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Dean Obeidallah: The media is the Muslim community’s “last hope”
Radio host and columnist Dean Obeidallah explained that the media’s failure to cover incidents of violence against American Muslims alienates the American Muslim community.
On Saturday, August 5, a bomb exploded and shattered the windows of a Minnesota mosque, Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center, as worshippers gathered for morning prayers. This latest attack is not an isolated incident; reported anti-Muslim incidents have increased to a record high since 2016 in Minnesota. A day after the attack, as The New York Times reported, Gov. Mark Dayton denounced the attack during a press conference while visiting the mosque, calling it a “‘terrible, dastardly, cowardly’ act of terrorism.” However, as Obeidallah points out, the lack of media coverage on this attack has brought light to blatant media bias when American Muslims are the victims of terror attacks. Obeidallah says in a country where its president has “demonized” Muslim-Americans, their last hope is the media. From the August 7 edition of CNN’s Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin:
BROOKE BALDWIN (HOST): You say if this were to be happening to Christian churches, everyone would be saying terrorism.
DEAN OBEIDALLAH: They would be saying terrorism. It would be getting a great deal of media coverage, and it would deserve that. And it should get that coverage. What I'm saying for the Muslim-American community and I am Muslim. We would like to see this get the coverage. This is not an isolated incident, sadly.
We look to the media as our last hope, frankly.
BALDWIN: We are having this segment. We are having this conversation, which is important. And thank you for calling this, of course, to our attention, and having the conversation, and writing the column. Why do you think, though, I mean, at least you have the governor of the state calling it how he sees it. Why do you think people aren't having the conversations that you think they should be?
OBEIDALLAH: I think often the media doesn't cover these stories, or maybe you don't see the pattern that we do. I am in the community. My Facebook feed is filled with young Muslims across the country posting about this incident harassment or this hate crime.
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Media figures and political strategists flocked to the Sunday shows to speculate that Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly will promote “discipline” and reduce “chaos” as White House chief of staff, and that Trump will listen to him because he “respects” military officers. What their analyses left out is Kelly’s extreme policy position on immigration and his defense of Trump’s chaotic Muslim travel ban implementation.
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Far-right hate groups across extremist ideologies have united to attack and discredit their hate group designation by Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in an attempt to regain legitimacy and rehab their images. Many hate groups have attempted to delegitimize the SPLC’s hate group label over the years, but their efforts have dramatically ramped up in 2017 in reaction to a series of escalating events including SPLC designating anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and anti-immigrant group Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) hate groups and media outlets accurately labeling these organizations as such in their reporting.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is the largest anti-LGBTQ hate group in the nation, and, according to Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), it “specializes in supporting the recriminalization of homosexuality abroad, ending same-sex marriage, and generally making life as difficult as possible for LGBT communities in the U.S. and internationally.” ADF operates on $48 million-plus annual budget and has what it refers to as a “powerful global network” of over 3,100 ADF-trained “allied attorneys.” SPLC designated ADF a hate group because ADF’s leaders and its affiliated lawyers have “regularly demonized LGBT people, falsely linking them to pedophilia, calling them ‘evil’ and a threat to children and society, and blaming them for the ‘persecution of devout Christians.’” ADF’s influence is widespread. It has played a role in dozens of Supreme Court cases, including regarding abortion, religion, tuition tax credits, and LGBTQ issues; it has special advisory status at the United Nations; it has at least 55 affiliated lawyers serving in influential government positions at the state and federal levels; and it has infiltrated local school boards across the country.
ADF formally supported the criminalization of sodomy in the U.S. in 2003 when it filed an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas defending state sodomy laws which called “same-sex sodomy … a distinct public health problem.” ADF has also worked to criminalize gay sex abroad, including in Jamaica, Belize, and India, and is leading the national campaign for “bathroom bills” targeting transgender youth. One ADF attorney peddled the myth that Matthew Shepard’s violent murder in 1998 was not an anti-gay hate crime. SPLC designated ADF a hate group on February 15, but it wasn’t till early June that ADF started challenging the designation, attacking Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard’s mother, for penning an op-ed about groups like ADF that “bullying LGBTQ children.” Since then, ADF and its allies have successfully pressured the nonprofit database GuideStar to reverse its decision of putting the SPLC hate group label on 46 nonprofit groups on its website. In a series of media appearances, ADF has also relentlessly attacked ABC and NBC for accurately labeling it a hate group in news reports regarding Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ speech at an ADF event.
The Family Research Council (FRC) is another anti-LGBTQ hate group that wields significant influence in the current administration; its senior fellow, Ken Blackwell, was officially appointed to President Donald Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which critics have called a voter suppression effort. FRC President Tony Perkins embraced and endorsed Trump as a candidate during the presidential election cycle (and met with him at the White House earlier this month). And at least four people, including Blackwell, who are affiliated with FRC were a part of Trump’s transition team. FRC has a budget of tens of millions of dollars and promotes the idea “that people can and should try to change their sexual orientation” or “just not act on it.” According to SPLC’s extremist file, FRC “often makes false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science” in order to “denigrate LGBT people.” FRC’s official position is that “homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large” and “is by definition unnatural.” Former FRC Vice President Rob Schwarzwalder accused gay youth of joining the Boy Scouts of America “for predatory purposes,” and various FRC representatives and publications have repeatedly compared homosexuality to pedophilia. Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at FRC, asserted that LGBTQ youth suicide rates would drop if the teenagers were “discourage[d] from self-identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual” and urged others “not to create a positive social environment for the affirmation of homosexuality.” In a 2010 appearance on MSNBC, Sprigg also said that the United States should “outlaw gay behavior.” In 2011, the FRC called for its supporters to pray for countries that had laws criminalizing sodomy and were being pressured by the U.S. to remove them, and it suggested that homosexuality “has had a devastating impact upon Africans,” citing the AIDS crisis as an example.
FRC has fought against its hate group designation since SPLC gave it the label in 2010. In that same year, the group launched a “Start Debating, Stop Hating” campaign in response to the label, which it called “slanderous.” FRC also took out a full-page ad in Politico as part of the campaign. After a gunman shot a security guard at FRC headquarters in 2012, Perkins blamed SPLC’s “reckless rhetoric” for the shooting and asserted that the shooter was “given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations” such as the SPLC. More recently, FRC joined other hate groups in sending a letter to GuideStar’s president demanding that he remove the hate group labels from its database and praised GuideStar when it decided to do so. FRC also led the “#SPLCexposed” hashtag campaign on Twitter, which attempted to delegitimize the hate group label and drew a number of hate groups to the campaign.
Liberty Counsel is an anti-LGBTQ hate group founded by Mat Staver, former dean of Liberty University School of Law, that “shares a close affiliation with Liberty University,” according to SPLC. Staver has called LGBTQ History Month a "sexual assault on our children," repeatedly warned that the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage would trigger a revolution and civil war, and claimed nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people will result in the "death of some individuals."
Liberty Counsel also famously represented Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis in litigation after she refused to issue marriage licenses to same and opposite-sex couples in 2015; Talking Points Memo reported that Staver “compared Davis’ plight to that of Jews in Nazi Germany” during a radio interview. Staver has also compared LGBTQ people to pedophiles, once saying that allowing gay youth and adults in the Boy Scouts will cause “all kinds of sexual molestation” and create a “playground for pedophiles to go and have all these boys as objects of their lust.” Liberty Counsel has called gay sex “harmful sexual behavior” and pushed the myth that LGBTQ people “can change.” Former Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Barber said that LGBTQ people “know intuitively that what they are doing is immoral, unnatural, and self-destructive,” adding that they have “tied their whole identity up in this sexual perversion.” Barber has also called “disease, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide … consequences” of being gay.
Staver signed the letter that asked GuideStar to remove hate group designations and accused SPLC of using the label as part of its “aggressive political agenda.” On June 28, Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit against GuideStar, saying it and SPLC “are intent on destroying pro-family organizations,” and accused GuideStar’s CEO of “using GuideStar as a weapon to defame, harm, and promote his liberal agenda.” Liberty Counsel’s blog post on the subject also linked to the personal Twitter account of the CEO and his wife. GuideStar’s decision to remove hate group labels was reportedly in part because of “harassment and threats directed at our staff and leadership.”
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is a lobbying hate group founded by white nationalist John Tanton. Tanton is currently editor and publisher of the quarterly journal The Social Contract, which, according to SPLC, has “claimed that multiculturalists are trying to replace ‘successful Euro-American culture’ with ‘dysfunctional Third World cultures.’" During his time at FAIR, Tanton wrote a series of memos that warned of a “Latin onslaught” and “depicted Hispanics as hyperactive breeders,” which caused many high-level conservatives to flee his orbit. FAIR has ties to a number of other extremists, including white supremacists Peter Brimelow and Jared Taylor and Holocaust denier Kevin MacDonald.
Tanton currently sits on FAIR’s board but has retired from the limelight. He was replaced by current President Dan Stein, who frequently appears in right-wing and mainstream media to promote anti-immigrant policies and smear immigrants. In one such interview, Stein claimed that “many [immigrants] hate America, hate everything that the United States stands for.” Stein has defended Tanton and, according to SPLC, “celebrated a new ‘disdain’ in the media and among intellectuals for ‘the political agenda of those who openly attack the contributions of Western Civilization.’"
In 2009, FAIR published a report titled “A Guide to Understanding the Tactics of the Southern Poverty Law Center in the Immigration Debate,” which smeared SPLC as a discredited entity and claimed that journalists have an unfavorable view of the organization. Since then, FAIR has attacked SPLC on Twitter. Dale Wilcox, president and general counsel of FAIR’s legal arm, the Immigration Reform Legal Institute (IRLI), signed the letter calling on GuideStar to remove its hate group labels. Wilcox also wrote an op-ed in Breitbart titled “Why the Mainstream Media Must Stop Citing ‘Anti-Hate’-Crusader Southern Poverty Law Center,” and his group has attacked GuideStar on Twitter for including the SPLC’s hate group labels.
Tanton also founded FAIR’s sister organization, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). SPLC labeled CIS a hate group in 2017 for peddling work by discredited white nationalists and eugenicists. CIS works as the research arm of what SPLC has dubbed “the nativist lobby,” the anti-immigrant lobbying effort spearheaded by groups Tanton founded, including FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA. CIS frequently publishes skewed research meant to denigrate immigrants and promote anti-immigration policies, claiming, for example, that immigrants are taking jobs away from native-born Americans and disproportionately using welfare benefits.
CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian has actively disputed the hate group label by defending white nationalists and eugenicist pseudoscience. In an op-ed in The Washington Post in March, Krikorian complained that the SPLC “made a hate figure of John Tanton” and downplayed a CIS contributor’s assertion that Hispanic immigrants may never “reach IQ parity with whites” as merely “contentious.” He also called the “hate group” label “an attempt to delegitimize and suppress views regarding immigration held by a large share of the American public.” Krikorian and other CIS employees have repeatedly sought to smear SPLC, and Krikorian has used his platform to attack GuideStar for using SPLC’s hate group labels.
ACT for America has transformed into “the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in America,” according to SPLC, which labels it a hate group. The group’s founder, Brigitte Gabriel, has been fearmongering that Muslim immigrants and refugees from the Middle East have transformed Europe into “Eurabia” and has declared that a practicing Muslim “cannot be a loyal citizen of the United States.” ACT often organizes conferences that convene anti-Muslim leaders and groups, including Frank Gaffney, head of hate group the Center for Security Policy. In 2008, ACT launched a campaign called Stop Shariah Now to fearmonger about Sharia “creeping” into western culture and, according to SPLC, “worked closely” with Gaffney “to push anti-Shariah legislation at the state level.”
Gabriel has attacked SPLC as biased against conservatives, and she was also one of the hate group leaders who signed the letter blasting GuideStar for using SPLC’s hate group labels. She has also penned her own letter to GuideStar defending her group and other hate groups.
February 15: SPLC included ADF and CIS in its list of active hate groups in 2016. ADF did not immediately respond.
March 17: The Washington Post published an op-ed by CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian, who condemned the SPLC list and wrote that the “blacklist” was “an attempt to delegitimize and suppress views regarding immigration held by a large share of the American public.”
April 18: After more than two months, ADF issued a statement in which it responded to the SPLC designation by not responding to it: “ADF doesn't have time to respond to organizations who do nothing more than call names, create division and incite violence across the country in order to raise money."
May 15: Judy Shepard, the mother of 22-year-old Matthew Shepard, who was killed in anti-gay homicide, wrote an op-ed in Time magazine about “multimillion-dollar ‘hate groups’” such as ADF “bullying LGBTQ children” in an attempt to ban transgender people from using the restrooms that align with their gender identity.
May 17: The Federalist published an attack on SPLC’s hate group designation, comparing it to the “burn book” from the movie Mean Girls. The post accused SPLC of using the hate group label “to manipulate the lives of others, smear reputations, control personal relationships, and reap the spoils,” as well as calling it an attempt to “control all speech.” Numerous hate group representatives, including Krikorian, and accounts tweeted out the story. In fact, retweeting this story became one of ADF’s first official attacks on SPLC’s designation.
June 7: Time magazine updated Shepard’s op-ed with a response from ADF defending its work and bringing up her son’s death:
True hate is animosity toward others, and it often takes the form of violence. Sadly, Ms. Shepard knows what that is. She lost her son to senseless violence. We at ADF condemn all such manifestations of true hate. They have no place in our society. We remain steadfast in affirming basic human rights and dignity through debate, dialogue, and principled advocacy.
June 9: ADF published a full response to Shepard’s op-ed on its blog, which more forcibly attacked Shepard and accused her of “name-calling and slander” and spreading a “lie.” The post also spread myths about transgender people and said that allowing them to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity “compromises the privacy and dignity of young students who do not want to share overnight facilities, locker rooms, showers, and restrooms with the opposite sex.”
June 21: Hate groups united to pen a letter to GuideStar asking the nonprofit to remove the hate group labels, writing that the designation is “a political weapon targeting people it deems to be its political enemies” and calling SPLC’s list of hate groups “ad hoc, partisan, and agenda-driven.” Co-signers of the letter included representatives from IRLI, FRC, Liberty Counsel, ACT for America, ADF, and numerous others.
June 21: On the day the hate groups sent the letter to GuideStar, The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by The Weekly Standard’s Jeryl Bier attacking GuideStar and accusing the SPLC of “besmirching mainstream groups like the FRC.” Bier has appeared on FRC President Tony Perkins’ radio show. In the op-ed, Bier asserted that “SPLC’s work arguably contributes to the climate of hate it abhors” and lamented that journalists are citing SPLC’s designation.
June 26: A Washington Post report on GuideStar’s reversal quoted a number of hate groups sharing talking points about the designation, including that it was linked to the shooting at FRC and “the recent shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.” The report highlighted the hate groups’ letter accusing the designation of being “partisan” and wrote that Christians “said they’d been targeted as hateful for opposing same-sex marriage.”
June 27: Vice published a profile about ADF “stealthily seizing power in the nation's public school systems,” its “unmistakable effort to make schools hostile to queer students,” and its hate group designation. ADF refused to speak to Vice for the article.
June 28: Politico magazine published a lengthy article questioning whether SPLC’s hate group designation is “overstepping its bounds.” The article specifically lent credibility to hate groups CIS, which the report noted has “been invited to testify before Congress more than 100 times,” and FRC, which it called “one of the country’s largest and most established Christian conservative advocacy groups.” The right-wing Media Research Center highlighted the piece on its website the same day it was published.
June 28: Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit against GuideStar, saying it and SPLC “are intent on destroying pro-family organizations” and accused GuideStar’s CEO of “using GuideStar as a weapon to defame, harm, and promote his liberal agenda.” Liberty Counsel’s blog post on the subject also linked to the personal Twitter account of the CEO and his wife.
July 11: Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a closed-door speech to ADF at its “Summit on Religious Liberty” in California.
July 13: ADF demanded a retraction and apology from ABC for its report, calling it “defamatory” and “journalistic malpractice.”
July 13: Sessions’ speech, which the Department of Justice refused to release, was leaked to anti-LGBTQ website The Federalist. In the speech, Sessions compared the so-called battle for “religious freedom” to Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington.
July 14: ADF began an aggressive media strategy, with its representatives appearing on Fox News’ Fox & Friends, The Story with Martha MacCallum, and Tucker Carlson Tonight to attack the SPLC and attempt to discredit ABC and NBC. ADF’s representatives either repeated the “journalistic malpractice” line during the interview or called the outlets’ reporting “unethical” or “fake news.” Meanwhile, right-wing media also rushed to ADF’s defense.
July 16: FRC also launched a counteroffensive against the hate group designation aiming to “expose” the SPLC as “a left wing smear group who has become exactly what they set out to fight, spreading hate and putting targets on people's backs.” FRC urged supporters to use the hashtag #SPLCexposed. Hate groups such as white nationalist website VDARE, ACT for America, CIS, and FAIR, or their representatives, all joined FRC on Twitter using the hashtag.
July 19: The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Edwin Meese, who has worked with FRC and other groups, calling ADF “a respected civil-rights law firm.” In the op-ed, Meese also repeated ADF’s “journalistic malpractice” charge against ABC and NBC for giving “credence to the SPLC’s recklessly defamatory hate list” in their reporting. Meese wrote that their reporting “is a prime reason” for Americans’ distrust of the media and called on reporters to “stop spreading malignant propaganda.”
July 19: Forbes published an op-ed by Brian Miller of the Center for Individual Rights attacking ABC and NBC’s use of the “hate group” label and arguing that the use of the label was an attempt to “shut down conversation.” Miller concluded that “the very security that is necessary for diverse people to contribute to our social fabric” is at stake “in our climate of heated rhetoric.”
Fox luminary to join Sunday show panel
Fox News host and Trump shill Eric Bolling is scheduled to appear as a panelist on ABC’s This Week. Aside from cheerleading everything President Donald Trump says and does, Bolling was a prominent birther who challenged former President Barack Obama’s legitimacy, as well as a racist, sexist and Islamophobic conspiracy theorist.
Bolling has been one of Trump’s most outspoken media sycophants, even on Fox News. He’s dismissed Trump’s lies, downplayed the controversies surrounding the president, and deflected blame from Trump and his allies. Even his colleagues at Fox News have called him a “Trump apologist.” Bolling has also criticized the integrity of the host of This Week, George Stephanopoulos. In October, Bolling speculated that Good Morning America, ABC’s morning show which Stephanopoulos also hosts, did not cover hacked emails from former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s top aides released on WikiLeaks because Stephanopoulos used to work for former President Bill Clinton.
Bolling’s affection for Trump makes sense. After all, they both have a history of using racist, sexist and Islamophobic rhetoric, as well as a pattern of hyping conspiracy theories.
Bolling had a pattern of making sexist remarks as a co-host of Fox News’ The Five. In 2014, Bolling had to apologize for asking if the first female pilot for the United Arab Emirates, who conducted bombing against Islamic State terrorists, “would … be considered boobs on the ground.” Later that year, Bolling said men are “more successful ... and better leaders” than women. In 2013, he lamented that allowing young girls to play football was part of “the wussification of American men.” The year before, he had criticized a story of a 9-year-old girl playing football, saying, “Let the boys be boys, let the girls be girls.” And in 2015, Bolling cackled in response to co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle’s remark that “anything a guy can do, a woman can do better.”
Bolling also has a history of racist remarks. In 2012, Bolling told Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who is African-American, that she should “step away from the crack pipe.” Bolling also lectured "rappers" last year, saying that they should be happy because white people are “financing their lifestyles” by buying their music. When the Gabonese president Ali Bongo visited the White House during the Obama administration, Bolling characterized it as "a hoodlum in the hizzouse." Bolling also criticized Obama's leadership in 2011 by claiming the first African-American president was "chugging a few 40s" instead of doing his job.
Bolling has said that racism doesn’t exist anymore, because the U.S. elected a black president and there are “black entertainment channels.” He has also argued, “There’s no racial aspect of [police] profiling” and called Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder “race merchants” for defending the Voting Rights Act.
Bolling has also made a series of Islamophobic remarks on Fox News. In 2012, Bolling alleged 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.”
In addition to his own rhetoric, Bolling has defended Islamophobic remarks made by others. After then-presidential candidate Ben Carson said in 2015 that the U.S. shouldn’t elect a Muslim president, Bolling defended him, saying, “Unless you’re willing to denounce Sharia law as the governing law over yourself, and anyone you oversee, I wouldn’t vote for a Muslim either.” Bolling also defended Trump’s false claim that “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey cheered on 9/11 as the twin towers came down, alleging, “I know there were Muslims and Muslim groups who were happy that the World Trade Center came down.”
During his time at Fox News, Bolling has pushed a number of conspiracy theories. He was a big force behind the “birther” conspiracy theory that alleged that Obama was not born in the U.S. After Obama released his long-form birth certificate, Bolling still claimed, that “there is a legitimate question as to whether or not the president of the United States is allowed to be president of the United States.” Bolling took it upon himself to thoroughly examine Obama’s birth certificate on air, even speculating that the certificate’s border showed it may have been photoshopped.
Bolling also speculated about the death of former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich who was murdered in 2016, dismissing the police conclusion that his death was the result of a botched robbery: “It’s clearly not a robbery. There wasn’t a robbery. … This was a hit.” Bolling concluded that there’s “lots of smoke right now” and that the death was “like an episode of Homeland.”
Beyond that, Bolling has pushed a number of other conspiracy theories, alleging that Obama was trying to “bring people closer to the cities” to keep an eye on them and questioning whether Obama “let” an oil rig leak so he “could renege on his promise” to “allow some offshore drilling.” Perhaps his most entertaining conspiracy theory came in 2011 when Bolling wondered if “liberal Hollywood was using class warfare [in a Muppets movie] to brainwash our kids”:
Just this week, Bolling lived up to his reputation when he suggested that “maybe the Russians were colluding with Hillary Clinton to get information on Donald Trump,” claimed he was unsure “if the climate’s getting warmer or colder,” and attempted to deflect from reports of a previously undisclosed meeting Trump had with Russian President Vladimir Putin at last week’s G-20 conference, calling it a “fake news headline” “generated by the biased left media.”
The network’s coverage mainstreams xenophobic narratives about immigrant crime
On July 17, developments emerged in two cases of fatal officer-involved shootings, but Fox News rushed to cover only one of them and focused disproportionately on the officer’s nationality in doing so.
On the day Balch Springs, Texas, police officer Roy Oliver was indicted for the fatal shooting of Jordan Edwards, a black teenager, news broke of the July 15 shooting of an Australian woman by a Minneapolis, MN, police officer who was later identified as Mohamed Noor. Noor is Somali-American. While Fox News aired several segments about Noor, the network made not a single mention of the indictment of Oliver, who is white, continuing its disinterest in the case since Edwards was killed on April 29 in Dallas, TX.
In the first three days of coverage following the shooting of Justine Ruszczyk (who went by the surname of her fiancé, Don Damond), Fox News covered the story in 11 segments, six of which mentioned that the officer was “Somali-American,” an "immigrant" from Somalia, the first Somali-American to patrol that precinct, or that Minneapolis boasts a “very significant Somali population.” A Fox News article online began both its headline and body with Noor’s Somali background. In the same period, MSNBC and CNN both dedicated seven and 14 segments, respectively, to the story. CNN reporters did mention his Somali-American identity twice when prompted by hosts for more details about his background. MSNBC did not mention that he is Somali-American.
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson went so far as to claim the mainstream media is engaged in a deliberate cover-up of the officer’s nationality. On the July 18 edition of his show, Carlson said, "Mohamed Noor was an immigrant from Somalia. Is that a relevant fact? We don't know. But it's being treated as one by many news organizations. How do you know that? Because they're not reporting it."
Carlson was wrong to claim news organizations didn’t mention that the officer is Somali-American. His rival network CNN mentioned it that same day, and while The Washington Post -- which Carlson referenced -- did publish an early article on the story that did not mention his name or nationality (officials had not yet confirmed the identity of the officer), the paper also published a piece the next morning entirely focused on Noor and reactions in the Somali community of Minneapolis, which is bracing for backlash in the wake of the shooting. Moreover, Minnesota state officials did not publicly release the identities of the two officers involved in the shooting until Tuesday night (July 18), meaning three of Fox’s reports on Noor’s Somali identity were seemingly based on early reporting by the Star Tribune that had not yet been confirmed by police.
Carlson was also misguided in his implication that other outlets’ omission of Noor’s nationality is evidence that it’s relevant. While many questions about the incident remain, and there are legitimate grievances being voiced by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, Damond’s family, and the Australian government over the police department’s lack of transparency in the case, none of them are focused on Noor’s identity. In fact, Damond’s hometown newspaper in Australia ran a front-page headline reading “AMERICAN NIGHTMARE” in reference to what Australians quoted in the piece see as a country “infested” with guns and a “very risky place in terms of gun violence.” Damond’s family, which just suffered a tragic loss at the hands of police, hasn't focused on Noor’s identity as particularly relevant in reports. Fox News is the exception, not the norm.
In the cases of police brutality against Jordan Edwards, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and many others, all of whom were black, Fox News assigned no particular relevance to the nationalities of the officers involved. But the network did, in various cases, invite guests to defend the officers’ actions, criticize the victims of the shooting, or use the incident to promote questionable or problematic policing tactics. The disproportionate attention Fox News paid to Noor’s immigrant background and its resistance to defend him elucidates the limits of its pro-police posture.
And the network’s coverage, while an outlier for mainstream reporting on the story, is essentially a more sanitized version of stories with headlines like “First Somali-Muslim police officer in Minnesota KILLS blonde yoga instructor in cold blood” and “Unarmed White Woman Murdered In Minnesota, Dems SILENT After Shooter's ID Revealed…”. There are many more. Noor’s religion has not been obsessed upon outside of far-right blogs and Twitter.
Minnesota’s Somali immigrant community has been a strangely popular target for Fox News and other right-wing media outlets. The network has previously fearmongered about Somali immigrants, called the area “ground zero” for ISIS recruitment, and attacked the Minneapolis mayor for giving her State of the City address in a mosque. Fringe media websites and fake news purveyors recently targeted Minneapolis in response to the city’s announcement that it was launching a hate crimes reporting hotline, claiming the move amounted to “fascism.”
In its hyperfocus on Noor’s nationality, Fox News served to validate the racism, xenophobia, and debunked associations between immigration and crime espoused by pro-Trump fake news purveyors, conspiracy theorists, white nationalists, and notorious Islamophobes alike. Noor's background is only as relevant as it is in any officer-involved shooting, and if it's being touted as more than that, we should be asking why.
Media Matters searched SnapStream between 5 a.m. and midnight on both July 17 and 18 and between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m on July 19 for mentions of “Roy” or “Oliver,” “Edward” or “Jordan,” and “Somali,” "Noor," "Minneapolis," “Minnesota,” "Damond," "Ruszcyzk," and “Australia.” Teaser segments were excluded.
VDARE.com, which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has described as a “white nationalist” and “anti-immigration hate website,” has joined other hate groups in an official smear campaign against SPLC launched by anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council (FRC).
FRC and other organizations that SPLC has labeled hate groups launched a campaign on July 17 accusing SPLC of “fueling hate, killing free speech and even encouraging terrorist-style attacks on those it doesn’t agree with,” as the Washington Examiner described it. The campaign included a “planned Monday tweetstorm” and the suggestion that its supporters use the hashtag “#SPLCexposed.”
FRC and other hate groups have repeatedly pushed the myth that SPLC labels as “hate groups” those organizations that it “simply disagree[s] with.” In fact, SPLC has more extensive criteria for the distinction. It designates anti-LGBTQ hate groups as such when they knowingly spread “demonizing lies about the LGBT community,” engage in “baseless, incendiary name-calling,” or actively work to criminalize LGBTQ people. Regarding anti-immigrant groups, SPLC wrote that though “many groups criticize high levels of immigration and some … typically confront or harass individual immigrants and their supporters, anti-immigrant hate groups generally go further by pushing racist propaganda.” It continued that most anti-immigrant hate groups “subscribe to one of two conspiracy theories that have no basis in fact,” including that Mexico is trying to “‘reconquer’ the American Southwest” and that “Mexico, Canada and the United States are secretly planning to merge into a European Union-like entity.” SPLC also clearly defines its anti-Muslim hate group label, noting that these groups “hold conspiratorial views regarding the inherent danger to America by its Muslim-American community” and view Muslims as “intent on undermining and eventually replacing American democracy and Western civilization with Islamic despotism.”
White nationalist hate website VDARE joined FRC’s campaign on July 18, tweeting the #SPLCexposed hashtag alongside an accompanying article from the site that called SPLC the “Southern Poverty Lie … Center” and touted the #SPLCexposed Twitter campaign. The article also attempted to cast doubt on the reasoning behind SPLC’s designation of anti-immigrant hate group Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).
According to SPLC, VDARE, founded in 1999 by English immigrant Peter Brimelow, is an “anti-immigration hate website” with a “white nationalist ideology” that frequently publishes articles advocating for a white America and filled with anti-Semitic tropes. One article asserted that “America was defined — almost explicitly, sometimes very explicitly — as a white nation, for white people.” Another claimed that Jewish people’s “objective has been control of economic resources and political power.” Yet another article lamented that “whites are doing something no other people have ever done in human history” by welcoming “replacement by aliens” and sacrificing “our interests to those of favored minorities.”
SPLC noted that the website also posts stories by prominent anti-Semite Kevin MacDonald and that even Brimelow acknowledges that VDARE “hosts ‘white nationalists’” but argues that they merely “aim to defend the interests of American whites”:
While acknowledging that his site hosts "white nationalists" like Taylor, Brimelow argues that they are merely people who "aim to defend the interests of American whites. They are not white supremacists. They do not advocate violence. They are rational and civil. They brush their teeth. But they unashamedly work for their people." Brimelow goes on to say that as dark-skinned immigration from the Third World continues, "this type of interest-group ‘white nationalism’ will inexorably increase." What Brimelow doesn’t mention is that VDARE.com also posts stories by one of the most important anti-Semites in America, Kevin MacDonald, a professor of psychology at the California State University, Long Beach. MacDonald believes Jews are genetically driven to undermine the power of whites by pushing such things as Third World immigration.
In addition to VDARE, FRC’s campaign was joined by a horde of other SPLC-identified hate groups or their representatives, such as the anti-Muslim ACT for America, the executive director of the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and anti-immigrant groups ProEnglish and Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
These groups have historically attempted to distance themselves from white nationalist organizations, often using the issue as a wedge to argue that they should not be given the same “hate group” designation as groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. FRC has frequently fought against its designation, including the resulting association “with neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.” Mark Krikorian, the executive director of CIS, lamented that SPLC “conflates groups that really do preach hatred, such as the Ku Klux Klan and Nation of Islam, with ones that simply do not share SPLC’s political preferences” in a Washington Post op-ed. By bolstering FRC’s anti-SPLC campaign, VDARE shows that the line between white nationalist and other hate groups is not as clear as the FRC and others would like you to believe.
The segment’s on-screen banners included the professions of only the liberal-minded panelists
On the July 13 edition of Fox & Friends, Ainsley Earhardt hosted a “panel of moms” from “all walks of life” to find out whether “everyday Americans” care about President Donald Trump’s possible ties to Russia. As Earhardt introduced the panel, the show’s on-screen banners failed to disclose the professions of the panelists who are conservative Republicans and Trump supporters, one of whom claims to work for a Fox affiliate.
The panel featured seven women who, as they spoke, were introduced via on-screen banners using the following descriptions:
The first three women, who all had left-leaning opinions, were assigned identifiers related to their professions; Fox ensured its viewers knew McLaughlin and Osefo’s political leanings. But the other four women who all professed conservative political beliefs were identified only as mothers (one was also described as an "armed forces veteran," but her current profession was omitted).
Carla D'Addesi is a conservative Christian blogger, anti-choice radio host, and "proud conservative." She's an active member of Berks Republican Women in Berks County, PA, and her Twitter feed is full of statements of support for Trump. Her Facebook page prominently features anti-LGBTQ posts and photos and videos documenting her activism against Planned Parenthood and promotion of anti-choice group Students For Life. D’Addesi recently hosted an event at her house titled “Protecting Liberty,” to which she invited anti-gay T-shirt business owner Blaine Adamson, representatives from anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), and the right-wing Pennsylvania Family Institute.
Kathy Barnette is the founder of a “Christian conservative news” website and has previously appeared on another “panel of moms” on Fox & Friends. She claims to host a show on a Fox affiliate radio station in Philadelphia on which she has discussed topics like “an examination of Islam” and the “Homosexual AGENDA” (emphasis original). Her Facebook page contains multiple posts in support of Trump. Last year, Barnette spoke at an event sponsored by the Pennsylvania chapter of the Oath Keepers, an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as “one of the largest radical antigovernment groups in the U.S. today.”
Media Matters could not find any information online about Hope Houston.
From the July 13 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
AINSLEY EARHARDT (HOST): The mainstream media's number one obsession still the Trump administration's alleged ties to Russia. But do everyday Americans care about this? We brought in our panel of moms from all walks of life to find out. It's a segment we're calling "Parental Advisory."
What are your concerns, as a mom?
HOPE HOUSTON: As a mom I'm really concerned about tax reform and the economy and reform of health care because I have six kids and they are all kind of entering the workforce at different stages. And I really want a robust and positive economy for them to participate in.
CARLA D'ADDESI: I'm not concerned about Russia. We're not following that. We feel that there's no evidence that is putting our president and commander-in-chief in a bad light. We have full confidence in our president that is he going to do an amazing job with the economy. He has hired tens of thousands of employees. He's highly successful. And we are very confident in the team that he has put around him.
KATHY BARNETTE: Yeah, likewise. The issues regarding jobs, taxes, health care, all those things are very important. And one thing that has not been mentioned yet, I'm also concerned about the rampant amount of lawlessness that we are seeing on the streets, as well as throughout the ranks of our government. When I have to think twice about wearing a Donald Trump T-shirt because I don't know what kind of liberal lunatic is going to meet me at the grocery store, I think that is a very important concern of ours today.
ANGEL VOGGENREITER: I agree with that also. Something I didn't hear anyone mention is Obamacare. I'm ready for that to be repealed and replaced for my family. Our premiums have gone through the roof. And that's what I hear a lot of moms talking about for our kids.
CORRECTION: The language in this post has been updated to clarify that Kathy Barnette claimed she is a radio host on a Fox affiliate, that broadcasts her show.
Agora Financial says it’s “reevaluating placing future ads”
A financial publisher that caters to conservative readers has been advertising in American Free Press, a fringe outlet that publishes anti-Semitic material and promotes Holocaust denial.
Agora Financial is a Baltimore-based company that publishes financial newsletters and commentaries. The publisher and its parent company, The Agora, are notorious for sketchy sponsored emails pitched to conservatives through the mailing lists of media personalities like Mike Huckabee, Dick Morris, and Newt Gingrich. Over the years, media outlets such as Fox News, CNBC, Forbes, and The Washington Post have interviewed Agora staff as experts on financial matters.
Mother Jones senior reporter Tim Murphy wrote in December 2015 that Agora “subsidiaries and affiliates publish more than 40 newsletters and sell more than 300 books on a range of topics, including biblical health tips, natural-healing supplements, and ‘insider’ investment advice—a mix of ideas the company considers the intellectual equivalent of the marketplace of ancient Athens.” Agora-affiliated companies have sent emails that include such titles as "Obama's 'Secret Mistress' Exposed” and "Fort Knox is Empty (the Gold's Missing...)." And one affiliate has repeatedly hawk supposed biblical cancer cures.
American Free Press, meanwhile, has been described by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as "an anti-Semitic conspiracy-oriented newspaper" that attracts "the most vitriolic anti-Semites." The late Willis Carto, who helped found the publication, “used lobbying and publishing to denigrate Jews and other minorities and galvanize the movement to deny the Holocaust."
The publication has repeatedly promoted Holocaust denial (though the site appears to have recently scrubbed some of its Holocaust denials following Media Matters criticism). The site’s bookstore sells The Holocaust Never Happened & The CIA Killed JFK, which claims to “destroy the hoax of the 6 million Jewish victims of Nazi Germany.”
The garbage published in recent print editions of American Free Press includes: a self-defense for promoting material that offers “an alternative view” of the Holocaust; a claim that Israel was tied to the 9/11 attacks; and praise for white supremacists like David Duke and Matthew Heimbach for getting involved in political organizing. One of the publication’s main print writers is neo-Nazi John Friend, who has claimed that the Holocaust is "one of the most egregious and outrageous falsehoods ever perpetrated," "Jews did 9/11," and Adolf Hitler was "the greatest thing that's happened to Western civilization."
Google’s online advertising program terminated its relationship with the publication earlier this year after Media Matters criticized the online giant for helping it gain revenue.
Agora has paid for print and email advertising with American Free Press. Media Matters received an email advertisement from Agora Financial through American Free Press' email list on May 24.
The firm has also repeatedly placed advertisements in American Free Press’ biweekly print newspaper in the past year, according to a Media Matters review. (The most recent advertisement can be found here.)
Agora Financial managing director Mike Pizzo responded to inquiries from Media Matters via email by distancing the company from the monetary support for the publication: “As policy we don’t publicly comment on the type, size or scope of our advertising efforts, however it appears this media buy was part of a very small test campaign. We were not aware [of] nor condone the anti-Semitic content. We have passed this information along to the 3rd party list broker that placed the spot.”
He added in response to a follow-up question that “the print ad agreement you were referring to was part of a 1 year test contract that recently ended. I just made our print mediabuyer aware of the anti-Sematic [sic] claims and we are taking a deeper look into the placement and subsequently reevaluating placing future ads within the publication.”*
*Updated to include more of Agora Financial's comments to Media Matters.
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