRadio Music Awards in Los Angeles.

    After receiving criticism for his segment, Berry announced that The Michael Berry Show would stop airing the weekly “Butcher Bill” segment, saying he has “to make better decisions.” But it is not clear whether he actually received the award, and iHeartRadio has not answered questions about the matter.

    Media Matters and 20 other civil rights and gun violence prevention groups are asking iHeartRadio to break its silence and publicly state whether it honored Berry. From the March 24 letter:

  • Advertisers Are Fleeing YouTube To Avoid “Directly Funding Creators Of Hateful” Content

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    YouTube is losing advertisers as big-name companies pull ads from the site because, according to a report from The New York Times, “The automated system in which ads are bought and placed online has too often resulted in brands appearing next to offensive material on YouTube such as hate speech.”

    More and more major companies are abandoning the ad services of YouTube's parent company, Google, amid concerns that ads for their brands are being placed next to extremist material. On March 22, The New York Times reported that AT&T and Johnson & Johnson “were among several companies to say Wednesday that they would stop their ads from running on YouTube and other Google properties amid concern that Google is not doing enough to prevent brands from appearing next to offensive material, like hate speech.” The decision by advertisers comes as Google has struggled in its efforts to prevent websites that peddle fake news from using its online advertising services to profit. It also comes as Google and YouTube have been criticized following a BuzzFeed News report for driving revenue for conspiracy theorists who broadcast to millions and monetize conspiracy theories like “Pizzagate,” which led to an armed confrontation in a DC-pizza shop.

    Now, The New York Times reports that “the technology underpinning YouTube’s advertising business has come under intense scrutiny” as “other deep-pocketed marketers [are] announcing that they would pull their ads from the service.” According to the Times report, the problem “is particularly jarring” for YouTube specifically, because “YouTube splits advertising revenue with its users, meaning advertisers risk directly funding creators of hateful, misogynistic or terrorism-related content.” From The Times’ March 23 report:

    YouTube is now one of the pillars of Google’s advertising business and the most valuable video platform on the internet. In recent years, advertisers, unable to ignore its massive audience, flocked to YouTube to reach younger people who have started to shun traditional broadcast television.

    But the technology underpinning YouTube’s advertising business has come under intense scrutiny in recent days, with AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and other deep-pocketed marketers announcing that they would pull their ads from the service. Their reason: The automated system in which ads are bought and placed online has too often resulted in brands appearing next to offensive material on YouTube such as hate speech.

    [...]

    That technology, known as programmatic advertising, allows advertisers to lay out the general parameters of what kind of person they want to reach — say, a young man under 25 — and trust that their ad will find that person, no matter where he might be on the internet. This approach plays to the strengths of tech giants like Google and Facebook, allowing advertisers to use automation and data to cheaply and efficiently reach their own audiences, funneling money through a complicated system of agencies and third-party networks.

    But more than 400 hours of content are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and while Google has noted that it prevents ads from running near inappropriate material “in the vast majority of cases,” it has proved unable to totally police that amount of content in real time. And that has advertisers increasingly concerned.

    [...]

    While brands have expressed concern about showing up next to unsavory photos and videos uploaded to digital platforms by users — like pornography on Snapchat — the situation with YouTube is particularly jarring. YouTube splits advertising revenue with its users, meaning advertisers risk directly funding creators of hateful, misogynistic or terrorism-related content.

    The revenue-sharing model has minted stars, some of whom gain cultlike followings for edgy and inappropriate content. Last month, the platform cut business ties with its biggest star, Felix Kjellberg, known to his 54 million subscribers as PewDiePie, after The Wall Street Journal reported on crude anti-Semitic jokes and Nazi imagery in his comedy videos. He was part of YouTube’s premium advertising product called Google Preferred — a category of popular, “brand safe” videos on YouTube.

  • Hate Group's Explanation For Why It's Not A Hate Group Exemplifies Why It's A Hate Group

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    After the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) added the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) to its annual “Year in Hate and Extremism” report, CIS executive director Mark Krikorian responded in a Washington Post op-ed downplaying the extremism of white nationalism and the white nationalists connected to CIS, including its founder. CIS has a long record of publishing anti-immigrant reports with deeply flawed methodologies, and Krikorian -- who is now saying that labeling his group marginalizes it and thus diminishes public debate -- has in the past assigned his own negative labels to other groups.

  • Breitbart Is Tagging Articles With A Bigoted "Alt-Right" Meme That Attacks Swedish Multiculturalism

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Breitbart’s xenophobic “Sweden YES” tag is a dog whistle to the “alt-right,” and the misleading articles marked with the label serve as the foundation for the outlet’s anti-immigrant campaign in both Europe and the United States.

    In a March 17 interview with NBC News, Breitbart.com’ Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow attempted to distance his site from the “alt-right,” claiming that it’s “not a hate site.” But one of the website’s new favorite content tags -- “Sweden YES!” -- is an “alt-right” catchphrase that began as an effort to mock Sweden’s multiculturalism, gender equality, and positive stance on immigration.

    According to Know Your Meme, “Sweden Yes” began on a German international messageboard, Krautchan/int/, in 2012. From there, it became a subreddit, which is currently “quarantined” due to its “shocking or highly offensive content.” The phrase is also popular on the anonymous online message board 4chan, where there is currently an archived Sweden Yes thread on the /pol/ page, with activity as recent as March 20. The meme is associated with Captain Sweden, a series of Swedish webcomics named for an anthropomorphized multicultural Sweden, often depicted engaging in interracial intercourse or featuring immigrants engaged in criminal behavior.

    The Breitbart content organized under the “Sweden Yes” tag is written almost exclusively by Chris Tomlinson, a Breitbart London contributor who often retweets far-right French political leader Marine Le Pen and far-right, anti-Muslim Dutch political leader Geert Wilders, as well as Lauren Southern, an “alt-right” media figure who was recently allowed into a White House press briefing. Virginia Hale, a white nationalist Breitbart reporter with a history of using anti-Muslim rhetoric, has also written “Sweden Yes” content in recent weeks.

    The first Breitbart content tagged “Sweden Yes” was published in November 2015. But that article was one of only five pieces of content given the tag before President Donald Trump’s February 18 speech in which he instructed the audience to “look at what’s happening last night in Sweden,” which he said “took in large numbers” of Muslim immigrants and refugees. Trump followed up his remarks about Sweden by mentioning three French and Belgian cities attacked by domestic terrorists over the past two years. Trump’s comment was a clear suggestion that Muslims and refugees are responsible for a so-called “crime wave” in Sweden. Multiple fact-checkers have debunked both Trump’s seeming implication of an attack the night before he spoke and his claim about migrant crime in Sweden. But the damage had already been done. Since his speech, Breitbart has labeled 32 pieces of content (of a total of 37) with the “Sweden Yes” tag.

    The site’s “Sweden Yes” content often makes evidence-free claims, exaggerates unrelated past incidents of crime to report on recent events, or exploits incidents in other countries to stoke fear about immigrant crime in Sweden. For example, a March 8 Breitbart article fearmongered about the takeover of Malmö due to “mass migration, predominantly from Middle Eastern nations” to claim that  the the city’s longtime residents are leaving the city, possibly due to an “explosion in crime” and “warring gangs.” But the words “warring gangs” are hyperlinked to another Breitbart article about these so-called gangs, which cites a Reuters article. Reuters makes no mention of whether the perpetrator of the gang shooting of a 16-year-old boy in Malmö was an immigrant.

    Another Breitbart article, about a Swedish program to train asylum seekers from the Middle East to work in correctional facilities, acknowledges that “so far the program has not run into a glaring issue that plagues many prisons across Europe, the growth of radical Islam and radicalization of inmates,” before claiming that French and British prisons have becoming a “breeding ground for radical Islamic indoctrination.” But the training program is in Sweden, not France or Britain, and while it places recently arrived immigrants in jobs within prisons, these program participants are guards, not inmates. The article also claims, “In HMP Gartree, a maximum security prison in the UK, entire cell blocks are run under a variation of Islamic sharia law according to reports.” The words “Islamic sharia law” link to another Breitbart article, which cites a Sun article to claim “Muslim extremists … are running an entire [cell] block under sharia law.” However, the Sun quotes a prison spokesman in the U.K. saying, “There is no evidence to back-up any of these claims about HMP Gartree."

    The exploitation of longstanding anti-Muslim tropes in the context of Swedish crime is merely the latest iteration of Breitbart’s anti-immigrant crusade in Europe. A false report Breitbart published in January alleging that a "mob" of Muslims attacked a German church spurred the German government to investigate what it deemed the “unprecedented proliferation” of fake news, a phenomenon which the Swedish prime minister recently mentioned as a concern his government is committed to investigating.

    The Trump administration has drawn criticism for its seeming embrace of the anti-immigrant "alt-right" movement. The incoming Trump administration was criticized in December 2016 because "A senior member of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team and a delegation of US Republican and European lawmakers canceled a briefing [] with Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely over a refusal to allow a Swedish far-right member of the group into the meeting[.]" Nevertheless, President Trump in January gave former Breitbart head Stephen Bannon a seat on the National Security Council's principals committee, which affords him access to meetings with senior-most national security officials. While Bannon is no longer formally associated with the outlet, according to a former Breitbart spokesperson, the site is still heavily influenced by Bannon’s editorial guidance.

    Trump’s baseless February 18 claim about immigrants committing crimes in Sweden is just one more example of how his administration both validates outlets like Breitbart and mainstreams “alt-right” narratives under the guise of keeping Americans safe.